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CLOSING KENYA’S POLITICAL GENDER GAP

Article by Winnie Kabintie

Kenya’s political gender gap is gradually narrowing down as indicated in a report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), whose Global Gender Gap Report 2013 ranks Kenya 85 out of 136 countries surveyed in ‘political empowerment’, an improvement from position 103 in 2012.

Global Gender Gap ReportThe Global Gender Gap Index, introduced by the WEF in 2006, provides a framework for capturing the magnitude and scope of gender-based disparities around the world. The index benchmarks national gender gaps on economic, political, education and health-based criteria and provides country rankings that allow for effective comparison across regions and income groups over time.

WOMEN STILL ‘SHORT CHANGED’

The slight improvement, with 19 percent women and 81 percent men in Kenya’s parliament and 15 percent women and 85 percent men in ministerial positions, is quite notable but not appealing enough to Kenyan women who have for a long time felt shortchanged in the political arena.

PARASTAL HEADS – TWO WOMEN TO 38 MEN

Take for instance the recent appointments of heads of parastatals by President Uhuru where out of the 40 appointees, only two are women, i.e. Hon Lina Jebii Chelimo to head the Anti-Female Genital Mutilation Board and Hon Agnes Ndetei in the National Drought and Management Board.

Article 27(3) of the constitution provides for equal treatment and right to opportunities for both male and female.

KENYAN WOMEN LOSE OUT ON ELECTIVE POSTS

Women make up some 54 percent of the voting population in Kenya, which certainly should provide a platform from which more women can reach elected positions without the need of an Affirmative Action in order to be at par with their male counterparts. However, women accounted for only 46 percent of voters who actually turned out in the 2013 election and unfortunately, Kenyan women continue to fair dismally in the male dominated political arena.

With the devolved system of governance, counties are required to vote in at least 10 women to the County Assembly Representative posts in order to meet the two- thirds gender rule stipulated in the constitution. However, in the March 4th, 2013 general elections, none of the 47 counties voted in at least 10 women. Actually, 18 counties did not even elect any women at all. If a county does not elect any woman, it’s mandated to nominate 15 which increase the number of County Assembly members to 45.

SH3 BILLION FOR ‘NOMINATED’ WOMEN

Prior to the elections, the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA) had warned Kenyans that failure to elect the number of women required to meet the one-third threshold would be a very ‘taxing affair’ in the long run as taxpayers will have fund more than Sh3 billion to pay for nominated women in the County Assemblies. This warning notwithstanding, men carried the day in the elections.

STEREOTYPES AND BIAS

Most women who lost their bids to their male opponents cited cultural stereotypes and gender bias as their biggest obstacles. Ms Pascalia Makonjio who vied and lost the Nambale parliamentary seat to John Bunyasi of UDF is one of the women who became a victim of these vices; she cited that she was constantly asked to “go for the Women Rep seat and leave bunge/ parliamentary seat for men.”

KENYA TRAILING IN EAST AFRICA

Kenya is still trailing her partners in the East African Community in empowering women in politics. The Global Gender

Christine Lagarde - first woman Managing Director of the IMF

Christine Lagarde – first woman Managing Director of the IMF

Gap Report ranks Tanzania position 36 in women empowerment politically, with 36 per cent women and 64 percent men in parliament; 28 per cent women in ministerial positions and 72 per cent men.

Uganda is ranked position 28 out of 136 countries, with 35 per cent women in parliament and 65 per cent men; and 32 per cent of women in ministerial positions and 68 per cent men.

INTERNATIONALLY WOMEN HOLD TOP POSTS

Globally, feminine leadership is proving to be quite essential for democracy, development and for peace and a good

number of women are being appointed to head key public offices. Janet Yellen made history the other day when she became the first woman to lead the US Federal Reserve.  In 2011, Christine Lagarde was appointed the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, also becoming the first woman to hold that post

WOMEN ASCEND FOREIGN AFFAIRS DOCKET IN AFRICA

Last year, Amina Mohammed was appointed as the Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs by President Uhuru Kenyatta. She became the first woman in Kenya to hold the docket. It would be important to also acknowledge that Amina was the first African and a woman for that matter, to be appointed chairperson of the International Organization of Migration in 2002. In 2005, she again became the first woman to chair the World Trade Organization’s General Council.

Amina Mohammed, Kenya's Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs

Amina Mohammed, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs

In 2012, Somalia’s Prime Minister appointed the country’s first female Foreign Minister, Fauzia Yusuf Haji Adan. She is also served as Somali’s Deputy Prime Minister, again the first Somali woman to hold that job. A 2011 global survey TrustLaw named Somalia fifth of the worst countries in the world to be a woman.

Louise Mushikiwabo also made history in 2009 when she became Rwanda’s first female Foreign Minister.

Feminine leadership is certainly being embraced in other countries in the world and we need more of it in Kenya if the country’s political gender gap is to be narrowed.

President Kenyatta declared winner.

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