2017 presents another opportunity for women in Kenya to increase their numbers and political leadership role in the country. In order to appreciate what is in store for women in Kenya in the upcoming elections, it is useful to place some few issues in perspective.
Gender inequality index remains low as evidenced by women’s under representation in the National Assembly and in the Senate at 19 percent, and 26 percent respectively; 0 percent as Governors and one in four members of the Cabinet. This can be partly explained by gender stereotypes; women aspiring for political leadership continue to suffer from the patriarchal position in the society. The reforms in political parties and the manner in which they ought to promote inclusion and internal democracy continue to elude women. With limitation in economic power and resources needed to finance robust campaigns and elections women political leadership remain low.
Statistics of 2013 general elections show that women participation remained low despite affirmative measures in place. There were 19 women candidates for senatorial gubernatorial positions (out of 237 candidates) and as a result, no woman was elected as a senator or a governor. Out of the elected 290 National Assembly members, just 5.5 percent are women. For the 1,450 ward representatives positions only 88 (6 percent) of the elected candidates were women. Political representation of Kenyan women now stands at 15 percent versus Rwanda’s 56 percent, South Africa’s 42 percent, Tanzania’s 36 percent and Uganda’s 35 percent.
It is useful to note that Kenya’s 15 percent was an improvement from the previous 9.8 percent representation in the 10th Parliament and this change is attributed to the reserved seats for the 47 Women Representatives. This confirms the role of affirmative action in realizing women political representation in current context. The enactment of law to ensure compliance with constitution threshold of not more than two thirds shall be members of one gender has lagged behind. Unless a political solution to this is sought, it is quite clear that a detailed legal frame on two thirds will not be achieved in this parliament period. This takes women back to the drawing board!
Working with partners, ActionAid has initiated the Green Amendment as the formula of achieving gender parity in political leadership. The Green Amendment proposal is to increase the number of women in political leadership through a popular amendment.
Beyond creating awareness on violations of constitution provisions on not more than two thirds shall be of one gender, has triggered luke-warm response. The Duale top up bill is an attempt to achieve gender parity while ensuring total enslavement of women parliamentarians to the whims of the sponsoring political parties. This bill was not passed by parliament.
The massive awareness so far created through the Green Amendment Campaign, the debates and dogmatic positions that have defeated any attempt to legislate to increase women representation are easy entry points to turn the tide. As Green Amendment Campaign works towards attainment of the right number of signatures for amendment through popular initiative, an inbuilt strategy to crystalize some of the mobilization gains through the ballot is desirable. The role of women in collectivization of women political representation through their political participation in leadership will be central. ActionAid has experience in converting this collective action into political capital by creating some sense of urgency. Progressive measures should begin now!
As we seek to increase women in political leadership, what is communicated, how it is packaged will remain of essence for better results. Change of culture towards women political leadership has proven useful in this transition. Men led solidarity actions build on solid foundation on political leadership skills among women may be the game changer and ActionAid continues to invest strategically in developing women political skills.