It started on a sad note for Ruto when he presented his Women Charter agenda today and Pastor Wairimu referred to his coalition as Kenya Kwisha while praying for them. That would be a good prayer actually because that may very well be where Ruto and co are headed. But we don’t want to give any headache to Pastor Wairumu who is not a politician but a preacher doing her job.
The real issue is looking at the proposals for Kenyan women that Ruto came up with is just how out of touch with the reality women face in Kenya.
There is the promise of implementing the two-thirds gender requirement for women in public institutions which was passed in our new 2010 constitution. They promised that if elected he will implement that constitutional requirement in three months after the election. Well Mr. DP you have been in government for 10 years after the law was passed. Can you tell Kenyans just one single thing you have done to get that legal requirement implemented? Zero. Why? Because it has never been important to you.
As testimony to Ruto’s complete obsession of trying to belittle the Azimio DP running mate Martha Karua he had to make an attempt to compare the choice of the DP to his mama mboga sloganeering. For Ruto Kenyan women are mama mboga and that is where he wants to put his energy.
”This election is about the economy of Kenya and its people. The face of this election is a woman called mama mboga and not mama moja. In this election, Kenya Kwanza is the place for the women of Kenya. The most formidable women leaders of Kenya are in Kenya Kwanza.”
For Ruto, Martha Karua is mama moja who is irrelevant to his mama mboga agenda. The idea that a woman can be a DP in Kenya and possibly a president does not even cross his mind. The women are supposed to sell vegetables and clothes and be happy with that and let the men run the government and help them. The women are not supposed even to know what they need in life. Men know that in the Ruto world and men will give them what they need and keep them where they belong.
So what is Ruto going to do to women and the mama mbogas?
“All mothers to be supplied with diapers for the first three months if Kenya Kwanza takes government,” he said.
That is pretty revolutionary. Isn’t it? Give mothers free diapers for three months and all their problems of motherhood challenges and maternity needs are solved and they can go back to work.
Men really don’t know much about what women need as mothers and one would wish that Ruto would talk to some women in UDA to help him understand the needs of women not just after they give birth but during their pregnancy to make them and their children healthy and active as human beings.
If you give a mother free diapers for three months and they have no food for themselves and their young babies you are not helping them. In fact, the baby only needs diapers if they can have a healthy life with their mothers.
What mothers need are functioning maternity facilities and if Ruto would just visit any of our public health facilities where the mothers get care during pregnancy and go to deliver their babies, he would notice they are delipidated and there are no maternity facilities. The women literally give birth on the floor lying on dirty blankets. The staffing is dangerously low because our government today does not pay nurses to work in public hospitals and health facilities. There is a reason women giving birth is a huge health risk to them.
What Kenyan mothers need is to be part of a complete package for MAMA CARE.
That has to include all the pieces that are needed for Kenyan mothers to live healthy during pregnancy and the care needed for both mother and baby after birth. That can be defined and developed by the women themselves. They know what is required because they know it from experience.
I was talking to my son the other day about maternity facilities in Kenya and he asked me how I was born. I told him my mother gave birth to me outside her house under some tree. He asked how that is even possible. I told him I am here and that is the evidence. It took my workmate a woman to talk to him about mid-wives who do that kind of job and they are very good at it. I could understand him because for a boy who was born in some fancy hospital called Women’s College Hospital in Toronto, the idea that babies can be born under trees sounded like total fiction.
Same thing for men. We don’t give birth. We don’t spend nine months carrying a baby and facing a million health hazards. We have very little idea about what to do after the baby is born. That is what I see when I read Ruto’s free diaper solution to motherhood in Kenya. You cannot solve a problem when you have no idea about it.
For starters, don’t separate the need for diapers from the overall healthcare needs of women in Kenya. The biggest issue we face in Kenya today in health services is that the current government decided to pass a law that all basic health needs of Kenyans will be provided by the county governments. The trouble is the same government still allocates a huge proportion of the health budget to the national government.
The result is that the counties do not have enough money to pay doctors, nurses, health technicians, build hospitals and provide adequate health services to Kenyans. The doctors and nurses are often not paid and they go on strike every few months. Every single day there are a bunch of counties where hospital professionals and medics are on strike and the patients are lying in the hospitals helpless.
In fact during the 2017 elections health professionals were on strike all across the country for months and politicians including the government of the day never said a word about it. They think Kenyans really don’t care about their health as long as you give them a little money to vote for you.
Until and unless we solve the funding formula for healthcare in Kenya, the problem cannot be solved. The national government should not allocate itself a big part of the health budget when they provide very little services and often buy big machines which they then order the counties to pay them to hand over.
I want to see the Azimio plan for healthcare in Kenya and I am hoping they will integrate their MAMA CARE Initiative within the overall plan to improve health services in Kenya that will have meaningful improvement on the health of women in Kenya and all Kenyans. Simplistic mock solutions for publicity have no place in improving our healthcare.
Adongo Ogony is a Human Rights Activist and a Writer who lives in Toronto, Canada