NAIROBI, KENYA – Jane Wanja, 35, says she doesn’t know exactly how the new Kenyan Constitution will change her life, but she knows that, thanks to it, no women will be forced to leave their marital homes when their husbands die, as she was.
“I didn’t have any power over the decision my in-laws made since I was widowed three years after my marriage,” she says. “To make matters worse, my late husband died without leaving a will.”
She says she was lucky she had saved some money.
“When I was thrown out of my marital home by my husband’s relatives, there were only two options left for me – my parents’ home or the streets,” she says. “Fortunately, I had saved a little money and did not take either.”
Childless and widowed, Wanja says she now earns a living selling secondhand items, such as designer suits, handbags and dinner dresses, at Adam’s Arcade Market, located five kilometers from the Nairobi Central Business District in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.
On the first anniversary of the Kenyan Constitution – adopted last August – Kenyans commend new provisions that increase women’s rights. But some warn that these provisions are vulnerable to anti-reform. Others say they worry the provisions give women too much power. Women’s rights advocates say mechanisms must be put into place to ensure that women receive the rights accorded to them by the constitution during key years that will set a precedent for future interpretation.
Kenya commemorated the first anniversary of its new constitution on Aug. 27. A year later, Kenyans check in on the implementation of gender equality provisions.
Women make up less than 10 percent of the current 10th Parliament of this East African nation, with just 22 women out of 224 members, according to Federation of Women Lawyers Kenya, FIDA Kenya, a nonprofit organization that aims to improve women’s legal standing in Kenya. The Cabinet is also uneven, with just 12 women – six ministers and six assistant ministers – out of 92 ministers. The public service and even the trade union movement also continue to be patriarchal in their leanings.
Many Kenyan women say they are happy with their gains in the new constitution in a traditionally patriarchal society.
The new constitution prohibits all forms of discrimination, including violence, against women. Women can own and inherit land, and matrimonial property is protected during and after the termination of marriage. Customary law, traditional practice that has come to be accepted as law, that is inconsistent with the constitution is now void. Continue Reading via the Global Press Institute [Content Partner]