Issue Number 41 • October 2013
Women rally support towards a gender driven political party …By Faith Muiruri
he quest for gender parity has pushed women back to the drawing board to mobilise and organise themselves early in readiness for the next General Election. The women mainly drawn from different counties have resolved to form a woman driven political party to position themselves well in the political arena. Already a technical committee comprising of regional representatives of Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation (MYWO) has been established to work out the modalities of building the political party. According to Rukia Subow, chairperson MYWO, the proposed political party will not only ensure that candidates in future elections are nominated in a very objective, fair and balanced gender sensitive way but also ensure gender gains made through the Constitution are realised and its requirements strictly adhered to.
Discrimination “Although the Constitution obliges all political parties in the country to meet the gender parity requirements, a huge majority of political parties in the country have completely failed to effectively enforce gender equality in representation especially in leadership positions as stipulated by the constitution,” she explained during a meeting convened by the MYWO. The meeting brought together women from different counties who contested in the last General Election and lost to share their experiences. According to Subow, political parties that are perceived to be the largest and most popular across the nation are the worst and hardly comply with their policies and manifestos as far as gender parity is concerned in its leadership positions. She noted that the high nomination fees levied on candidates by bigger parties that could easily propel women to office and the high stakes of party bigwigs also present a hurdle.
Study A recent study conducted by the Centre for Multi-Party Democracy revealed that only a negligible percentage of women occupy party leadership positions from the grassroots to national levels while the constitution documents that at least a third of leadership positions should be taken by women. The Centre for Multi-Party Democracy says that the culture of excluding women from top positions is so rampant that it spreads all the way through to parliament where their membership comprises only 20 per cent. The civil service has not been spared this discrimination either. The Elections Act fails to provide a formula for realizing gender representation threshold as clearly stipulated by the Constitution. “The Elections Act fails to include a formula
on how to realize the two-thirds gender threshold,” noted Kenneth Kogutu, a programme officer with Women Political Alliance. He said that political parties’ bigwigs that have penchant for frequently making strong public pronouncements as far as affirmative action and gender parity are concerned, ganged to mutilate the Elections Act prior to the last General Election. “This dashed hopes to provide a formula for realizing the gender representation threshold as clearly stipulated by the Constitution,” said Kogutu.
Constitution The Constitution of the Republic of Kenya 2010 article 27 (8) clearly states that: “The state shall take legislative measures to implement the principle that no more than two-thirds of the members of the elective or appointed bodies shall be of the same gender.” The Centre for Multi-Party Democracy states that there is a major disconnect between what the country’s political parties and leaders verbally or by written word promise and the reality in practice as far as gender parity is concerned. “At the party level, there should be established mechanisms for monitoring parties and holding them accountable to the gender parity promises,” says Njeri Kabeberi, Executive Director Centre for Multi -Party Democracy. According to Kabeberi, members of political parties must hold their respective political parties to account as far as lack of commitment to their policies is concerned and that members of political parties who are women should insist on getting senior positions instead of being left to occupy only positions slated for women – like party women or youth leaders. “When it comes to the national level, political parties should make their documents public particularly as far as gender positions are concerned,” says Kabeberi, noting that this is a matter that for decades has been a mirage with all political parties being culprits. Speaking separately Rebecca Kitana who contested and lost the Kangundo Parliamentary seat notes that most women who contested during the last elections were locked out shortly after the nominations because of the very limited time they had to join other parties since deadline had lapsed. “Party primaries were largely a process of complying with the law and hence in most
Rukia Subow, the chairperson of Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization. She is fronting for a women driven political party to ensure that female candidates in future elections are nominated in a very objective, fair and balanced gender sensitive way. instances the due process was not adhered to. The fundamental principles of fair representation and opportunity to exercise the right to vote were not observed,” Kitana points out. She says that cases of malpractices, manipulation, party loyalties bordering nepotism and reward of sycophants are still rampant and these affect the outcome of the vote. “The nomination process unearthed a weak element in the management of internal party processes and weak internal party democracy,” observes Kitana. She says that the few women candidates who managed to be in the ballot were forced to contest in parties that had less political appeal across
“Although the Constitution obliges all political parties in the country to meet the gender parity requirements, a huge majority of political parties in the country have completely failed to effectively enforce gender equality in representation especially in leadership positions.” Rukia Subow
the country which did not guarantee or even increase their chances of being elected to various political offices. “They also had to contend with threats and intimidation by rowdy and drunk youth who were forcing women to vote male aspirants,” she said. Participants during the meeting said that incidents of violence were perpetrated by rowdy male youth and the victims were women. One of the participants who contested as a ward representative says she was attacked by rowdy youth and her house demolished on allegations that she was supporting another political party. Women from pastoralist communities said that they had to seek approval of clan elders who endorsed candidates in respective seats. They accused the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission of failing to exercise its constitutional mandate and being complacent in the face of numerous malpractices during the electioneering period. Subow at the same time urged women leaders to take advantage of the opportunities in the counties and cited the county public service boards where they can utilise their expertise.
Mentorship programme targets women aspiring for leadership …By Valentine Atieno
he Women Shadow Parliament (WSP) plans to develop mentorship programmes for women who are willing to join leadership positions. According to Monica Amollo, Executive Director Shadow Parliament, the initiative will tap on the expertise of women who have previously held leadership positions to make the plan a success. “Currently most women are being co-opt-
ed into leadership by virtue of political favouritism, patronage and cronyism and cannot, therefore, participate meaningfully because they had no aspirations for leadership,” Amollo said at a workshop organized by Women Shadow Parliament on gender and governance. She cited the recent nomination to counties in Busia and Homa Bay that were marred by irregularities with female nominees being linked to MPs or women representatives. The 80 women comprising of 23 members of Busia County Assembly and 17 from Homa
Bay County vowed to bury their political differences and work together to improve the counties. According to Emma Oketch, a lecturer at the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies, University of Nairobi, there is need to mentor new county assembly members to enable them discharge their duties effectively. “Women who have previously served in leadership positions can help new entrants to push for the gender agenda and empower others,” said Oketch.
She noted that women have been denied positions in critical committees within assemblies and confined to committees that have a feminine tag such as child labour, culture and gender. She noted that women should challenge such positions as they are equally qualified to chair committees perceived as powerful such as public accounts. “Women are mostly pushed to private domain while men are out there connecting with the public directly,” Oketch said.