INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
MARCH 8, 2014
Women representation beyond numbers With no funds to support development, county women representatives walking the tight rope, writes Jane Godia
single constituencies that were there before devolution. This has left the women county representatives without any resources through which they can meet the election pledges they made to the electorate. Ghati notes that they are facing double discrimination. “The Constitution recognises women county representatives as MPs, yet when it comes to funding, it is the single constituency MP who finds funds ready and the women representatives have nothing.”
Parliament in session. PICTURE: FILE women caucus to support the female members of parliament deliver what was envisioned as the benefit of their presence on the august House corridors,” notes Nyaundi. This is echoed by Joyce Emanikor, Turkana County Member of Parliament who observes that numbers are adding value as women are now visible and able to talk when they can.
However, the big question is whether the numbers are adding any value, one year after the General Election?
Ghati notes: “To realise one third of commitment to women was a good start having come through affirmative action.” Her sentiments are echoed by Patricia Nyaundi,
The rise of female leaders in Africa is a hugely positive statement of the direction Africa is headed to. Some of the women who have risen to the top include:
President Catherine Samba Panza Catherine Samba-Panza is the interim president of the Central African Republic and she is the first woman to hold the position. Born on June 26th, 1954 in Fort Lamy, French Equatorial Africa, prior to becoming president, Samba-Panza served as the mayor of Bangui, capital city of Central African Republic. She was sworn in as interim president on January 23, 2014.
She adds: “The President failed to give a proper directive on Uwezo Fund. He should have directed that as Jubilee, the, members in the august House needed to support the fund to be managed by the women County Representatives.”
Today there are about 86 women in the National Assembly and Senate following the March 4, 2013 General Election. These numbers look great and are indeed an achievement not only to the womenfolk, but the country at large.
This is echoed by Dennitah Ghati, Migori County Member of Parliament, who notes that progress has been made to recognise that women can do something.
frica has seen a rise in the number of women leadership position in recent years. The continent has evolved from a place where women were only seen as only
“Uwezo Fund was fought for by women County Members of Parliament, yet the men fought and voted for it to go to single constituencies,” Emanikor explains.
good enough for household chores to an era where women hold the top most job of the country.
By Hellen Kivaya
According to Emanikor, there is no value women are adding if men are going to use their numbers to fight against women because everything is subjected to voting.
It was through the women’s movement that efforts were consciously made towards ensuring and enhancing the participation of women in the electoral process. Through these efforts, the affirmative action was entrenched in the Constitution of Kenya that was promulgated in Kenya on August 28, 2010. One of the key gains was the increased number of women to the National Assembly. This was brought about by Article 97 (1) (b) which states that the “National Assembly consists of 47 women, each elected by the registered voters of the counties, each county constituting a single member constituency”.
She adds: “The women leaders are pushing gender issues faster and referring them to the relevant authorities for address.”
Africa’s great women have made history
Ghati poses: “How are people going to benchmark and evaluate women’s representatives’ work when we have less than four years to go?”
The increased number of political parties opened more possibilities for participation by women. However, although women registered alongside men in the emerging parties, they were conspicuously missing from the top party leadership. They also failed to capture the various political constituency seats. In 1992, 19 women were nominated by political parties to contest the elections but only six won and one was nominated.
“First and foremost with the many women leaders, there is greater and wider representation of women’s issues in the houses. Generally most of the women leaders are more approachable by members of the public as such the real gender issues are clearly known to them,” says Wamaitha.
MARCH 8, 2014
She reiterates: “As a County Member of Parliament, I have eight constituencies and 40 wards in Migori, while a single constituency MP has only four wards, and in some cases seven at the most.”
he reintroduction of multiparty politics in 1991 significantly changed the political situation in the country. It expanded space to accommodate various interest groups, and women soon became vocal pressure groups lobbying for gender equity and social justice, especially in political representation.
According to Millicent Wamaitha, Acting Program Coordinator Foundation for Women’s Rights in Kenya there is tangible value addition with the high number of women in the National Assembly, Senate and county assemblies.
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY
Wamaitha argues that all these interventions entrenched in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 have resulted to an increase in the number of women in leadership positions and a higher representation of women in diverse decision making platforms.
The Constitution recognises women county representatives as MPs, yet when it comes to funding, it is the single constituency MP who finds funds ready and the women representatives have nothing denita ghati, migori county women rep. Secretary, Kenya National Commission on Human Rights who says that numbers in the august House are important. “We cannot slight numbers. The achievement of these numbers is something we must build on as we plan ahead. There needs to be a push by the
She notes that the gains as entrenched in the Constitution of Kenya 2010 have not only given women of Kenya a voice but have also given them assurance that they are equal to men in the eyes of the Kenyan law. “This confidence is pushing women to increasingly participate in making decisions on issues pertaining to their families, communities, county and national governance processes,” she says. However, the women in parliament are constrained by numbers and resources. The society is yet to acknowledge women’s leadership rights or abilities. This is a challenge that women in the August House are facing and especially when men feel that they do not need to get any resources.
