Dec 13, 2011

Overcoming gender inequality in political leadership

Political analysts from different parts of the world agree that women have both a right and an obligation to active participation in political leadership. Studies in women and leadership have consistently shown that when women get into politics, they bring a different style and perspective of leadership. Even right here in Kenya, some impact has often been felt in instances where women have led.

The violent nature of Kenyan politics however has always hampered women from seeking political leadership. The few who hold political positions today have come a long way and none of them has had it easy. One of the reasons for this is off course the persistence of an extremely patriarchal political system Kenya has had since 1963.

The new constitution has however given Kenyan women a new momentum. They now feel ready to democratically take on their male counterparts for leadership positions in the public sector. Several organizations have been organizing forums and seminars to ensure the momentum continues into 2012 general elections and beyond.

Since the new constitution was promulgated in August 2010, a few women have been appointment to key public offices but this has not changed the statistics by any margin. According to a 2009 survey by the Ministry of Gender, only 30.9 per cent of those employed in the public service are women, 72 per cent of them are in the lower cadres. The same inequity exists in the judiciary, political parties, and political representation.

Women hold only about 10 per cent of the seats in the 10th Parliament. The situation would have been different if the country had necessitated a women friendly political environment like Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania. The trio now leads global statistics on women’s representation in elective politics at 56.3%, 31% and 30% respectively.

The provision of special seats for women in chapter seven of the new constitution will obviously increase women representation in parliament and county governments. The new constitution has also promised to create a friendly political environment in future elections. This should encourage women to seek elective posts as aggressively as their male counterparts even as they remain upbeat about the special seats.

The third African Women in Political Leadership Conference held in Nairobi on August this year endeavored to put the issue of women leadership into perspective. The conference was organized by the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET). From their discussions, women seeking leadership were urged not to be motivated by the desire to dislodge men from politics.

The struggle for change will be futile if political campaigns are reduced to women versus men affair. This may trigger gender animosities which will deter citizens from focusing of the big picture of eradicating poverty. Women have succeeded in countries like Rwanda not on a gender platter but on transformational leadership and their motherly instincts they bring to the table.

Women must proof wrong skeptics who have perpetuated the notion that women forget the plight of their fellow women as soon as they occupy political positions. There have also been claims from various quotas that once women are in power, they succumb to stigma from men who ridicule and undermine them at the slightest mistake they make. While this may have been the case in the past, it should not be allowed in the new dispensation.

Even as women eagerly wait for 2012, it should be remembered that the gender equality evangelism is not an event but a continuous battle that has to be won at every point. This is the critical time that those in leadership should help strengthen the capacity of women by institutionalizing the gender policy. Working closely with commissions on gender equality and using monitoring and evaluation mechanisms will be an essential weapon.


Nov 26, 2011

How well have you utilized what you have?

First let me point out that complaining is a pedestrian term and it shouldn’t inspire you, this is rather calling it like I see it. The best way to kick it off is perhaps by saluting you for having sailed through your higher education successfully if you have. In this country where only a few are endowed with what you have, my congratulations can only be in order.

For the sake of arguing, let me refer to you as the cream of the nation but you need not to be carried away. Society may care less of what you have but what you know. In other words your degree or diploma is as good as its utility at your place of work. If you have a clue of what I mean, proceed to the next paragraph.

The job market these days seek for very high qualifications. Advanced university degrees have left first degree holders with no chance of joining the professional working class. As a result, society is no longer in fancy of mare first degrees, let alone diplomas. Desperation to have degrees is at its peak. Universities are smiling all the way to the bank owing to the number of desperate cases pushing it hard just to obtain that glossy paper.

Somebody once said that the biggest problem with a rat race is that even if you win, you are still a rat. Put it better if you can. I hate getting into the politics of performance but the professional reputation of many sectors in Kenya really sucks despite being controlled by “advanced degree holders.” By the way did you watch the striking dons last month? That was the caliber of our advanced degree holders laid bare. Their students of bad grammar, silly arguments and trouble in the streets are only chips off their old blocks.

I may sound mischievous but I am not so misguided. Take our forty gang cabinet as a sample. The few professors and doctors among them are the top performers right? I am told some of them are Harvard schooled.

It would have been encouraging if these advanced degrees added value to our nation and not reduced it to a bourgeois third world state it is. Did you know that over ninety five percent of top entrepreneurs in the world are not even degree holders? In my humble opinion, this advanced degree rat race situation will only perfect egoism.

Of particular interest is the tendency of my young graduate friends who have been caught up in this mess. Some of these kids are hardly into their first professional jobs but they are already rushing against each other into master’s degree classes. This degree has become fashionable rather than necessary. You can tell by how they vibe about it, no sense of plan whatsoever.

How will a master’s degree add value to a twenty six years old hack probably not even registered to any professional body? The rush to nowhere may be characteristic of my generation but we may soon have a country full of good for nothing advanced degree holders. 


Nov 21, 2011

The dwindling practice of PR in Kenya

The Public Relations Society of Kenya (PRSK) marked its fortieth anniversary this year. Despite the professional body having existed for all these years, the practice of PR in Kenya is still not taken as seriously as it should. There is lack of common understanding of the role of PR in both the public and private sector

Most organizations seem to think of PR as a mare media relations function which by the way is just a tool in PR. Some understand the role of PR but they don’t know how to utilize it well. For example organizations that measure PR success in terms of output rather than impact do not understand PR. Unlike marketing, PR cannot be measured quantitatively. There are others who even misguidedly think of PR as sophism, a practice intended to make things look all clean at any cost.

