Women are often underrepresented in leadership positions, at the local and community level all the way to the highest levels of government. They lack a stronger voice in decision-making and often ignored as an electorate. This is the case globally as well as locally. This means that women are underrepresented in all facets of the political process often due to social-cultural barriers, lack of adequate capacity and resources for women’s political organizing, standards of living and precarious economic challenges.
We have over the past witnessed cases of violence against women and girls in public spaces, places of work, public transport and the like. The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women requires that women be accorded rights equal to those of men and that women be able to enjoy all their rights in practice. Inherent to the principle of equality between men and women, or gender equality, is the concept that all human beings, regardless of sex, are free to develop their personal abilities, pursue their professional careers and make choices without the limitations set by stereotypes, rigid gender roles and prejudices.
It is thus the responsibility of the state and non-state actors to ensure women’s equal access to and full participation in power structures and decision-making, and to increase women’s capacity to participate in decision-making and leadership, in accordance with the constitution of Kenya.
In Kenya, although women comprise 52% of the Kenyan population, the same numbers are not reflected in country’s political representation which is heavily skewed in favor of men.
From 2007 to 2013, the number of women parliamentarians remained low, at 9.8%. Some progress has thus been made in the 11th Parliament, with women members of parliament now standing at 19.5%. Nevertheless, this percentage still falls short of the target set out in Article 81 of Kenya’s Constitution, which states that “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender”. It also goes against the United Nations Security Council resolution 1,325 on women, peace and security, and the recently launched Kenya Action Plan, which also calls for active women’s representation and participation in decision-making and political processes.
According to the World Bank, Kenyan proportion of seats held by women in the national parliament compares poorly within the East African Community; Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, which have managed to attain 64%, 34% and 37% respectively.
ActionAid in partnership with agencies of women living in poverty and exclusion are at the forefront in challenging these vices. We are supporting women mobilization and capacity building of women political participants as well as challenging the violence that accompanies political activities in Kenya. By use of technology (SMS platform), women continue to report violations of rights and subsequently supported to access justice. We are working on the popular initiative to realize the constitutional rights on women representation – and we hopefully the actualization of this right shall see the light of day.