Constraints While the Constitution recognises the women county representatives as single constituencies, other institutions like the Constituency Development Fund do not recognise these constituencies held by women as legitimate to deserve a fund. The CDF is still operating under the auspices of the
This is echoed by Ghati who notes: “The Government had promised to give Uwezo Fund to women representatives but nothing is forthcoming. The President and Government needs to be serious about women. They must commit to women representatives.”
Commitment According to Ghati, women County Members of Parliament are working on a shoe string budget that comes from their salaries to meet the people’s needs. She says there is a rethinking and serious commitment needed on the part of the government.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ellen Johnson is the President of Liberia in her second term in office. She was inaugurated in 2006 and became the world’s first elected black President and Africa’s first elected female head of state. Born in October 29, 1938 in Monrovia, Liberia, a military coup in Liberia forced Sirleaf into exile in 1980. A mother of four sons and six grandchildren, Sirleaf is a graduate of the college of West
Africa at Monrovia. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in accounting from Madison Business College, Wisconsin. She also has a Bachelor’s Degree in Economics from the University of Colorado and a Masters of Public Administration from Harvard University.
Samba Panza has worked both in the insurance field and as a corporate lawyer. She was active in women’s rights movement campaigning against female genital mutilation.
Since she took over leadership, peace has been restored in Liberia and the country’s economy has greatly improved to the extent that they are debt free.
“We need money because we know that a woman with any small amount of money can do wonders. Money can make a woman powerful and I think this is the fear that most men are having,” Ghati observes.
President Joyce Banda.
The Women County Members of Parliament have pushed for another bill through which they hope to get funds for activities. They have worked on the Social Development Fund Bill which they hope parliament will approve.
Banda took office on April 7, 2012 following the sudden death of President Bingu Wa Mutharika.
According to Emanikor, they had hoped to be given 1.5 per cent of the national budget, but this was slashed by the committee in charge of legislation to 0.5 per cent. “We are hoping the MPs will support this,” she says. The Social Development Fund seeks to support areas where the women representatives say have not been catered for by the CDF. The women representatives made a conscious decision to take up areas not catered for. They are looking into projects that will support the vulnerable groups. According to Mishi Juma, Mombasa County Member of Parliament, the Social Development Fund bill “will cater for social issues like disability, drugs, youth, and women.
Joyce Hilda Banda was born on April 12, 1950 in Malemia, Malawi. She became Africa’s second female president and Malawi’s first female but forth president.
Banda holds a certificate from Cambridge School and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Early Childhood Education from Columbus University. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Gender Studies from Atlantic International University USA and a Diploma in Management of Non-Governmental Organisations from International Labour Organisation Centre in Turin, Italy. Banda’s success has inspired her to help other women achieve financial independence and break the cycles of abuse of poverty. She is the founder of the Joyce Banda Foundation which seeks to provide better education for Malawian children and orphans. She is the founder of the National Association of Business Women in Malawi that was established in 1990 with the main objective of lifting women out of poverty by strengthening their capacity and empowering them economically. Banda is considered a champion of women, children and underprivileged. She was hailed as one of Africa’s most powerful women by Forbes magazine.
Aminata Toure Aminata was born October, 12 1962. She became Prime Minister of Senegal from September 1, 2013. She is the second female prime minister of Senegal after Mame Madior Boye. Dubbed the iron lady for her tough stance on corruption, Toure served as Justice Minister from 2012-2013 until her appointment as prime minister. Toure has worked with the United Nations population Fund. At the UNFPA, Toure was chief of the Gender Human Rights and Culture. She has also worked with women rights in her previous position.
hile Africa boasts of these women, Latin America records the highest number of female heads of state. Some of the female presidents in Latin America are;
Michelle Bachelet — Chile
Dilma Vana Rousseff — Brazil
Laura Chinchilla — Costa Rica
Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner — Argentina
Mireya Moscoso — Panama (1999-2004)
Rosalia Arteaga — Interim President of Ecuador (1997)
Violeta Chamorro — Nicaragua (1990-1997)
Lidia Gueiler Tejada — Interim president of Bolivia. (1979-1980)
Isabel Peron —Argentina (1974-1976). She was also the first woman president in Latin America.
Since the 1970s, eight of the 29 women elected as presidents in the world have come from Latin America or the Caribbean. America has the world’s highest regional average of women in the lower houses on congress. It’s about 20 per cent. A series of quota laws in certain countries have guaranteed that, women at least at the national level, will be in the running for political positions. Argentina was the first country to put in place the quotas when in the early 1990s it established a law mandating that 30 per cent of the legislative candidates be female. Bolivia, Costa Rica and Ecuador soon followed with laws indicating that every other candidate on a political party’s election list must be a woman. Leadership is a skill that can be learnt by women if they know where to look. Women should start early, set goals you identify with and network. Women should always have clear plans and course to follow for them to make it through. Reaching out to people to know your ideas is quite important to boost yourself. “Do not be afraid to denounce injustice, though you may be outnumbered. Do not be afraid to seek peace, even if your voice may be small. Do not be afraid to demand peace,” Sirleaf once said to encourage women.
Special issue of the Kenyan Woman newspaper for International Women's Day 2014