Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Affirmative action will ruin meritocracy

Proponents of gender based affirmative action that will culminate to the nomination of 50 women to parliament should realize that the female folk in this Country faces more urgent problems than being considered for nomination to Parliament. Not all problems that bedevil the women folk in this Country can be tackled in Kenyan’s legislative assembly. Many Kenyans are for policies that will enhance the quality of life for women like access to opportunities and participation in policy formulation in the running of this Country not necessarily in the political realm. That is why, I view gender based affirmative action as a superficial solution that does not address deeper problems that face women. Will domestic violence, abuse, poor reproductive health, lack of education due to poverty and cultural prejudice be solved if we had 50 women nominees to Parliament? Will it enable a Kenyan woman with a big share of domestic chores access sufficient running water; a basic human need. Will this nomination alleviate the suffering of women living in deplorable conditions in the slums and rural areas where they lack sufficient food and medical care? There are a number of ways that the plight of women can be addressed not necessarily through politics. We need to focus beyond having many women in Parliament through a concept I can dub ‘a zero merit game’. We need to see many women in trade union movements, pressure groups, civil society organizations, student leaderships, advocacy, human rights groups and forums. This will bring about aspects that will enhance the lives of not only women but also other vulnerable groups in the country going through unbearable existence like: persons with disabilities, youth, children, the sick, the poor and prisoners. Women need to rise to the occasion, not to sit and wait. We need to ask ourselves how honourables, Charity Ngilu, Martha Karua, Agness Ndetei, Wangari Mathai,Phoebe Asiyo, Grace Ogot, Alicen Chelaite to mention but a few, rose to their current clarion? To create a gender-blind society is to adopt a gender-blind policy. You can't destroy discrimination with discrimination. Affirmative action will undermine women’s self-esteem; bring laxity instead of hard work and dependence instead of independence. Groups that will be favoured by affirmative action will become dependent on its benefits; a clear negation of meritocracy, hardwork, talent, specialization, ambition and passion for excellence. The salaries to be extended to the 50 women in Parliament can be utilized to improve the lives of women in the Country. Advocates of this policy should instead press the government to support the less fortunate members of the society besides working on aspects of social, economic, educational and political empowerment towards women. They should advocate for poor breast feeding mothers to get government welfare, sanitary towels to be given freely to school girls plus making reproductive health cheap and affordable for all women. The human rights challenges in this nation are so diverse even if we were to have the 50 women nominees to Parliament. Have the rights of Kenyans who cannot afford legal representation, where some ends up being jailed not because of committing a crime been addressed? Has the issue of income distribution or even the gap between the rich and the poor, which keeps widening each day been addressed? Has the government regulated the labour laws in this Country to alleviate the suffering of Kenyan workers in multinational companies and export processing zones? How many Kenyans are poorly paid, discharged from work or get injured without proper compensation by unscrupulous employers? These are the pertinent issues this nation must focus on because they are urgent and affects a broad spectrum of Kenyan people. The poor in this country cannot make headways to have a better footing in life if the factors of production, the media financial sector and industry are controlled by the rich? Will this be achieved through gender based political nominations or through hardwork? We are stooping too low as a nation. Equality cannot be nurtured by extending political rewards to women. Its actual meaning is equal treatment to all not a privilege to a section of society. Joseph Lister Nyaringo, Bobasi, Gucha District
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