Kenya: New Constitution a Winner With Women

Published on IPS, by Susan Anyangu-Amu, August 6, 2010.

A day after Kenyans voted to accept a new constitution, women across the country speak about their hopes and expectations.

The case of Elizabeth Chazima could stand for the story of millions of women in Kenya who have been robbed of their financial contributions to matrimonial assets.

Speaking to IPS from her modest grocery store in Jericho Estate, Nairobi, Chazima recounts how in the early 1990s, her husband sold the house they had bought together without her knowledge.

“My husband and I owned a modest home which we had bought from the city council. But one frosty morning, my six children and I woke up to loud bangs by rowdy youth who had been hired to evict us from the house.  

“To my shock I was informed my husband and had sold the family home without my knowledge. Nor I had seen the money he received from the sale,” she recounts.

Attempts to seek redress proved futile because she had no legal claim to the family home since she had no proof of her contribution to buying the house … //

… Gendered budgets:

Ndung’u, who steered the landmark Sexual Offences Act through an overwhelmingly male parliament in 2006, says this has meant issues that affect women are rarely given priority in policy and budgeting.

The new structure of devolution should also benefit women as national budgets are brought closer to the people: a minimum of 15 percent of the national budget will now be allocated at a local level. Currently only the Constituency Development Fund and the Local Authority Transfer Funds are controlled at the county level – representing just three percent of the national budget.

Ndung’u says the increased funding allocation will ensure more economic growth and opportunities for local businesses to grow.

“Women, who form the majority of the informal sector and small and medium business, will gain tremendously from this injection of funds into the counties. This means an overall well-being of the country, because if you invest in women, you invest in the whole nation.”

Accessible justice:

Thanks to the new Bill of Rights, women discriminated against on any grounds can challenge it in court or complain to the National Human Rights and Equality Commission. Such cases will not be subject to court fees, making access to justice much easier for all, especially women.

There is also a provision for class action, allowing a person to institute proceedings in the interest of a class of person.

Harmful traditional practices have also been outlawed under the new constitution, meaning female genital mutilation and wife inheritance will be a thing of the past. END. (full text).

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