Kenyan women want more inclusion in the August elections.
It is not lost on us how difficult it is for women to achieve the same degree of engagement, representation, and respect as their male counterparts.
In comparison to the 2013 elections, the 2017 elections did indicate a step forward for women’s representation.
Except for the presidential contest, which remained entirely male, more women gained seats at all levels.
Kenyan Flag Against Blurred City Background With Sunrise Backlight
Three women made history by becoming governors, another three became senators, and more women were elected to national and county legislatures.
In 2017, 23 women were elected to the National Assembly, up from 16 in 2013. In 2017, 96 women were elected to county legislatures, up from 82 in 2013.
While this was reason for celebration, it was also a reminder of the long fight women have had and continue to face, as well as the need of civil society actors and others continuing to maintain space for women.
Women made up just 9.2 percent of the 1,835 elected officials in 2017, a slight increase from 7.7 percent in 2013.
Kenya’s legislative system provides a solid basis for gender equity and equality in the country’s politics and administration. According to Article 27 of the 2010 Constitution, no electoral body must have more than two-thirds of its members of the same gender.
This crucial clause is backed up by other provisions in the Constitution, laws governing elections and political parties, court rulings, and a body of international treaties and agreements.
Regrettably, this crucial legal criterion of gender justice and equality has not been fully realized. Parliament has failed to approve legislation to bring its two chambers — the National Assembly and the Senate — into compliance with the Constitution’s “two-thirds rule.” The Elections Act and the Political Parties Act (PPA) have been amended, but the regulatory framework remains weak, lacking effective incentives and enforcement measures. Despite Supreme Court orders ordering the execution of the two-thirds rule, compliance among political parties and Parliament remains a challenge. As a result, despite the fact that the 2017 elections were the second after the Constitution’s adoption, women still account for fewer than 33% of Parliamentarians.
Former Chief Justice David Maraga, citing Article 261(7), advised the President to dissolve Parliament in 2020 for failing to enact legislation in accordance with Article 27 of the Constitution, which would address long-standing issues of gender discrimination and improve the position of women in appointive and elective offices.
Looking forward to the 2022 elections and beyond, we will need not just a favorable legislative environment, but also true political will. We take notice of recent political changes in Kenya, where both main presidential contenders considered women for running mates. Anne Waiguru, the first female governor of Kirinyaga and a former Devolution Cabinet Secretary, was considered a probable contender to deputize Kenya Kwanza presidential candidate William Ruto.
In the end, she came in second place. Raila Odinga considered Murang’a Woman Representative Sabina Chege, Kitui’s first female governor and former Cabinet Secretary Charity Ngilu, and former Gichugu Member of Parliament Martha Karua as Azimio la Umoja presidential candidates. Ms Karua eventually emerged as Mr Odinga’s favored running partner, another step toward a more equitable society in political participation.
Women candidates and aspirants encounter a harsh political climate that includes misinformation, smear tactics, and violence. Many may not have the money to run for office, yet they do it anyway, relying on their track record and connections in their communities.
We are especially worried about women’s susceptibility to violence and encourage State actors to take all necessary steps to protect women’s lives.
While we continue to advocate for more political party discipline, particularly during campaigns, we also believe that women and advocates of women’s development and equality must be vigilant throughout this election season. The rising number of women who have shown interest in running for office, either via political parties or as independent candidates, demonstrates that the moment has come and the people are ready to put the ambitions of Articles 27 and 100 of the Constitution into action.