The Star (Nairobi)

Kenya: Women MPs Performance Is Poor - Poll

MOST Kenyans believe that women leaders in the National Assembly and the Senate have performed poorly.

In an Infotrak opinion poll released yesterday to coincide with International Women's Day, 40 percent of Kenyans felt that women in parliament had only brought about 'small change' while 18 percent felt that women leaders had inspired 'not noticeable change' in parliament despite their increased numbers. Only 17 percent felt that women's presence had resulted in 'substantial' or 'noticeable' change.

"Whilst 63 percent of Kenyans are happy with the general presence of more women in parliament, most Kenyans feel that there is room for marked improvement and dynamism in women's overall performance and contribution to changing parliament," Angela Ambitho, founder and CEO of Infotrak Research, said yesterday at her offices in Lavington.

The poll was conducted between March 2 and 4 on a sample of 1200 respondents drawn from eight regions to establish if Kenyans are satisfied with the performance of the current female legislators, the barriers that women face when joining politics, and if they have inspired change.

However a large majority of Kenyans, 77 percent, still believed that increased participation of women in parliament would improve politics in the county.

Only 12 percent believed that increased women participation would worsen politics in Kenya while 8.7 percent though their participation would not make any difference.

"Women currently in politics need to assert themselves to prove that the fight for 1/3 gender rule was valid. Kenyans want to see more more activity in terms of debates, tabling of bills from female legislators and feel that their presence in parliament initiates positive change," Ambitho said.

An 80 percent majority agreed that women face great obstacles when attempting to get into politics.

For 44 percent the keen deterrent for women entering politics was fear of insecurity and attack from male opponents, while 13 percent cited lack of support from the family, and 11 percent alluded to lack of finance.

Some 9.7 percent of respondents thought prevailing cultural attitudes regarding women were a hindrance, 9 percent referred to domestic responsibilities, 8.8 percent to lack of confidence and 4 percent to lack of support from political parties.

However 87 percent of Kenyans still felt that women should strive to hold key positions in political parties.

"More than half (54.9 percent) of Kenyans believe a woman will ever be a president of Kenya with 64.5 percent indicating they would vote for a woman president," the Infotrak survey reveled, even though no woman has got more than the 7 percent that Charity Ngilu got in the 1997 presidential election.

"Women should therefore not wait for the last minute, but seek to leverage themselves in parliament, in political parties and indeed society at large. The time to start planning for the future is now," Ambitho commented.

"As they plan, women must strategize on how to mitigate the barriers that hamper their entry into politics; unfair competition from men, lack of finances and family support must be dealt with early in the day," she added.

As priority areas 30 percent though that female politicians should focus on the girl child with 30 percent, 20 percent on family related issues, 11 percent on public administration and 10 percent on education.

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