Media challenged to upscale positive dialogue on two thirds gender principle
While Parliament failed to meet the August 27 deadline that had been set by the Supreme Court in addressing the challenge of the two thirds gender principle for both National Assembly and Senate, the media has been challenge to change the course of debate.
A meeting which brought senior women editors together with members of civil society organisations and government sought to upscale positive dialogue around the one third gender rule. The meeting was organised by Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) in collaboration with URAIA and Urgent Action Fund-Africa.
Outgoing AMWIK Executive Director Hellen Obande posed: “How can the media influence discussions on the two-thirds gender principle out of the normal realm of news?”
Obande challenged the senior women editors: “Who will monitor to ensure Parliament delivers law on time? Can the media be able to make Parliament accountable in meeting the two thirds gender principle and other constitutional deadlines?”
According to Pamela Mburia, chairperson AMWIK, there is need to escalate the conversation on the two thirds gender principle. “There is need to have men and women as champions to push the cause of women in leadership positions.”
Reiterating these sentiments, Paul Kuria, Chief Executive Officer National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) asked: “Are we telling the same story? Who is our audience? Are we able to influence change, perceptions and attitudes?”
Kuria asked if the conversation on the two thirds principle was taking people through steps of change or rushing them.
According to Kuria, although the Supreme Court had given a deadline of August 27, 2015 for Parliament to come up with legislation on how the two thirds gender principle will be met before the General Election in 2017, this had not materialised.
Article 27 (6) of the Constitution of Kenya provides that the state will develop legislations and measures to implement the principle of not more than two thirds. This provision not only ensures that there is equal representation in both elective and appointive positions, but also recognises past injustices to access to political leadership.
The current gender composition in the National Assembly and Senate falls short of the two thirds requirement. The National Assembly has only 19.5 percent women while the gender composition in the Senate, to which no woman was elected in the 2013 General Election is closer to the minimum one third but still falls short at 26.6 percent of women.
Kenyans have not appreciated having women in leadership and political decision making positions compared to the neighbouring countries of Uganda, Rwanda and Tanzania.
In the greater Southern Africa, the regional bloc most countries have already met the two thirds principle and are now aiming for the 50-50 that is recommended by the African Union. Affirmative action helps countries address issues of inequality and discrimination and allows for a level playing ground among men and women.
Affirmative action is a deliberate move to reform or eliminate past and present discrimination using a set of public policies and initiative designed to help on the basis of gender, race, colour, ethnicity, creed and geographical location among other factors. The Constitution of Kenya recognises women, youth, ethnic minorities and persons living with disability as special categories deserving constitutional protection.
For Kenya to achieve the not more than two thirds gender principle, it must be understood that proper constitutionalism requires full and meaningful implementation of the affirmation action rule irrespective of the associated costs.
Following a 15 month consultative process with Attorney General’s office, NGEC, FIDA and other constitutional commissions, a communication strategy has been developed to incorporate processes of influencing ideas.
“People see affirmative action as a form of displacement. It’s important for people to realise the handsome dividends of inclusion of women in governance,” explained Kuria. He added: “We need to start telling our stories differently so that people are able to appreciate women in political leadership. The strategy is to have champions of gender equality and equity identified in every corner of the country.”
Speaking at the 30th anniversary since the Third Women’s World Conference was held in Nairobi, President Uhuru Kenyatta said: “We can chose to live in the past or we can forge ahead to create a future. As a government, we have chosen the future of equality. My duty as president is to lead Kenya to the day when women’s inclusion and gender equality will are settled uncontested fact.”
Kenyatta reiterated: “We all have a role to play in the development of our society, and every citizen whether male or female deserves the opportunity to contribute to their society. Our progress is inextricably linked: We will rise together or not at all. Any delay in the empowerment of women, is a delay in the development of the nation.”
Kenyatta who also launched a multi-media campaign on the two thirds gender principle called for partnerships between men and women. He noted: “As a president it’s my duty to defend the Constitution and this means defending among other provisions the principle of gender equality.”
It’s this kind of information that the media must bring to the fore for Kenyans to understand the importance of having women in political leadership positions.
The media has the platform to allow for positive dialogue and debate as well as hold accountable those charged with the responsibility of making laws.
Media allows for interactions on how citizens, leaders and public institutions relate and react to issues in order for change to happen.
Those charged with management of newsrooms, like the senior women editors , can take it upon themselves to drive the agenda of change and make the two thirds gender principle in the national Assembly and Senate a reality.