Pledge for Gender Parity: Has the Government fulfilled its promise?

Women leaders from civil society and county government at an empowerment forum organized by AWC Features Service, in Kisumu last year. [Photo: George Ngesa]
Women leaders from civil society and county government at an empowerment forum organized by AWC Features Service, in Kisumu last year. [Photo: George Ngesa]

This remains a big question even as the country seeks to hold the second election under the new constitution that had a raft of women’s gains including affirmative action of not more than two thirds of the same gender rule.

Six years into the implementation of the new Constitution, the dream by women leaders to fully enjoy affirmative action remains a mirage.

The two thirds gender principle clause under the Bill of Rights, representation of the people and the Legislature are yet to be fully implemented as envisaged in the supreme Law.

Under Chapter Four, Article 27(8) provides for affirmative action where the State is obligated to take legislative and other measures to ensure that no more than two-thirds of members of the elective or appointive bodies are of the same gender.

Additionally, Article 81 in Chapter Seven, under Representation of the People, further states that the same rule should be applicable in all elective public bodies which include the Senate, National Assembly and the 47 County Assemblies in addition to land boards, education and security committees among others.

However, this constitutional requirement has been given a wide berth by the Executive and the Legislature, going by the 2013 General Election results and the nominations that followed thereafter.

Dockets

In the recent reshuffle, President Uhuru Kenyatta was required by the Constitution to name a minimum of eight women to his 24-member Cabinet, but he fell short by three by appointing only five to occupy strategic dockets.

The five are Amina Mohamed (Foreign Affairs), Raychelle Omamo (Defence), Sicily Kariuki (Gender, Youth and Public Service), Dr Judy Wakhungu (Environment) and Phyllis Kandie (Labour and East African Affairs).

In Uhuru’s first Cabinet of 18 members, he had complied with the gender rule by naming six women to head strategic ministries.

The gender rule also applies to the Executive arm of the Government and in particular in the appointments to the public service, heads of parastatals and diplomats among others, but this has not been followed strictly. This is in contravention of the law that states not more than two thirds of all elective and appointive positions shall be of the same gender.

In the legislature, women politicians were let down by the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission, Registrar of Political Parties and the police who failed to enforce the gender rule flouted by the 40 plus political parties.

Handful

This led to only a handful of women leaders contesting for the top three elective seats: namely Presidency, Governors and the Senator.

The exception was Martha Karua, who vied for the presidency on a Narc Kenya, ticket, where she is the chairperson. She is a former Constitutional Affairs minister.

On the other hand, the 47 gubernatorial and 47 Senate races were almost a male affair with only six percent of the candidates being female.

An attempt by women leaders and the women’s movement to file a case in the Supreme Court seeking to have the matter of two thirds gender principle rule in Parliament addressed as a matter of urgency before March 2013 poll was in vain as the judges ruled that the implementation of at least one third gender rule will not be done immediately but will have a legislation come up by August 2015 and will be progressive.

A task force was later formed by the Attorney General Pro Githu Muigai and chaired by Winnie Lichuma, chair National Gender and Equality Commission that brought together government and civil society organisations to come up with a workable formula to see how to achieve the not more than two thirds gender rule will be arrived at.

However, this has been riddled with the usual limitation of pressure from external forces; its purpose, composition and design has been politicised although currently there are three bills in Parliament seeking constitutional amendment to see the two third gender rule arrived at.

Deadline

The responsibility of ensuring that the deadline was met was given to the Constitution Implementation Commission, chaired by Charles Nyachae, but this was not to be. That deadline came and passed last year as the commissioners’ contract came to an end. They wound up their work and went home leaving the heavy burden on the shoulders of the National Assembly and Muigai.

Indeed, Prof Jacqueline Oduol, former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Sports, notes that women’s exclusion has not only been a product of cultural and historical practices, but also of the patriarchal nature of the state-forming processes that has always favoured men.

In her contribution in a new political book focusing on the last polls in a chapter entitled: Exclusionary Practices in the 2013 Elections in Kenya, Oduol says: “It is a paradox that although Kenya is rich on gender-responsive policy and legislative framework compared to her neighbours in East Africa like Tanzania and Uganda, it still remains the least responsive to gender issues.”

Rwanda leads the region with 56.3 per cent of its political representation being women followed by Tanzania (36%), Uganda (35%), Burundi (30.5%) and Kenya lagging behind at a miserable 19.4 per cent.

Imbalance

In the 2013 polls, no woman was elected as a Governor or Senator in the 47 Counties while only 16 women were elected as MPs out of 290 constituencies. In the 47 County Assemblies only 91 women were elected out of 1,450 seats.

The National Assembly would nominate five women out of the 12 slots availed by the Constitution, and 16 to the Senate. A staggering 680 women were nominated to the County Assemblies to meet the gender rule as is entrenched in the Constitution. In some parts of the country the nominations only took place after the counties were taken to court for failing to meet the gender principle.

As a way forward, Oduol suggests that the Kenyan model of negotiating gender issues in politics be revisited since it is directional and continues to impede women’s meaningful engagement in the electoral processes.