Women in Kenya are making remarkable strides in the political arena, challenging traditional barriers, advocating for change and striving for greater representation in decision-making processes. Their increasing representation in parliament, leadership roles, and grassroots activism reflects a shift in societal norms and a commitment to gender equality.
(We recently wrote an article on the theme of the influence and representation of women in African politics and the public eye. You can read ‘Who are Africa’s most influential women?’ here.)
Historically, women’s participation in politics has been limited due to cultural, social, and economic factors. However, recent years have seen a shift in this narrative, with a growing number of women getting into politics, either through elections or nominations, and pursuing leadership roles at various levels of government.
This change is evident not only in urban areas but also in rural communities where traditional gender roles have been deeply entrenched.
One notable example of this change is the increased representation of women in Parliament. The 2017 general elections marked a turning point, with the number of female parliamentarians rising significantly compared to previous years. Women now hold a record number of seats, making up nearly 30% of the National Assembly.
Women in Kenyan politics: the two-thirds gender rule
This achievement has been attributed to affirmative action measures, such as the constitutional requirement that no gender should occupy more than two-thirds of elective or appointive positions.
Furthermore, women are not just securing seats; they are also making their mark as effective leaders and advocates for various causes. Several women in the Kenyan political scene have taken on key ministerial roles and spearheaded policy initiatives aimed at addressing pressing issues such as gender equality, education, healthcare, and economic empowerment. Their efforts have led to policy changes that directly impact the lives of women and marginalized communities.
One of the driving forces behind this transformation is the rise of women-led grassroots movements and civil society organizations. These groups have been instrumental in advocating for women’s rights and encouraging political participation. Their efforts have fostered a sense of solidarity among women across the country, inspiring them to engage in politics and contribute to shaping the nation’s future.
One of such groups is Badili Africa and Siasa Place, which were founded and led by young women to empower women and youth in politics.
Challenges facing Kenyan women in politics
However, challenges still persist despite the progress made. Women in politics continue to face gender-based discrimination, unequal access to resources, and stereotypes that undermine their credibility.
The lack of financial resources for campaigns and the prevalence of deep-seated patriarchal attitudes also remain key obstacles to achieving gender parity in political representation in Kenya.
To overcome these challenges, it’s important to strengthen efforts to change societal norms, promote gender-responsive policies, and provide support for women aspiring to political leadership. according to Bina Maseno, Executive Director Badili Africa, “Investment in political education, mentorship programs, and initiatives that promote women’s economic empowerment can help create a more inclusive political environment“.
While challenges remain, the progress made so far is a testament to the resilience and determination of Kenyan women in shaping their country’s political landscape.