Friday, September 26, 2008



By Lucy Oriang'
Daily Nation
Nairobi, Kenya

September 26 2008 at 19:43

New leadership mantra that promises two for the price of one.
Women are the most loyal of voters and will faithfully do as they are told.

LEST YOU FORGET, THERE has been a UN meeting in New York this week to discuss progress on the Millennium Development Goals.

You could call them markers that set out targets that will lead to justice and fairness — and, even better still, ensure that we remain sane and secure.

Something will give if we continue on our merry way, ignoring the needs of the poor and the disadvantaged. Perhaps that is why 150 leaders chose to attend.

Whether they were ready for inspection is another matter altogether. The city of skyscrapers can be a very enticing attraction for those seeking a reprieve from cloak-and-dagger politics at home.

We have had the privilege of being represented there by President Kibaki and the First Lady. Some critics have asked silly questions such as why the First Lady was allowed to sit smack in the middle of the official delegation, as if she needs anyone’s permission to accompany her husband to such events.

They have obviously not kept up with the new leadership mantra that promises two for the price of one. It is the way of the world, at least in terms of protocol, and they had better get used to it.

Michelle Obama took that role very seriously indeed when she introduced her husband at the National Democratic Convention that endorsed him as the party’s presidential candidate in the November poll.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s wife Sarah did the honours at that party’s crisis conference earlier this week.

Let’s try to keep up with international trends and practices, if you please, especially when we seem to have such serious trouble with principles and commitments in a part of the world where politicians are the be-all and end-all of power.

MDGs are all very well, but the battle for survival in the top seat can be such an all-consuming preoccupation that the political corps have little energy left to worry about the unknown woman in an unknown village 900km away from the centre of power.

It can get truly insulting at times. Even illegal occupants of the endangered Mau forest have proved more “sexy” as a tool of hostage politics in the Bomet and Sotik by-elections than the rights of women and girls. What do we have to do to get noticed around here?

There are those who might grumble that there is too much conferencing and globe-trotting in development circles, but it is hard to argue with UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon’s explanation for the New York meet, “… to push the world to keep its promises to women’’.

NOW THERE’S A GOOD REASON TO host a talk shop with a galaxy of leaders in attendance. But it also exposes the soft underbelly of organisations such as the UN. Human beings are fickle creatures.

I can see where the carrot might be useful, but nothing will move in some of these places if the stick is not in sight. What next, when all the moaning and groaning is over?

Holding leaders to account for ensuring women are treated fairly and justly is not a luxury, as United Nations Development Fund for Women executive director Ines Alberdi put it at the conference.

There are two key planks to achieving this, according to Alberdi: more women in decision-making positions in politics, business and the public service; and putting women’s needs at the centre of public policy.

Life should be so simple. The question at the top of this article is the title of a Unifem progress report for 2008/2009. It should be compulsory reading for Kenyan leaders across the board, even more so for political party leaders.

If memory serves me right, all the major political parties spoke of 50 per cent representation of women in their structures in the run-up to the General Election, or at the very least 30 per cent. I would love to hear from any party that achieved that objective. In Parliament, we managed a paltry 21 out of 210.