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In 2015, the United Nations outlined 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as part of a blueprint towards a better future leading up to the year 2030. Sustainable Development Goal (SGD) 5 which calls for gender equality by providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes if achieved will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.

This year International Women’s Day celebrated on March 8th, under the theme #BreakTheBias dominated both mainstream and social media. As conversations around this campaign continue to unfold, the critical question remains: what does this mean to our sustainability agenda? Can breaking the bias propel us to suppress gender inequality in order to achieve other sustainability goals?

Bias refers to conscious and unconscious inclination against a person or a group in a manner that is considered unfair. Be it in politics, economics, leadership or education, bias against women has over the years been witnessed across the world due to misconceptions and cultural norms among other reasons.

Data from the Gender Social Norms Index of 2020 by United Nations Development Program indicates that despite decades of progress towards closing the inequality gap between men and women, close to 90% of both men and women hold some sort of bias against women, providing new clues to the invisible barriers women face in achieving equality.

In light of this, many organisations have scaled up the fight against gender bias. Companies such as KenGen have made deliberate efforts to meet the 1/3 gender constitutional requirement by increasing the share of women from to 25% from as low as 12% only a few years ago. In top leadership it stands at 27%.

The company has also partnered with United Nations Global Compact and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in targeted programs aimed at deepening the implementation of the Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) and to strengthen KenGen’s contribution to SDG 5 which calls for women’s full participation and equal opportunities for leadership, including in economic life, by 2030.

These programs nurture the company’s gender equality plans and set the stage for achieving other corporate goals. This goes to show that there is need for a proper integration of corporates activities and SDGs to drive sustainable development.

To make this happen, we all need to continue to demand a future where human rights prevail. We all need to make gender disparities a thing of the past as we advance our countries and organisations to greater heights. This is the only way to create a sustainable world for us all.

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On March 8th, 2022, the world commemorated the International Women's Day themed: Gender Equality for a Sustainable Tomorrow. President Uhuru Kenyatta led the nation in marking this significant global day. In his speech, President Kenyatta highlighted the strides that Kenya had made in empowering women. He also lauded women who have been trailblazers in their respective fields. KenGen Managing Director and CEO, Rebecca Miano was among the leaders feted by President Kenyatta.

His gracious words of praise and encouragement lead us to reflect on the KenGen gender mainstreaming initiative dubbed KenGen Pink Energy. What role does it plays in advocating gender equality? What lessons can be drawn from such platforms regarding sustainability and gender equality?

Pink Energy is an initiative to uplift the status of women employees at KenGen and the wider energy sector. Launched in November 2016, the initiative has gone a long way in creating change and enhancing the potential of women in the company. Anchored on three pillars: personal development and empowerment, creating a conducive work environment and creating gender awareness, the initiative continues to play a critical role in gender equality. Through the Initiative, employees receive training on gender matters and are nurtured to become brand ambassadors of gender equality. The platform also provides an avenue for employees to air their concerns on gender parity.

According to data from a 2019 McKinsey report, if the individual countries work together to close existing gender gaps, Africa has the potential to grow its economy by up to 10% of its current collective Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by the year 2025. The report titled: “The Power of Parity: Advancing Women’s Equality in Africa” paints a bright future for the continent suggesting that Africa can add up to $316 Billion to its GDP only by closing gender gaps.

In the same way, data from the United Nations indicates that putting women and girls at the centre of economies will fundamentally drive better and more sustainable development outcomes for all, support more rapid recovery, and place the world back on a footing to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals. In this case, platforms like KenGen Pink Energy create a conducive environment for such conversations to happen.

At the same time, gender-mainstreaming initiatives enable organisations to build a culture of gender equality at the workplace, constantly tracking the development and aiding the organisation in forging strong cohesion among its people.

That said, organizations and individuals need to leverage the power of home-grown initiatives to scale up the campaign on gender equality as we look forward to creating a sustainable and equitable future.

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