Siasa Place Kenya

Men, we must check our privilege – By Billy Osogo

Data from the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics’ 2019 census count shows that there are 24, 014, 716 women in Kenya compared to 23, 548,056 men. Women account for 50.5% of Kenya’s population. You’d think this to be a good thing. After all, there is strength in numbers, yes? Yet nothing could be further from the truth. 

In the words of Malcolm X;

“The most disrespected person in America [rea+d as world] is the black woman. The most unprotected person in America is a black woman. The most neglected person in America is a black woman.”

In Kenya, women continue to receive the short end of the stick. Bereft of their contribution, the Mau Mau struggle for independence would have come to naught. Women participated as fighters, gathered food, and disseminated information to those in the forests. Since independence, however, the Kenyan State has systematically marginalized its largest population group from decision-making platforms. 

The Constitution of Kenya in 2010 tried to remedy this systemic ill. Article 27 (4) stipulates:

“The State shall not discriminate directly or indirectly against any person on any ground, including race, sex, pregnancy, marital status, health status, ethnic or social origin, color, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, dress, language or birth.”

Ten years later, Parliament is yet to pass the Two Third Gender Bill. This contravenes the spirit and letter of the Constitution. Failure to implement this provision perpetuates the historical and systemic marginalization of women. Whereas strides have been made, victory is still far off. Not too long ago, we were treated to the mortifying scenes of a mother forced to give birth right outside the hospital gates. Successive administrations have promised free delivery for expectant mothers. However, the horror movie that is Pumwani Hospital seems to have no end. 

An electioneering process is a sacrosanct event that profoundly determines and vindicates the democratic maturity of a country. Yet it is during such periods when the grossest human rights violations are committed in Kenya. Guess who are the biggest victims? Women!

True freedom can never be attained when the largest section of our society is still shackled in the chains of patriarchy, sexual abuse, retrogressive cultural practices, and negligence. We, men, have inherited so much privilege.

Privilege can be understood as systematically conferred advantages individuals enjoy by virtue of their membership in dominant groups with access to resources and institutional power that are beyond the common advantages of marginalized citizens. 

Men, we must check our privilege. The benefits are twofold. One, we will identify areas where we are perpetuating oppression and therefore arrest it. Two, we will also be identifying areas where we have the power and access to change the system as a whole. 

In the words of Ijeoma Oluo:

“When we identify where our privilege intersects with somebody else’s oppression, we’ll find our opportunity to make real change.”

Written By Billy Osogo

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