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Kenya’s 2022 Elections Should Expand Participation of Women in Politics

Increased participation for women in Politics

By Winnie Kabintie

The global participation of women in politics continues to be dismal despite the milestones made in empowering women in the economic, social and political Spheres.

Women in the Executive

According to data by UN Women, Gender parity in the highest decisions of power will not be reached for another 130 years going by the current pace.

Globally, only 21 countries have women serving as Heads of State or Government, and 119 countries have never had a woman leader. Additionally, only 10 countries have a woman Head of State, and 13 countries have a woman Head of Government.

The data further reveals that gender parity in ministerial positions will not be achieved before 2077, despite an annual increase of 0.52 percentage points when it comes to women representation in Ministerial positions.

Currently, only 21 percent of government ministers were women, with only 14 countries having achieved 50 percent or more women in cabinets.

Women In Parliament

Only four countries have 50 percent or more women in both houses of parliament namely;  Rwanda (61 percent), Cuba (53 percent), Bolivia (53 percent), and the United Arab Emirates with 50 percent.

The number of women in parliament in Kenya accounts for just 23 percent of the National Assembly and Senate — a figure that includes seats reserved exclusively for women representatives.


Women Deliver for a Good Kenya

Kenya’s 2010 Constitution provides for a two-thirds gender rule, in an effort to increase women participation in politics with Article 81 (b) stating that “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender”.

The Constitution recognizes women, youth, persons with disabilities and ethnic minorities as special groups deserving of constitutional protection and Article 27 goes further to obligate the government to “develop and pass policies and laws, including affirmative action programs and policies to address the past discrimination that women have faced”.

Despite such progressive legislation to close the Gender gap, Kenya is still trailing her partners in the East African Community in empowering women in politics according to the Global Gender Gap Report 2020, which ranked Kenya at position 85 out of a total 152 counties, behind Rwanda (4), Burundi (43), Uganda(35) and Tanzania (50)

The Global Gender Gap Index serves as a compass to track progress on relative gaps between women and men in health, education, economy and politics.

The 2017 elections saw more women in Kenya elected to office more than at any other time in history and we hope the upcoming 2022 elections will take the milestone a notch higher. According to a report by NDI and the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA Kenya), 29 percent more women ran for office in the 2017 elections than in the previous election.

Women leaders in politics currently hold 172 of the 1,883 elected seats in Kenya, up from 145 after the 2013 elections.

Three women namely; Charity Ngilu (Kitui County), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga County) and the late Joyce Laboso (Bomet County) were elected governors, making them the first women to ascend into that political space since the introduction of the devolved system of governance following the promulgation of the 2010 constitution.

In 2018, during the commemoration of International Women’s Day, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru said female leaders were aiming to have 13 women elected governors in the 2022 general elections.

“We are deliberate about getting 13 female governors in 2022 and we are already putting up practical strategies at the senate, at the county assemblies and in every other forum,” said Waiguru, who is also the deputy chairperson Council of Governors (COG).

Three other women were also elected as senators for the first time in the 2017 general elections; Susan Kihika (Nakuru County) Margaret Kamar (Uasin Gishu) and Fatuma Dullo  (Isiolo) while the number of female MPs elected also rose to 22 up from 16 in the 11th parliament.

Barriers facing women in politics

In a country that is still largely patriarchal, women who step out to vie for elective politics face many barriers including inadequate support from political parties (particularly in the primaries), a lack of financial resources, gender stereotyping and violence.

Female leadership has proven to be quite essential for development and democracy and we need more of it in Kenya.

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February 2021
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