Kenya saved close to Ksh20 million ($200,000) in per diem when MPs due to travel to New York for the 64th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women Conference were asked to refund the money.
Global concerns on the coronavirus pandemic saw the event reduced from two weeks to one day and countries asked not to send delegations. Member states were represented by their Permanent Missions based at the UN in New York. All debates and side events were cancelled.
Fifteen members of the Senate and National Assembly were to attend, each of them pocketing $1200 per day, for 14 days.
We should have smelled a rat when, a few weeks ago, male legislators raised a ruckus, demanding to be part of the entourage to the women’s conference.
Some female MPs told the men they could not attend a women’s conference, others said the men must have proven record of supporting women’s causes.
However, some male MPs said the conference was not just about women, but gender, which meant they qualified to attend.
Not knowing about the lucrative nature of the trip, the rest of us shook our heads at the acrimony generated by the lawmakers.
There are lessons to be learnt from reactions to the coronavirus, which, incredibly, is a virus the world didn’t know existed until three months ago.
Some Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) events were conducted online, bringing out the realities of the digital divide. Lack of participation for those without Internet access meant decisions were made about them and on their behalf.
Governments must prioritise healthcare systems and we must all appreciate health workers much more than we do.
Handwashing and no touching of faces is a good habit in preventing other illnesses such as cholera. Grounded planes translates to a reduction of the world’s global carbon footprint.
Coronavirus has brought an opportunity to exploit telecommuting methods as people realise e-mails and Skype can be used to address matters instead of flying to meetings.
People have begun to be concerned about where things we take for granted, such as where second-hand clothes come from.
Those working from home have opportunities to spend more time with families and reflect on the privilege of having a job.
On March 8, International Women’s Day, celebrated on the eve of the CSW was a good time to remember the lyrics of God bless the Women by Lucky Dube: “Even when times are hard, they are so cool, calm and collected, they don’t run from anything, they stand and fight for what is right. They do not run from responsibilities; they stand and fight for what is right.”
Former Burkina Faso President Thomas Sankara once said: “We do not talk of women’s emancipation as an act of charity or because of a surge of human compassion. It is a basic necessity for the triumph of the revolution. Women hold up half the sky.”
We salute the men of goodwill who have stood steadfastly in support of women who are roughly half of our population and literally hold up half the sky. Let us all join in the noble effort to support women’s causes.
Wairimu Nderitu is the author of Beyond Ethnicism. Mukami Kimathi, Mau Mau Freedom Fighter and Kenya: Bridging Ethnic Divides, [email protected]