Friday, November 04, 2011

Interview: Kenya is a fertile ground for women participation in politics, says Felogene Anumo

Felogene Anumo is a female activist based in Kenya, who served as a panelist during the just concluded 7th UNESCO Youth Forum in Paris. Drawing from her experience working as a youth activist and her work at *Women in Law and Development in Africa, Felogene shares her views on the different barriers militating against women participation in politics, especially in Kenya. She encourages youth and young women to focus on how to create job opportunities for themselves instead of seeking job employment. Read the full interview below:

Please tell us more about what you do:
My name is Felongene Anumo. I’m from Nairobi Kenya. I’m a program officer for Women In Law and Development in Africa. I’m basically a young gender activist in my country. We try to involve young women in political processes and processes we feel that their voices need to be heard.
How would you describe the current trend of women participation in Kenyan politics?
The current situation on gender issues I believe is a very fertile ground for young women and women in general to get involved.  In August 2010, we passed a new constitution, which has set a very good ground for young women to participate because we have very good provisions. One of such include that for every post elected or nominated, it has to be 50-50. For example, if a chair is a man, the vice-chair is a woman and vice versa. We need qualified women to be going for those posts because our constitution, which is the supreme law, has already provided a fertile ground for them.
So the challenge for us as young women and women who know exactly what the society needs is to go out for the posts and show that women can indeed provide good leadership for any nation. 
Are women responding to these opportunities?
Women are responding. But you must realize that we come from a history where cultural and patriarchal system has been the order of the day. For example, the best performances in the past years since independence in 1963 is the current sitting government, which is only 10% of women. With the new constitution coming in, they need 33% minimum of any gender. For women, we need at least 23% more. I believe in as much as we are responding, the citizens also need to know that women will come out, but they need to be voted for because the positions are elective.
Why do you think some African cultures are slow in embracing the concept of women leadership and gender equality?
In my country, two months ago a company called Infotrack did a survey. And the question they asked was “Would you vote a woman in” A majority said yes. But the question is, when you think about a woman, do you think about my mother? Because I’m sure if you are asked, would you vote your mother in, of course you will say yes. But then when they come to the poll they don’t vote women in. so I think it is either a cultural issue or perhaps we have not been the best example.  It is not really because of out of choice but out of circumstance.  
As women, our challenge is health and education. One thing I am sure about is that if women get into these posts, they will speak about the issues that affect the communities because naturally we are nurturers and caregivers. We will take care of the communities in as well as we take care of our families. It is important for the mentality of Africans to change in this regard.
Is your work only focused on women participation in political position?
We advocate for women participation especially in political participation where decisions are made in the country.
Especially, but not limited to?
Yes. In terms of the jurisdiction of what I do. But I believe whatever small thing you are doing as a young woman, whether it is in the community, whether it is in the hospital, whether it is in a family, you need to be responsible. “She who is trusted with little will be trusted with much” whatever little you have been given to do as a leader, set that good example. People will judge us based on our track record as women leaders. And then it is easier for us to advocate for these bigger positions.
So many programs are focused on empowering women and girls; do you think this will in anyway have rippling effect of disenfranchising the men?
I don’t think so because this (the programs to empower women and girls) is what we call affirmative action. An affirmative action is based on correcting injustices that have happened historically. Women have always been marginalized. So there has to be a measure to see how we can involve them. Affirmative action have to work with a timeline- it is an action, not a vision.  When we have affirmative action, we have equal playing field and then we can equally compete fairly. But it will not have a backlash. But if it does, then affirmative action will move to empowering the boys as well. So really, it is not an issue of one overtaking the other but an issue of being just and fair to one another.
How can young women better position themselves to overcome employment barriers that exist in our world today?
Firstly, I believe that young people are so creative that they cannot confine themselves to employment barriers. Of course employment can only accommodate only a certain number of people. In my country there are thousands and thousands of graduates, not all of them can be employed. The question we should be asking is how can young people provide employment opportunities for each other.  But just to answer your question on how young women can overcome employment barriers, first be informed. Don’t take short cut. When you get an opportunity to sit on a table with your employer, be informed. Know about the company. Know about yourself- what you are able to give and what you are not able to give. And that gives you a good platform to be employed. Be consistent. It is a tough world. There are many good graduates. The population is getting higher. You have to be competitive and consistent. And never give up. Never give up. 

About WiLDAF
*Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) Kenya is a registered Pan-African, Non-Partisan, Non-Governmental Organization that works to promote and strengthen strategies which link law and development to promote a culture for the exercise of and respect for women’s human rights in Africa. WiLDAF works to promote women’s human and legal rights and the active participation of women in development at all levels. Our ideas and vision for existence are anchored on the values of gender equity and equality, social justice and fair representation. 

You can follow her on Twitter: @felogene

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