The National Gender and Equality Commission has come out fighting over proposals to scrap the positions of county women representatives, nominated senators and reduce the number of counties ostensibly to bring the public wage bill down. In a terse statement, Commission Chairperson Winfred Lichuma warned that the public wage bill debate had assumed a devious plot, whose motivation is to undermine devolution and mutilate the Constitution.
Lichuma said the Commission was alarmed by the move by legislators to bring in constitutional amendments to scrap the positions of special interest groups whom she noted are protected by the Constitution. “The nominated leaders fall within the description of Special Interest Groups who are protected by the Constitution. Any attempt to liquidate their positions is inimical to the principles of gender equality and inclusion as provided in Article 27 of the Constitution” said Lichuma.
On March 10, President Uhuru Kenyatta launched a national debate to discuss the skyrocketing public wage bill which accounts to 13% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product . The president also spelt a raft of austerity measures including a 20% pay cut for himself and his deputy and a further 10% pay cut for cabinet secretaries and principal secretaries. He also ordered parastatal chiefs to follow suit and take a 20% pay cut to bring down the public wage bill.
Lichuma said the Commission is keenly following the debate but warned Kenyans to be on the lookout for subversive forces keen on clawing back the gains made by the new constitution such as affirmative action which had ensured women, youth, persons with disabilities, minority and marginalized groups had a chance to steer key national institutions.
The Chairperson cautioned against attempts to assail affirmative action and liquidate the Constitution saying such a move would not help bring the wage bill down. She advised the government to invest in a public education curriculum that inculcates a culture of respect for the principles of equality and freedom from discrimination. That way she said, Kenyans would appreciate that all persons are capable of offering leadership without having to invoke affirmative action.
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