Women were underrepresented in the voter list for the last election but they still accounted for some 48 per cent of the electorate in Kenya, which surely should provide a platform from which more women can reach elected positions without ‘affirmative action’ in order to be at par with their male counterparts. Unfortunately, Kenyan women continue to fair dismally in elective politics.
CHANGING BUT NOT ELECTED
In the past, most women shied away from active politics but things have changed and this could be witnessed from the high number of women who came out to vie for elective posts in the just concluded general election, the first under the dispensation of the new constitution.
Sadly, out of the scores of women who were in the political race in the male dominated political arena, only a handful got elected to their respective posts. For instance, of the 290 MPs, only 16 women were elected.
Ironically, Western and Nyanza counties in particular had the highest number of women aspirants who had declared interests in various elective positions but the two countries performed dismally by electing only two women to the National Assembly, former nominated MP Millie Ojiambo who won the Mbita seat and newcomer Mary Emaase of Teso South.
COUNTIES FAIL WOMEN’S REPRESENTATION TEST
Not one of the 47 counties voted in at least the 10 women county assembly representatives required to meet the two- thirds gender rule and 18 counties did not elect any women at all.
If a county does not elect any woman, it’s mandated to nominate 15 which increases the number of county assembly members to 45. According to the Commission For Revenue Allocation (CRA) this means that taxpayers will have to cough up more than Sh3 billion to pay for nominated women in the county assemblies in order to meet this threshold. CRA had cautioned Kenyans against this cost before the March 4th elections (see Kenya Forum article, Women in politics in Kenya: Hurdles and ‘Gender Parity’, 26 October, 2012).
Counties that failed to elect women will have to reduce their development budget to cater for the wages of the nominated members. “Each of the counties will be allocated a similar amount of money. We are not going to say because you have not elected a woman, we give you an extra amount of money. It a penalty for not electing a woman”, said CRA Chairman, Micah Cheserem.
Nakuru county performed impressively by electing eight women, followed by Kisumu with six, and Nairobi , Kitui and Bungoma with five each.
Article 177 of the constitution says one third of the county assembly shall be women. “No county assembly will begin its business until they meet the law. The county assembly cannot discuss any agenda without the requisite number of either gender”, said Cheserem.
WOMEN, NO HIGH PROFILE POSITIONS – “LEAVE BUNGE FOR MEN”
Conspicuously there were no women elected in the high profile positions of the gubernatorial and senatorial seats.
Most women who lost their bids to their male opponents cited cultural stereotypes and gender bias as their biggest obstacles. Speaking to the Sunday Nation (March 24, 2013) Ms Pascalia Makonjio who vied and lost the Nambale parliament seat to John Bunyasi of UDF, mentioned how she was constantly asked to “go for the women rep seat and leave bunge for men.”
It is not all bad news for women’s representation in Kenyan politics however. The 11th parliament brings on board the largest number of women in the country’s history. Its anticipated that the that there will be 68 women in the 349 member lower house, however this number is still short of the 117 needed to satisfy the one-third gender rule.
Kenya is still lagging behind her partners in the East African Community as far as women partaking in politics in concerned: Uganda has 135 women out of its 386 Member Parliament, while Tanzania has 126 in their 350 member parliament.
Women in leadership and elected positions have proved to be quite essential for democracy, development and for peace in other countries and we need more of it in Kenya, says the Kenya Forum.