Opening remarks to the Timeless Women’s Conference 2016, Nairobi
I grew up in a pre-dominantly female household of sisters. All of us went to school, all us had household chores.
Three broken bridges shaped my feminism as a man. Abrupt and unintentional teenage relationships with girls that left them very angry and me frustrated. A society in which power and privilege leaves women and girls at danger from violence and rape. A continent in which women do 3-4 times more work than men and earn 30% less.
Since 1989, I have chosen to work alongside women to transform the world around me. From being a member of the Kenyan Mothers in Action in the 1990s to the Pan African women’s rights coalitions in Africa, the Solidarity for African Women’s Rights coalition in the 2000s and Kilimani Mums in 2014.
I have been single less than 2 years in the last thirty six years, married twice and parented a couple of super girls. Yet my journey into my masculinity and the transformation of gender injustice is far from complete.
Africa is deeply unequal. According to the UN Women, 89% Women still in non-formal sector and over-represented in unpaid work. Women still earn 30% than men. Yet, this inequality is not inevitable. Rights based policies and strategies and investment could transform all of this in a life-time.
Our homes and workspaces are deeply in need of new bridges of solidarity if we are to transform societies that layer power and privilege based on our gender. These bridges can easily be built on just six pillars;
- Equal pay for equal work
- Anti-harassment policies and practices
- Child friendly working environment
- Affirmative procurement for women owned businesses
- Career progression plans that target young people and especially young women
- Get out of the way
The UN Women 2015 report is a great overview and call to action
Photo from MyDressMyChoice campaign: Ruth Knaust speaking to the movement (RIP)