Two thirds gender bill, National Assembly must make it a priority

Priscillah Nyokabi, Nyeri County Women's Representative has been at the forefront in pushing for the two third gender principle bill.
Priscillah Nyokabi, Nyeri County Women's Representative has been at the forefront in pushing for the two third gender principle bill.

As we mark the International Women’s Day, the issue of women’s political representation in Parliament sits like an eye sore.

Six years after the new constitution was promulgated on August 28, 2010, and with a General Election under the mew dispensation, the issue of equality in representation at the political level remains a mirage in Kenya.

Women continue to be under represented at the Senate and National Assembly, the two houses which make Parliament.

Attempts to have laws that would ensure there is equality in political representation in Parliament have been met with a slow response that is coming at a snail’s pace.

Even after the Supreme Court ordered Parliament to ensure there is a law in place by August 15, 2015, nothing tangible took place.

Amendment

As at November last year there were two bills that sought to have a constitutional amendment to ensure affirmative action rule of the two thirds gender principle prevailed.

However, by December 2015, there was a third bill referred to as the compromise bill in relation to the earlier two that had been brought up by Paul Chepkonga, who is the chair of the Legal Affairs Committee in the National Assembly and Aden Duale, leader of the majority.

These three bills are speaking to the issue of the two thirds gender principle and this just goes to show why it’s important for the country to have affirmative action legislation in relation to political representation in parliament.

According to the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) the status is the same; the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) (No. 4.) bill 2015 (Duale bill) is yet to be scheduled for second reading despite it having matured back in October 2015.

The compromised bill that was published on December 18th, 2015 has passed through the first reading in parliament. Parliament resumes from recess in February and it’s hoped that parliamentarians will keep these bills among those in the priority list.

Priority

Speaking at a meeting where women parliamentarians met with the Cabinet Secretary for Gender, Priscilla Nyokabi, Nyeri County Women Representative indicated that the two thirds gender principle bill will be given priority when parliament resumes.

“We are confident that gender matters will receive the national attention they deserve, not forgetting budgetary allocation,” Nyokabi said.

Sicily Kariuki, the Cabinet Secretary for Gender urged female parliamentarians to ensure the two thirds gender principle rule is implemented.

“We call upon you to ensure the passing of the bill before parliament that will ensure the quick realisation of the two thirds gender principle,” said Kariuki.

It’s important to have the legislation on the two thirds gender principle to enable women

Priscillah Nyokabi, Nyeri County Women’s Representative has been at the forefront in pushing for the two third gender principle bill.

The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), which is charged with managing and organising elections, has already released the polls timetable including the elections’ date.

This then calls for members of the National Assembly to give priority to the bills and fast track them so that they will be ready to enable women come out in large numbers.

Leadership

Women have feared vying many a time because of the socialisation process that has not embraced female political leadership.

While women are expected to be strategic this time around to ensure big numbers in parliament, the society in which we live remains a stumbling block to see the dream realised.

Baraza Nyukuri speaking on representation of women in political leadership notes: “Cultural orientation of the society is a big factor and it must be revisited in the light of the Constitution.”

Reiterating that affirmative action is about justice and positive discrimination, Nyukuri observes: “There has been a general lack of political will and women must struggle to make this happen.”

He notes: Women must be on the offensive and take power. The power must be through inversion and not innovation.”

Nyukuri reiterates; “The minimum required number must be achieved first, after which matters of relevance and performance can be looked into.”

This is why passing of the bill of the two third gender principle remains critical.

Inclusion

Aden Duale has a bill that aims at ensuring that the membership of the National Assembly and Senate conform to the two thirds gender rule provided in Article 81 (b) of the Constitution.

“The Bill seeks to give effect to the two thirds gender principle through the creation of special seats that will ensure that the rule is realised in Parliament over a period of 20 years from the 2017 General Election.

“It’s hoped that by that time, both genders will have been given a level playing field and will be able to compete on an equal plane,” notes the Bill in part.

The Duale Bill on constitutional amendment proposes to change articles 97 and 98 and ensure that empowerment through nomination is spread to as many people as possible by precluding persons elected to any house of parliament and county assemblies by way of nomination from enjoying such nomination for more than two terms.

The amendments want to ensure both Senate and National Assembly comply with the two thirds gender principle that special seats are allocated proportionate to the number of seats won by a political party. The bill calls for the number of special seats to be determined after General Election.”

Professor Maria Nzomo in a paper on Representation of Women in Political Leadership: Taking Stock notes: “Affirmative action is critical in raising women’s participation in matters of governance.”

She reiterates: “Countries that have succeeded in achieving a critical mass of women in leadership positions through affirmative action have had a shift in the mindset of society about women and leadership.”

It therefore, remains important that members of the National Assembly pass the two thirds gender principle bill to enable Kenyans realise that leadership is not a monopoly for men and women can equally make it when given the opportunity.