Dr. Agnes Zani is no ordinary woman. She is a tireless gender equality and minority rights advocate. Before her nomination to the Senate, she was a distinguished career educationalist who taught for many years at the University of Nairobi’s Sociology Department. Dr, Agnes Zani earned a B.A in Sociology, University of Nairobi, 1990; attained an M.A in sociology (UoN,1994) and PhD in Sociology (Oxford University, 2004-2007)
I met her at the monthly Gender Forum held on 28th April 2016 by Heinrich Boll Stiftung, FEMNET and ICJ Kenya at Sarova Stanley Hotel on Civil Society Organization’s reflections on the 60th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in 2016.
What does Gender Equality mean to you and why is it important?
Gender equality to me means a society where men and women are equal, where women and men alike are accorded an opportunity to contribute to the society and to be able to bring something to the table. Gender equality is a human right. Gender equality does not mean that women need to fight with men, but it is about bringing out the potentials of both genders to be able to achieve an equal society.
I advocate for gender equality because when you fight for gender equality, you fight for a better world.
The two-thirds Gender Bill (also known as the Duale Bill) failed to be adopted by the National Assembly last week on 27th April. Following the National Assembly Speaker’s call for a fresh vote on it tomorrow on May 5th, do you think the Bill will pass into law eventually?
I trust that we have lobbied enough for the Bill and the support for it has increased since last week on Wednesday, but it’s still difficult to tell the outcome. The biggest challenge that we face tomorrow is getting enough number of Members of Parliament to be present in Parliament in order to be able to pass the Bill. Last Wednesday we had a good number of MPs in Parliament since we still had another Bill in the Order paper (the Kaluma Bill which was an Amendment Bill barring courts from interfering with Parliament’s law-making process and decisions).
If the Bill is not passed, then I am afraid that the male MPs will be sending a message that they do not care about women in this country, which is unfortunate. This will also mean that the Chepkonga Bill; which basically calls for amendment of the Constitution for the progressive realization of the gender rule in regards to the two thirds gender principle is tabled again for discussions in Parliament.
*(The Bill to change the Constitution in order to fulfil the two-thirds gender requirement garnered 195 yes votes last Wednesday, 28 nay votes and at least 24 MPs refused to vote or indicated they had abstained).
The Kenyan general elections are coming up next year. What is your advice for women who want to run for elective seats? Will KEWOPA be supporting or building capacities of the women candidates interested in running for the elective seats?
My advice to the women who wish to run for the elective seats is that they should go ahead and do it; and that they should not be discouraged by challenges. It’s all about the politics of 'who will run where and how'. Sometimes the challenge may be that a woman may get a party’s nomination in a constituency or a region that is not the party’s stronghold, or that one is nominated to run against a major candidate of the opposite party; but these challenges can be overcome.
One thing for sure is that more women will be running for elective seats in the upcoming elections in 2017 in all the 47 Counties in the different capacities. Nearly all the nominated Senators for example will be running for different elective seats, be it that of the Members of Parliament, Senators, Women Representatives and Governors.
While initially women had a myriad of challenges especially for the positions created under the 2010 Constitution of the Republic of Kenya, the situation has changed for now. Initially women were hindered by availability of funds, issues to do with visibility but these are challenges that we can be able to tackle now..
KEWOPA has so far been building the capacities of women who are interested in these political seats and identifying the strong women who can run for the various posts. They have further been collaborating with NGO’s in meeting with women who are interested in elective seats and conducting various trainings with them on leadership.
Will you be running for an elective seat?
Where? (I ask her.)
In my County Kwale. (I ask her in which capacity she will be vying), she laughs and asks me to watch the space.
Would you say that the Kenyan Government is on the right track to achieve gender equality?
No. There needs to be a stronger political will in order to enable the Government to step up its efforts to achieve gender equality. We need to understand that there is a correlation between women’s participation and development. We need to look at Rwanda and see the much that has been achieved in terms of development by having more women participate in the decision making processes and being partners in development.
What would then be your advice to the Government in regards to stepping up its efforts towards achieving gender equality?
The Kenyan Government needs to take this commitment seriously. We need to engender the disbursement of funds that we spend on development and to evaluate whether the 30% procurement policy for women and youth has worked for example.
We can also do this by supporting the laws that accelerate the achievement of gender equality like the Bill on Two thirds gender rule, by encouraging the appointment of more women into the cabinet (just to mention a few steps that the government can start with).
Do you have a Twitter account and do you manage it yourself?
Yes, I do have a twitter account, @agnes_zani and I do manage it myself with the help of my personal assistant. I read the tweets when I can and I respond to them.