Failure to enact gender rule, a barrier to women and political leadership

Voters outside the Kibra DC's polling station in Nairobi County where they cast their votes. Photo: Odhiambo Orlale
Voters outside the Kibra DC's polling station in Nairobi County where they cast their votes. Photo: Odhiambo Orlale

 

Kenyan voters turned out in large number to elect candidates of their choice for the six elective seats but ignored the two thirds gender rule enshrined in the Constitution.

The final results from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) portal confirmed that women candidates got a raw deal all the way from presidential, gubbernatorial, senatorial, parliamentary and member of the 47 county assemblies.

However, despite not making the two thirds gender threshhold,  the women’s movement has a reason to smile thanks to three women who were able to make it as governors — Charitu Ngilu (Kitui), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Joyce Laboso (Bomet).

Unlike in 2013, there was no woman presidential candidate this year; out of the 47 seats for governor only three romped home; and among the senators only three women were elected. Out of 290 vacant parliamentray seats across the country only 23 women were elected. The number of elected women members of the county assembly (MCAs) was also nothing to shout home about.

It’s no wonder most women went to vote with a heavy heart because of betrayal by the 11th Parliament and the senate not to enact the two third gender rule as entrenched in the Constitution of Kenya.

Strategy

Says former High Court Judge Lady Justice Effie Owuor: “Not only did the 11th Parliament fail to meet the two-third gender representation requirement, it appeared singularly unprepared to lay legislative foundation for the 12th Parliament.”

In a book titled Gender Equality and Political Processes in Kenya – Challenges and Prospects, Owuor says Kenyan women are yet again in an existential fight for their political lives and it remains to be seen whether their strategies and tactics of old will help them to emerge victorious. The 206-page book published by Strathmore University Press and edited by Japhet Biegon, focuses on Kenya’s experience in its determination to ensure gender equality in political processes and specifically in Parliament.

Gender Equality and Political Processes in Kenya was a product of the 2015 Annual Jurists Conference that was organized by the Kenya Section of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) from November 24 to 27, 2015, in Ukunda, Kenya.

Indeed, figures never lie. Out of the six elective seats in the polls, no woman vied for the presidency this time around while there was a handful of women candidates in the gubernatorial race in the 47 counties, and a similar number for the senatorial seat, all currently held by men.

Nazlin Umar was the only woman who dared to present her papers to the chairman of the Independent Elections and Boundaries Commission, Wafula Chebukati, but was rejected on technicalities. Umar unsuccessfully vied in 2013 for the most powerful seat in the land together with former Cabinet Minister Martha Karua, who lost the Kirinyaga County gubernatorial race.

Representation 

Only one presidential candidate, Prof Michal Wainaina, who was an independent candidate, picked a woman as running mate — Miriam Mutua, an entrepreneur and graduate from Daystar University.

The low turnout of women was also evident in the senatorial and parliamentary race. However, the low numbers were boosted by more candidates vying for the County Women Representative seat and the over 1,450 Member of the county assemblies positions across the country.

Seven women politicians were in the gubernatorial race on mainstream party tickets. They included Joyce Laboso (Bomet)  who was the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly,  former Cabinet Minister Charity Ngilu in Kitui County two former cabinet secretaries Anne Waiguru and Martha Karua in Kirinyaga County; former Assistant Minister Wavinya Ndeti in Machakos County, and Kisumu County Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation chairperson, Atieno Otieno.

But three other influential women leaders who wanted to vie but lost in the primaries were Bishop Margaret Wanjiru (Nairobi),  Cecily Mbarire (Embu), and Anne Omodho Anyanga (Migori).

Out of the 47 senatorial seats that were up for grabs, only a handful of women leaders were cleared to contest. They included Prof Margaret Kamar (Uasin Gishu), outgoing Nakuru County Assembly Speaker, Susan Kihika,  Taita-Taveta Women Representative, Joyce Lay and Mombasa Deputy Governor Hazel Katana among others on fringe parties.

None of the eight presidential candidates, who include two on independent tickets, had appointed a woman as a running mate; this is very telling of their gender policy, if they get elected. The same trend has also prevailed among the gubernatorial male candidates in the 47 counties.

In her chapter on Women and Political Inclusion in Kenya, Justice Owuor says: “The 2010 Constitution is a document full of many radical changes. One of its eye-catching features is the principle of affirmative action…But the courts have not offered much by way of guidance either. The Supreme Court advisory opinion on principles of gender representation stated that by the end of August 2015, the Executive and Parliament need to arrive at a formula that would ensure the realisation of the one-third gender formula.”

The Judge further notes that the deadline came and went with no such formula being crafted. Instead, the women of Kenya have been treated to  retrogressive rhetoric that reveals continuing male anxieties about women’s representation.

Currently, women’s representation stands at 19 per cent, 86 elected and nominated female members of the National Assembly and the Senate.

Says the retired Judge: “Reminiscent of the 1980s and 1990s, the current male-dominated Parliament does not seem to know how to address the issue of affirmative action.”

That percentage needs to rise by 14 percent points to 33 percent, if the voters act accordingly or the Constitution says that the legislature will have to nominate women to make up the imbalance.