Female factor in elections a sign of positive improvements

A woman has her left index finger marked with indelible ink by an IEBC officer, to show that she has voted. Photo by Joyce Chimbi
A woman has her left index finger marked with indelible ink by an IEBC officer, to show that she has voted. Photo by Joyce Chimbi

There are many ways in which the electoral system can support the participation of women in elections.

Among these include ensuring that polling stations are accessible and that elections are conducted under a peaceful environment.

Democracy without the participation of women, experts have reiterated, is no democracy at all and hence the need to encourage the participation of women as voters and candidates.

Numbers from the just concluded General Election show that not only are women no longer afraid to present themselves to the electorate for political seats but the voters have also significantly warmed up to female leadership.

An increment in the level of participation paid off as there were more women seeking elective positions compared to those who made it in 2013.

On the actual election date in various polling stations visited in Kajiado North Constituency, female candidates were not only able to cast their vote without fear or intimidation but upon producing the relevant identification documents  were able to vote without much ado.

Polling station

Irrespective of the queues that were fairly long but well organized, female candidates could easily join the queue in tandem with their names and vote.

In contrast to 2013 when most of the female candidates waited until late afternoon to cast their ballot, during the 2017 elections women arrived much earlier in the day. This was clearly an indication that they did not feel intimidated and did not have to hide or cast their ballot at a particular hour out of fear.

This level of confidence would also be reflected in the number of votes that they received. There were 1,450 women who vied for Member of the County Assembly (MCA) position out of which 96 were elected.

The MCA seat is often a difficult choice for women and the two percent increment from 2013 to 2017 shows that the participation of women in elections as candidates is finally paying off though at a small percentage.

There were seven women who offered themselves for the gubernatorial seat, a three percent increment from 2013. This time around three women were elected governors, again attesting to the fact that women are making significant headway. It is important to note that two in every five women who contested for a gubernatorial seat won, compared to one in every five men.

Shift

One in every six women who vied for a senatorial seat in the 2017 elections was elected. This can be taken to mean that as more and more women participate in elections as candidates, their chances of making it into elective political leadership increases significantly. This is especially because figures show that one in every five men who vied for a senate seat won and the margin is a clear indication that the electorate is shifting in terms of voting for both men and women.

There is also an eight percent increase in the number of women elected as members of the National Assembly.

The level of confidence that women demonstrated on voting day marks a paradigm shift among the electorate who gave a vote of confidence to these women across the various tiers of leadership.

Going by the number of registered voters, women made significant headway. According to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), out of the 19.6 million registered voters, 15 million people cast their vote on August 8, 2017.

Figures show that more women registered to vote compared to men in nearly half of the country. In 21 of the country’s 47 counties, female voters were more than men accounting for 9.4 million or 47 percent of the votes.

In polling stations visited, women interviewed expressed satisfaction with the voting process.

“The queues are shorter and the voting process is faster compared to 2013. Women with small babies, pregnant or sickly as well as the old got priority treatment at the polling stations and this is very encouraging,” says Monica Tuitoek.

She adds: “Just look at the queues and see the clear indication that women came out in as large numbers as men to vote.”