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Is The Girl Child Over-Empowered?

Debunking myths.

BY Beryl Karimi-La Patrona

Jan 30, 2023, 01:44 PM

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The question of whether the girl child is over-empowered or not was brought forth on the internet by men invested in playing the oppression Olympics. 

Here, we dissect the myths surrounding that statement and paint a clear picture of what the truly lived realities of women are like. 

1 In 3 Women Have Been Sexually Assaulted.

Women experience violence from an early age with the World Health Organisation (WHO) saying that 1 in 4 women aged between 15 to 24 has faced violence. Once it starts happening, it becomes the reality of our lives.

You get catcalled everywhere you go. In the market, when you are taking the bus and as admitted by many Muslim women across the world, you are even catcalled at Mecca when you go for Hajj.

Girls cannot be said to be overly empowered when the world isn't a safe place for them yet. Saying they are is an absurdity. 

Kenya Does Not Legally Recognize Spousal Rape.

A study undertaken by FIDA-Kenya reported that one out of every 10 women has experienced sexual assault, particularly rape by their male partners. 

This is facilitated by the fact that men have been socialized by both society and religion to view women's bodies as theirs.

The dowry is the first thing that gives them this entitlement. The church and the law also encourage them with the idea of conjugal rights that seem to ignore the fact that it is okay for women to say no sex. 

As if that is not enough, the law permits men to get away with crimes of rape for as long as they happen within a marriage. In some African communities and countries, men are always forgiven for rape when they marry their rape victims.

To consider a class of people that goes through such injustices as being overly empowered is irony at best and hypocrisy in the highest sense. 

1 In 3 Kenyan Women Will Experience Intimate Partner Violence Before The Age Of 50.

Intimate partner violence is a problem that affects women everywhere across the world. Cynthia Abdalla's film, Usikimye shed light on this. It was unbelievable to learn that in every three women, one has faced intimate partner violence or will face it before they turn 50.

This is again made worse by poverty and by the fact that the legal systems in Kenya continuously fail women by failing to have gender-sensitive desks in every police station and also by failing to prosecute these cases to completion.

Women who live with the fear of knowing they could be victims of intimate partner violence cannot be overly empowered. If anything they are vulnerable members of society who need protection. 

Kenya Ranks Third In The World In Teenage Pregnancies.

The rate of teenage pregnancy in Kenya is one of the highest in the world. Studies show that 1 in every 5 teenage girls between the ages of 15-19 years, have either had a live birth or are pregnant with their first child.

This is made more evident by the fact that in 2020, during the COVID lockdown, 5000 teenage girls in Kenya got pregnant. The men responsible for those pregnancies were mostly older men who were never punished for the crime of statutory rape because most of these cases are solved at home with the community.

What shows how girls are abused in this country is that they hardly ever go back to school. The moment they get pregnant, they become integrated into adulthood, a thing that does not happen with boys. 

The Government Is Still Male-Dominated.

Among the 47 counties of Kenya, only 7 are run by female governors. The other 40 are led by men which goes to show how deep the problem of inequality cuts through society.

That is the same case in parliament and the Senate despite having seats for minority groups and getting women into parliament through nominations.

You cannot purport to say that the girl child is over-empowered when most countries in Africa have never had a female president and when the representation in parliament is so dismal that you cannot see female parliamentarians in parliament when their sessions are live on TV.

Power is still very much in men's hands and until it shifts, women are always going to be under-empowered due to the lack of representation in places where policies are made. 

In Kenya, Four Million Women Live Below The Poverty Line. 

This means four million women in Kenya have less than 200 shillings to live on per day. 

Four million.

In a country where access to land means the difference between having food to eat or a way to send your children to school, we still have only one per cent of women owning land solely in their name (and yet women do 80% of subsistence farming).

What does this mean? In pure and simple terms, it means that Kenyan women are not only poor, but millions of them dwell in abject poverty.

That does not sound like being overly empowered to me.

Read More: How The Legal & Family Systems Fail Women