Kenya: Women Flexing Muscles in the Military

Gender mainstreaming in KDF sees more women in top positions

Two recent appointments of women to senior positions in the military is a welcome move in the realisation of gender equality.

In July 2018, Fatuma Ahmed made history after being named the first Kenyan woman soldier to attain the rank of Major General in the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF).

Ahmed was among the top commanders appointed by the Kenya Defence Council and the new Assistant Chief of the Defence Forces in charge of personnel and logistics.

On the elevation of Major General Ahmed, President Uhuru Kenyatta termed it an honour to witness the first Kenyan army female officer ascend to such a high ranking position within the KDF.

"It is my pride and joy today to witness the unveiling of the first Kenyan woman as a Major General in the history of our country. I am looking to you and counting on you to be a positive role model for other women in this republic and to show and to prove to them that there is no limit for Kenyan women and that everything is possible," said President Kenyatta.

GREAT NATION

Ms Ahmed was elated about the opportunity to serve in her new role saying it is an honour for Kenyans.

"I am very happy with this new appointment because it shows that the President values the contribution of women to the development of our great nation," she said.

Major General Fatuma Ahmed first made headlines in 2015 when she was promoted to the rank of a Brigadier, the first woman to rise to rank in the Kenyan military.

According to a Ministry of Defence publication, Maj Gen Ahmed has been in service for 32 years, enlisted in 1983 before serving under the Women Service Corps.

Last month, KDF made yet another high profile appointment of first-ever female spokesperson.

Colonel Zipporah Kioko was appointed the new spokesperson, taking over from Colonel Paul Njuguna.

Defence Cabinet Secretary Dr Monica Juma emphasised that Kioko's appointment was streamlined with gender changes in the military, which were initiated by the President when he launched the National Defence Policy and the Gender Policy in 2017.

"I thank you most sincerely for supporting gender mainstreaming in KDF where for the first time we have a number of women officers who have been promoted to serve in senior positions. I am delighted that we in this cohort have the first woman spokesperson of the KDF and look forward to working with Colonel Kioko," said Dr Juma.

Colonel Kioko was promoted on April 30, by the President when he made promotions and appointments affecting 138 senior and general military officers.

National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) has lauded the colonel Kioko's appointment.

In a letter addressed to Defence CS, NGEC Chairperson Dr Joyce Mutinda said the appointment was an affirmation of the trust and confidence the ministry has in the officer to discharge the duties of her new office.

FIVE PRINCIPLES

"Her appointment was consistent with the Defence Gender Policy. The Commission looks forward to continued collaboration with the Ministry of Defence in ensuring gender mainstreaming through the development and compliance with relevant policies and pieces of legislation," said Dr Mutinda.

The policy published in May 2017, is guided by five principles, namely; gender responsiveness and non-discrimination; alignment and accountability to commitments in the Kenya Constitution.

It also emphasises on the promotion of conducive institutional environment for women and men; recognition of the specificities of women and men and commitment to promote gender mainstreaming at all levels.

Among other senior female soldiers include Lieutenant Colonel Rachel Nduta Kamui, who is the deputy to the president's aide-de-camp (ADC) Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Stelu Lekolol.

Observers see the recent appointment of women to senior positions in the military as a major achievement for gender equality push.

This is more so for an institution like KDF where top military commanders' positions have for decades been a preserve of men since the country achieved her independence 57 years ago.

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