You cannot take away women seats
Senators, Governors oppose bid to scrap nominated seats
The fate of a bill sponsored by Benjamin Lang’at, the Ainamoi MP to scrap nominated seats was cast in doubt recently after both senators and governors vowed to scuttle any bid to remove the constitutionally entrenched gains.
The Council of Governors led by Isaac Ruto faulted proposals by some lawmakers to scrap nominated seats to help tame the spiralling wage bill.
Ruto who is also the Bomet County Governor termed the move suspect, frivolous and aimed at denying women an opportunity to hold leadership positions in the country.
According to Ruto, the seats are protected in the Constitution and thus cannot be scrapped at the whims of individuals.
“The Constitution is supreme and has aptly captured issues of gender representation and thus legislators cannot arrogate themselves the role of taking away gains enshrined in the Constitution,” Ruto explained adding that only Kenyans can make that decision through a referendum.
Lang’at, in a proposed Constitutional Amendment bill seeks to review six key clauses in the country’s supreme law namely Article 81(b), Article 97 (b), Article 98 (1b, 1c, 1d) and Article 177 (1) (b) to among other things wipe out all nominated slots in the Senate and county assemblies ostensibly to slash the country’s wage bill by at least KSh31 billion, every five years.
The lawmaker also seeks to abolish 47 women representative positions to cure what he terms as duplication of roles and wastage of public resources.
“When you look at the current structure of the Constitution, I think we are over represented at the expense of development,” says Lang’at.
However, Ruto says that discussions around the wage bill can only start after we have sorted out issues of constitutional offices because the Constitution starts the contract and all other legislations are subsidiary.
According to Ruto, all elected representatives have a social contract to implement provisions of the Constitution for the common good and not for personal aggrandizement.
He said that no country in this world can afford to exclude women from decision making levels as this would amount to discrimination and destroys a nation but we cannot go that route.
“If you want to progress you must bring everybody on board including women. Those pushing for the bill are political novices who are not privy to the struggle that characterised the quest for gender equality over the last 20 years,” Ruto noted.
He said that those who feel that women representation is an expense that can be lumped together to be assessed with issues around the wage bill were retrogressive.
At the same time, he urged the women members of county assemblies to help craft budgets that are gender sensitive to ensure that more resources are channelled towards projects to improve livelihoods.
“Let us spend our money in a manner that promotes social justice and devolve more resources to address poverty and glaring inequalities in our respective counties,” Ruto reiterated.
Echoing Ruto’s sentiments, Senate speaker Ekwe Ethuro stated that the upper house was committed to ensuring that by 2015 this nation complies with the one third gender rule requirement.
“We are lucky in the county assemblies in that if Kenyan voters decide that they are not going to vote for women, then they must suffer the consequences by nominating to reach the gender threshold and the same must now be extended to the Senate and National Assembly,” Ethuro amidst applause at the meeting jointly organized by national Gender and Equality Commission, National Women Steering Committee and Action Aid.
He scoffed at the bid to scrap nominated women seats and dismissed the proponents of the bill as daydreamers who belong to the stone-age era.
“This country has changed and changed forever because if it has not changed, then you are telling us gender inequalities must remain alongside the high rates of unemployment and that access to basic services such as health and education should remain a pipe dream of an imaginary target which you keep missing. That time belongs to our past,” noted Ethuro.
He noted that the Constitution appreciates every segment of the society and must thus be upheld and appreciated by all instead of introducing changes.
Ethuro called on the women leadership at both the county and national governments to remain vigilante and safeguard the gains enshrined in the Constitution.
This, he said, called for transformational leadership. “The Constitution of Kenya is very clear of where the power is derived from and that power can be exercised through the legislature and no other entity can claim more power than the rest,” he argued.
He said that even as the women’s movement celebrates the gains realised over the last 50 years, they must also strive to consolidate the achievements and take them to the next level.
Ethuro urged women leaders to review their performance over the last one year as female legislators in counties and at national level.
“As women members of the county assemblies, KEWOPA and KEWOSA, you must interrogate your legislative mandate, redefine your roles and locate your niche in the Constitutional dispensation,” he urged.
Ethuro advised women leaders to come up with strategies on how to champion and lobby for their ideals in the male dominated legislatures.
He pointed out gender representation at the regional level is very encouraging and cited the Parliament of Uganda and house of representatives in Rwanda where the speakers are women.
He said that Kenya is the only country in the region where the legislature is dominated by men and “we must support women to rectify the situation”.
He reiterated that the challenges Kenyan women face today remain political, social, cultural and economic which are major obstacles towards attaining the MDGs and other economic aspirations.
“In confronting these challenges, I want to urge women to work together and shun retrogressive elements in one accord,” Ethuro pointed out.
He said that affirmative action can only become fully functional if all players including men come together to push the gender agenda. “This is your chance, you have the backing of the Constitution and you belong to the institutions that the Constitution has given mandate to make laws either at the County or national level,” Ethuro reaffirmed..