Kenya: Female MPs Unite in Push for Gender Bill

Photo: AfDB Group
A field visit during the Global Gender Summit in Kigali.
26 November 2019

Women leaders have vowed to put their political differences aside and pursue the elusive two-thirds gender rule bill that has flopped in Parliament a record five times.

The bill seeks to bridge the gender disparity in the House by amending the Constitution to allow for extra nomination slots for women.

Under the theme 'a common women's voice agenda', women leaders from both the 'Embrace' camp, which supports the handshake between President Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga, and the 'Inua Mama' camp, which supports Deputy President William Ruto, on Monday said they will continue championing implementation of the two-thirds gender rule.

RESPECT CONSTITUTION

Addressing the press in Nairobi, the women leaders said they will not give up on the Bill and called on both the National Assembly and the Senate to respect the Constitution.

Led by Priscila Nyokabi from the Embrace camp, the leaders said despite their political differences, they will speak with one voice on matters affecting women.

"While it is true that there is division among us, there is no harm in that because women too have different perspectives but on issues affecting women we will fight from one corner," Ms Nyokabi said.

"We would like to affirm our common agenda and reject any schemes to divide us long imaginary boundaries and categories. The problems that face us as women are the same and we will not allow others create segments among us."

ECONOMIC EMPOWERMENT

Chairperson Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (Kewopa) Purity Ngirici from the Inua Mama camp reiterated that they will continue to safeguard gains made by women under the constitution as they push for the passage of the bill.

"The mission and vision of both camps are women's needs, they all focus on economic empowerment for women and equal representation," Ms Ngirici said.

The press conference was also attended by Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), Florence Mutua (Busia), Rehab Mukami (Nyeri), Faith Gitau (Nyandarua), Esther Passaris (Nairobi), Mary Seneta (nominated), Rosa Buyu (Kisumu), Margaret Kamar (Uasin Gishu) and Fatuma Gedi (Wajir).

The women leaders protested the recent move by the Senate Justice and Legal Affairs Committee to reject a proposed law to get more women into Parliament through the implementation of the two-thirds gender principle.

The committee chaired by Nandi Senator Samson Cherargei rejected the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2019, sponsored by Makueni Senator Mutula Kilonzo Jnr and his nominated counterpart Farhiya Ali.

MORE SEATS

The bill had proposed an amendment to the Constitution to give effect to the two-thirds gender principle through creation of what they termed as 'special seats'.

"Clearly the senate seems to support a system of marginalisation and the women would like condemn this in the strongest terms possible," Ms Nyokabi said.

Despite the two-thirds gender bill failing five times -- four times in the National Assembly and once in the Senate -- the leaders said they will not give up in bringing it up gain.

ELECTIVE BODIES

"We will continue bringing the bill until it passes, the National Assembly and the Senate must respect the Constitution on the implementation of this Bill. We are down but not out," Ms Nyokabi said.

The Constitution states that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective bodies can be of the same gender.

The latest rejection by the senate committee dealt a big blow to the several attempts made both in the National Assembly and the Senate to pass a law that would guarantee more seats for women in Parliament.

Currently, out of 416 MPs - 349 in the National Assembly and 67 in the Senate - 32 are nominated MPs, of whom 20 are in the Senate and 12 in the National Assembly. The Senate has 16 nominated women while the National Assembly has seven nominated women.

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