Anne Ireri is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya who is passionate about women rights, policy-making and resource mobilisation for causes that promote gender equality.

With 13 years of experience, she is optimistic that Kenya is headed in the right direction towards attaining gender parity.

What privileges did you enjoy in your youth and how have they influenced your life?

Growing up, I did not have access to as many technological devices as our youth currently have. I invested plenty of time reading books and engaging in physical activities. Technology has brought about so many benefits, including spontaneity and innovation, but it seems that youth today are spending a lot less time reading, socialising and engaging in physical activities. Growing without the privilege of technology cultivated in me virtues such as patience, and helped me develop good social skills because I was able to engage more with my peers.

Kenya has made many gains in trying to achieve gender equality. Have we done enough?

In terms of formulating laws and policies, we are doing quite well. The challenge remains in implementation. We need to be more deliberate in actualising the legal provisions on gender equality both at the national and county levels. We can do this by ensuring that the two-thirds gender representation is adhered to, and allocating more resources to enhancing gender parity.

What do you consider to be the biggest threat to these developments?

The society doesn’t fully appreciate the benefits of gender equality, and this has resulted in the making of decisions that water down the strides made.

How can these gains be safeguarded and sustained?

As regards political representation, there has to be sustained engagement with political parties to ensure that they accommodate and promote women’s participation through elections and nomination. The Executive needs to allocate adequate resources to gender programmes. The Judiciary needs to be ready to assert itself to safeguard these gains by making sound decisions that promote women’s rights.

Do you see Kenya attaining gender parity in the near future?

Absolutely. We are on the right path. We only need to stay focused in this endeavour.

Have Kenyans fully embraced gender equality?

I think that unlike before, Kenyans have now accepted women leadership because it has largely yielded good results. The number of women leaders elected to political seats is testament to that. What we need is for political parties to create a level playing field which will enhance the participation of women in politics. It is also upon them to provide the electorate with more women to choose from. Additionally, we must address the barriers to women’s political participation, and these include political violence and election financing.

Why do you think toxic masculinity is on the rise?

A key factor is messaging. Look at how we approach this issue in the media. What ideals are we encouraging among our men and women? Are we saying enough to condemn violence against both men and women? We need to re-evaluate our value systems. We must dialogue openly on what is happening, and find out why there is so much animosity.

Do you agree that the fight for women’s rights has been done at the expense of men?

Not at all. A win for women and girls is a gain for men and boys. It all comes down to messaging. We need to deliberately include men in the quest for gender equality so that they don’t feel excluded. We need to also consider the needs of boys, and empower them alongside girls.

Talk to young women who aspire to take up leadership.

Believe in your dreams and goals, and make a firm resolve to pursue them. Nothing good comes easy. Put up the fight. Have sincere and responsible mentors to guide you along the way. While at it, don’t be too hard on yourself. Embrace mistakes as a useful component in the learning curve. Above all, be yourself and embrace your uniqueness. Never allow leadership to change you.

If you wouldn’t have been involved in gender rights advocacy, what would you be doing?

Perhaps I would have studied architecture or fashion design.

What are your limitations?

I’m obsessed with order and meticulousness, and this comes at the expense of meeting my deadlines. I am constantly trying to balance my desire for perfection with the requirement to complete tasks on time.

How do you juggle your professional duties and your academic pursuits? Isn’t it strenuous?

Combining a doctorate degree course with a CEO’s job is mentally and physically taxing. My life largely revolves around work and school. I’m thankful, however, for my amazing support system of family and friends, my team at Fida, and my academic supervisors and mentors who consider my demanding schedules.

What does fulfillment mean to you?

Going to bed every night with the conviction that I applied myself wholly to the responsibilities assigned to me. That, and making use of my God-given talents and opportunities to serve others gives me immense joy and pride.

[Source: myNetwork]