12 August 2017

Kenya: More Women Elected in Kenya, but the Numbers Still Fall Short

Photo: New Times

Kenya women have performed better in the 2017 elections, compared with 2013, but the numbers still fall short of the constitutional two-thirds gender requirement.

At least 23 women have been elected to the National Assembly, up from the 16 elected in the last elections. This, added to the 47 women-only seats and half of the 12 nominees by political parties, will bring the women in the National Assembly to 76, still short by 41 seats to make 117 or one-third of the 349 MPs -- 290 elected, 47 woman representatives and 12 nominated members.

Daisy Amdany, executive director of Community, Advocacy and Awareness Trust, said the increase in numbers is encouraging -- an indication that empowerment works, as many of those who won the seats are beneficiaries of affirmative action.

Former Cabinet secretaries

Three women have been elected governors, four and a half years after devolution was introduced. Former cabinet secretaries Charity Ngilu and Ann Waiguru won in Kitui and Kirinyaga Counties respectively, with former National Assembly Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso taking Bomet County.

Ms Amdany says more needs to be done and challenges the 12th Parliament to implement the two-thirds gender rule.

"There is no doubt that parliament will be unconstitutionally constituted, but the President must make a commitment that the relevant laws will be enacted within 100 days," she said.

Article 81(b) of the Constitution states that, "Not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender." But there has been no consensus on some three proposals put forward to help meet the requirement.

This means that any Kenyan can go to court and seek the dissolution of the 12th Parliament for failure to meet the gender threshold.

The 11th Parliament failed thrice to enact the relevant laws due to lack of political will.

A positive development

Winfred Lichuma, chairperson of the National Gender and Equality Commission, told The EastAfrican that the 2017 elections came with a positive development for women, especially among the pastoralist communities. These include nominated senator Naisula Lesuuda, who won in Samburu West parliamentary seat, Sarah Paulata Korere of Laikipia North, Sophia Noor of Ijara, and Peris Tobiko of Kajiado East.

"We are excited that women from the pastoralist communities that have been practising negotiated democracy came out against all odds and won. We are calling upon women not to let culture hold them back," said Ms Lichuma.

Three other women, Margaret Kamar of Uasin Gishu County, Susan Kihika of Nakuru and Fatuma Dullo of Isiolo County were elected senators.

In 2013, no woman was elected, so 18 women had to be nominated to the Senate as part of affirmative action.

The number of women elected members of county assemblies has also increased from 84 to 96 of the total 1450.

Ms Lichuma has called on political parties to ensure that half of the 12 seats available for nominated members are women.

Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission rules state that political parties must ensure that one-third of the women on their nomination list are chosen.

It took a court order in July to force the major parties, Jubilee, ODM, Kanu and Ford-Kenya, to readjust their lists to take into account the gender and special interest groups.

The lowest

In the 11th Parliament, there were 68 women in the National Assembly, both elected and nominated. This constituted 19 per cent of MPs -- the lowest in the East African Community. The 2017 election has seen a slight increase to 21 per cent, still the lowest in the region.

Rwanda has the highest women representation in the region, with 64 per cent; Uganda has 35 per cent; Tanzania 36 per cent; and Burundi 30 per cent.

Countries in the region that have embraced and implemented gender parity include Uganda (39 seats from the 39 districts), Tanzania (15 seats set aside for women out of 255) and Eritrea (10 seats of 105).

The Rwanda's constitutional quota reserves 24 of the 80 seats in the Lower House and guarantees 30 per cent of seats in the Upper House to women.

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