It’s due to this reason that perhaps many organizations would rather have PR as a small office under the marketing department despite its importance. Those practicing under these conditions often do not have any autonomy weather financial or professional.

A recent study commissioned by PRSK shows how the practice of PR in Kenya is held in mediocrity. The study dubbed The Practice of Public Relations in Kenya was conducted by Kentice Tikolo a renowned PR practitioner in June 2011. It shows that while most PR practitioners are well educated, 43% of them do not have industry related qualifications. This means that quite a chunk of practitioners in PR firms practice what they clearly don’t know. This would be outrageous to any professional body that cares and by now it should have raised an alarm to PRSK.

The study further shows that close to 30% of practitioners do not belong to any professional body. They are essentially not guided by any professional ethics. The rest are subscribed to numerous professional bodies among them PRSK. This is not good for the profession and this trend may make it easier for the practice to go to the dogs.

The study also shows that institutions that train PR in Kenya are not well equipped. PR trainers in most institutions have low qualifications yet they are hired to train due to their experience. PRSK in its fortieth year of existence needs to quickly step in and save PR from being undervalued and misconceived.

Not every former journalist can practice PR. The two professions are similar in many ways but not quite the same. If PR has to be taken seriously, PRSK should organize itself as a professional body and make firm decisions. It should review its membership and only accredit credible members. A specialized course for any PR trained person seeking membership will be ideal. At the same time, we should only have one professional body locally, in this case PRSK. This is all a PR student can ask for.

By Duke Mwancha in honor and memory of the late Dr. Peter Oriare, a top PR don in Kenya and member of  PRSK.

Nov 12, 2011

Its time to restore stability in Somalia

There is every sign that the Al Shabaab will finally be defeated.  Kenya’s Linda nchi operation team has already made inroads in Somalia. Its core agenda may be to protect Kenyans but with enough support from AMISOM and other groups of interest, the move may go a long way in restoring order in Somalia as well.
What Somalia needs now more than ever is stability. In this century when nations are seeking progress for their citizens, Somalia should not be left behind. The hunt for Al Shabaab therefore wouldn’t have come at a better time.
The country almost entirely relies on aid and has for long been made ungovernable by constant reprisals from militias. Its time that the international community directed its efforts towards helping Somalia get back on its feet.
Several states have pronounced support for Kenya’s efforts albeit from the peripheries. Well that’s encouraging but if Somalia has to be delivered from anarchy, developed states have to take lead not just to defeat the militia but also to eradicate poverty.
Plans should be underway to help Somalia establish an economically empowered and democratic government by 2013. Its refugees in Dadaab should then go back home and develop their country from scratch just like Southern Sudan is doing.
This is achievable if the international community stays away from the game of wait and see. After all stability in Somalia should be in the interest of every nation if the war against terrorism and piracy has to be worn.


Oct 21, 2011

Let’s honor all our heroes

 Its Mashujaa day again a day we honor our living and fallen heroes and heroines. This country indeed has many national heroes, men and women who have stood out in doing exceptional things for our beloved nation.

 Some have highly been recognized yet some rarely get any spotlight. This year has seen the demise of Prof Wangari Mathai and Wambui Otieno, two great women of courage who defied many odds. They will forever be rembered as our national heroines.

Our athletes, sportsmen, farmers, diplomats and professionals in various fields are all heroes. Who can forget Mau Mau veterans and our great champions of democracy? All our scientists, environmentalists and humanitarians deserve our honors too.

People that were genuinely involved in feeding hungry Kenyans this year are heroes. One of them that particularly stood out is Rose Nasimiyu. Despite her struggle with cancer, she has continually inspired people in a way that is beyond imagination for a girl of her age. With her courage, there is no doubt that Nasimiyu is a victor and a great heroine of our time.

The spirit of our fallen heroes lives on even as we celebrate this day. We should make it our culture to honor our heroes not just when they get recognized by the international community.


Oct 17, 2011

Somali refugees need not be victimized

Kenyan security apparatus seem to be pretty determined to keep off the al Shabaab out of the Kenyan territory. This follows a series of provocations by the terror group in the past few months. The group must have found their easy way into Kenya after being trounced in Mogadishu by the federal government of Somalia.

Dadaab refugee camp is said to be the militia’s hunting ground. Already two aid workers have been abducted from the camp. Well this is not shocking because the camp is not far from the Somalia boarder. What is shocking is that the whole camp is manned by only 255 police officers.

It just beats logic how an overpopulated camp hosting over a half a million refugees can be made secure by 255 police officers. The government recently facilitated the reopening of IFO II camp for an influx of Somali refugees. One wonders why no measures were taken to increase the presence of police officers.

The government has announced a major manhunt of the militia within the camps. Security has now been beefed up and all refugees will be screened. This is really desperate but necessary at this critical time even though the government is responsible for their entry at Liboi boarder point.

The screening of refugees however should not be dramatized. It should be professionally done until the al Shabaab is completely wiped out of camps. The police should be careful not to commit atrocities against innocent refugees. It should be remembered that most refugees are women and children who walked long distances seeking tranquility.