Learned Friends from the Legal Fraternity,
Good Afternoon. It is a pleasure for me to join you at this important Conference, the 2017 Africa Regional Conference.
First, let me take this early opportunity to welcome those of you who have come from other countries, to Kenya. When you are through the Conference, I urge you to take a day or so to see a bit of our beautiful country.
As Jurists, you have traveled a long way since the formation of the Kenya Women Judges Association in 1993. Our country Kenya has also become transformed in that same period.
Today, we are a vibrant multi-party democracy with an independent judiciary. These are great victories for our people, achieved through peaceful reforms that we cannot separate from your steadfast conviction that the Rule of Law must be protected and deepened.
We are, therefore, grateful for your predessors: Justices Effie Owuor, Joyce Aluoch and Rosslyn Nambuye, and others who stood with them as pioneers, in founding the Kenya Women Judges Association.
Your cause not only advanced the position of Kenya’s female jurists, but has also stood up for the principle of gender equality, which is fundamental to our progress as a people and as a country. You have enriched citizenship and the structure and conduct of government.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In Kenya, we live in the expectation of decency and generosity from each other, but are reassured, knowing that the law and its institutions and practitioners will be an accessible resort, should we need protection.
Law limits the abuse of power by limiting the uses and arbitrariness of that power. It protects minorities and individuals. It should allow those with the least among us to be able to be made whole against abuses by those with the most.
The law, properly institutionalized and accessible to all, is fundamental to attaining the yearning for “justice as shield and defender,” that we sing of in our national anthem.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I know justice has not yet been done to the satisfaction of our women. They are still under-represented in the legislature and in many other public and private decision-making and governance forums. But as Kenyans we are agreed, if we are to live up to our promise to conquer poverty, disease and ignorance, we must embrace gender equality.
We have come a long way since the founding of our nation and there is a long way still to travel to reach our destination. Women and girls in Kenya still have trouble getting their rights adjudicated and enforced by our justice system. The same is true of much of Africa, and, indeed, much of the world. Women and girls stillface particular challenges in regard to access to the formal justice system, as well as to our informal and traditional dispute-resolution mechanisms. We are stillcontending with discrimination and domestic violence against women and girls.
We will not be as prosperous as we hope, or as fair as we aim to be, if half the population is disadvantaged and discriminated against. That is why I have insisted that my Administration must further the cause of gender equality, and the empowerment of women in particular.
We established a fully-fledged State Department of Gender Affairs; we have funded initiatives to equalize socio-economic opportunities for women such as the Women Enterprise Fund and the UwezoFund. And, we have rolled out a programme for the provision of free maternity services in public hospitals.
We have also backed policy and legislation whose aim is to honour our commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
The passing of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act of 2015, and the National Policy on Prevention and Response to Gender Based Violence 2014, are proof our commitment. As is the representation of women in the top leadership of the Executive Branch.
We are passing laws, we are crafting legislation, but we must aim to do more to implement the fine ideas and sentiments that they express. The Judiciary is a point of strength in this regard.
It is among the most improved institutions in regard to the ratio of men to women. The number of women judges and magistrates present today proves the point. Upstanding and professional female magistrates and judges are proof to our young men and women, that equality of opportunity is open to all Kenyans.
You are role models to the many young women who look to those of you in this room as the giants on whose shoulders they will one day stand.
Yet, even as we count our blessings and achievements, no institution has achieved its full potential. The Judiciary, like other branches of government, needs to be bold in challenging corruption, and especially the abuse of the judicial process to escape accountability. Those that abuse judicial processes are often in compromising and undermining public resources and public trust. They are reversing the very solutions that this conference seeks to identify and deliver.
Your leadership is needed by Kenya, by all of Africa, and the World, if we are to build the equality and fairness that all those millions of young girls and boys need to have productive and happy lives.
You are equal to the challenges that face us today, we, as Africans of the present generations, are equal to the historic task of lifting up our nations and peoples. You have a chance during this conference to embrace fresh and bold ideas. Do so, guided by a spirit that is simultaneously urgent and practical.
In concluding my remarks, I wish to assure you that I will be open to your recommendations and initiatives. I will continue to run an Administration in which gender equality and fairness is at the core of our pursuits. Your work as Judges, and as a Judiciary, will be supported by the Executive Branch of Government. I will urge the legislature and the political class that occupies it, to be similarly engaged with your great mission — particularly on the issue of gender in representation, and the two-third rule.
I am convinced to reach Africa’s shining destiny of prosperity and security for all, we must simply have women as equal partners in leading and governing ourselves. Girls must have the same opportunity and protection, as boys. Economic freedom must know no gender. We are headed in that direction, and I am proud to say that my Administration will continue to pull hard, to lead in this regard, and to listen closely to women from all walks of life.
With those remarks, it is now my pleasure to declare the 2017 Africa Reginal Conference, officially open.
God Bless you all, and God Bless Africa.