Kenya launches blueprint to drive greater women representation at political level
Political will and support from all corners including development partners and donors is important for Kenya, if the two thirds gender rule is to be realised.
This would also ensure that there is rallying support for women vying for elective positions. This is hence the reason why, the European Union, being a progressive institutions joined hands with the Ministry of Gender, to put in place strategies that would help women in Kenya get elected as the country prepares for the General Election on August 8.
Coming in the heels of a bruising party primaries that saw many fall casualty, the launch of National Strategy for Supporting Greater Participation of Women in Elective Politics was not only timely but most appropriate.
Speaking at the launch that was graced by development partners and donors, Cabinet Secretary in charge of Gender Sicily Kariuki highlighted the great disparities in both elective and appointive positions as held by women. Currently women across the two legislative houses — National Assembly and Senate — hold 24 percent of the positions; Permanent or Principle secretaries 36 percent and Cabinet secretaries 28 percent.
She noted: “gender equality is not a women’s issue. It’s a development issue. Hence women’s voices need to bigger, louder and sustained in all spaces including political.”
Among the speakers present were women who have held both elective and appointive positions and from their experience they could only say how hard it has been.
Dr Julia Ojiambo, who was a Member of Parliament during the one party state and the first woman to make to the Cabinet as an assistant minister said: “Tomorrow we are expecting legislators to show what they stand for and make their decision a turning point for this country.”
Ojiambo reiterated: “Political parties must put their houses in order and follow the Political parties Act to the letter to not only support women in their parties but also give women and equal chance to get into elective positions.”
Ojiambo’s plea to political parties’ leadership was: “Our appeal as women is that political parties desist from violent practices during elections and women are asking that parties guarantee peaceful elections.”
Peter Thuku, who represented the Minister for Interior General Joseph Nkaissery said: “”There is a women situation room at the police headquarters where we are monitoring political activities and incidents in women’s political activities.”
Toll free number
Noted Thuku: “Through the Women Situation Room, we are setting up a toll free number, and a WhatsApp number
which shall be free where women can report incidents as they campaign and we will respond instantly.”
Thuku reiterated: “This we are doing to ensure the safety of women political candidates during the campaign and election period.”
Ojiambo challenged the electorate to take note that women have the capacity of good leadership and must be considered on a fair platform. “The launch of this strategy will go down as a historic step towards giving women a fighting chance in Kenya’s political dispensation.”
Dr Joyce Laboso, the Jubilee party candidate for Bomet County gubernatorial position noted: “I must be realistic about tomorrow’s vote. I am not very optimistic that we shall get a positive response.”
According to Laboso, seeking a political office has never been a walk in the park for women. We need support to ensure our security, visibility in the eyes of the electorate, campaign materials, trained agents who can detect electoral fraud and facilities to cover the ground where our voters are.”
Laboso, is one of the six women in the country who women the primaries to enable them vie for the gubernatorial
positions. In the 2013 General election, no women were nominated for the seats, a situation that saw all the 47 counties headed by men, with only none women as running mates.
Said Laboso: “Our male colleagues seem to be stuck in a time warp where they do not see women as partners in leadership.” She advised: “We perhaps need to find alternative strategies if we are to change the mind-sets and vote of Legislators.
Laboso who is seeking to unseat the incumbent noted: “I have prayed that the National Assembly makes a difference for Kenyan women but this is yet to happen.” She added: “I believe having a woman will transform the nature and practice of the Council of Governors. The chest thumping brinkmanship on that club needs to be redirected for the benefit of voters at the villages.
She appealed to development partners to take deliberate actions to support women enter into those male dominated and exclusive leadership clubs — the Council of Governors and Senate. “It’s only then that women will be able to influence the country.”
Chairperson Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) Cecily Mbarire, who lost the gubernatorial nomination for Embu County noted: “Coming out of the just concluded political party primaries, I wonder whether we need primaries at all.”
She noted: “It beats the spirit and object of fairness when there are predetermined candidates yet we claim due process is followed.”
Mbarire said: “Looking at the five women who survived the thuggish primaries across all parties, I am convinced that there will be women governors at the next Council of Governors after the elections.”
According to Mbarire: “Women must remain strong and be supported as they sweat it out. We owe them our mobilising skills at grassroots level and advocacy to show that women can lead and are up to the task of fighting it out with men.”
The media was also challenged to give women visibility and report incidents of violence against women before, during and after elections.
Noted Laboso: “Women’s visibility by the media needs to be scaled up for women aspirants in 2017.”