Wednesday, 05 September 2007 15:22

Face of Gender and Governance in Kenya

Written by Joyce Chimbi
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The air at Kamukunji grounds is pregnant with a repugnant smell and the adjacent slums testament to the poverty livid in this region but the residents have an agenda and not even these circumstances can deter them.

They are here to witness the 1,000,000 Signature Campaign in support of the proposed 50 parliamentary seats for women. 

Having abandoned all else to support the Affirmative Action Bill, the women are beaming with joy, their efforts now showing signs of bearing fruits.

Marion Mwatia is however not a happy woman, she has been a member of a certain party for about 15 years but is nowhere near the coveted decision making positions.

“I was present at the conception of this party and I have invested heavily in it over the years but these men are too selfish to give me what I deserve,’ said Mwatia.

What she deserves, she says is an opportunity to be nominated and run for a parliamentary seat but something she says in light of the history of the party and many others, is not likely to happen.

Ten years after the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, gender inequality has persistently continued to undermine governance in Kenya.

‘’There is need to rectify the under representation of women and women issues in a political environment that is too fierce,’’ said Ida Odinga, the chairperson of League of Kenya Women Voters.

Despite an awareness of gender issues in the wider society as reflected by the constitutional reform debate, marginalization of women in governance and political processes persists which reinforces the need for affirmative action (AA).

‘’Affirmative action is only temporary, it’s meant to accelerate gender issues in governance, a positive discrimination critical in the transformation of the face of governance in Kenya,’ said Nyaradzai Gumbonzvanda, UNIFEM.

Some however, feel that AA is essentially meant to correct any minority yet women form an estimated 52 percent of the population.

‘’Women have the numbers, why can’t they vote each other in? After all, they form the majority of the overall population of voters,” said Peter Mureithi.

According to the Electoral Commission of Kenya, of the 10.5 million voters in 2002, 46 percent were women.

‘’Women face many barriers, we are not analyzing the cultural issues, men were tailored by the society to lead and women to follow, it takes time and effort to change that,’’ said Ida Odinga.

The idea behind AA, she said is to correct any inequality and to set people in a heterogeneous society on the same footing.

‘’Kenya hosted the 1985, 3rd World Conference on Women, even though many years have gone, this is a practical policy to change perception to politics,’ said Nyaradzai.

In spite of the considerable size of the women vote, representation of women in competitive and elected positions even in 2002 was dismal, for instance, of the 1,035 candidates presented for the National Assembly in 2002,44 were women.

Numbers therefore are not enough, there are so many factors which work against women and which women say need to be addressed through affirmative action.

Political party politics has seen women eliminated from the electoral process at the nomination phase where the party automatically rallies for a male candidate.

It therefore becomes an uphill task for these women to contest under an alternative little known party most of which are in addition unpopular in the constituencies where they have decided to vie.

Further, individual members fund political parties in Kenya that indefinitely accords those with high contributions the power of decision-making within the party.

Consequently, this has left most women within political parties powerless and voiceless in decision making, as many cannot match the high contributions made by their male counterparts.

Financial status has inarguably become a tool against women in the political race for one post or the other.

‘’Where is an aspirant supposed to get all that money from, the 2 million required for presidential nomination in one of these parties is unbelievable,’ said Mataba Waria.

In order to win by a majority vote, political leaders have resorted to forming coalitions.

The high rate of formation and breaking of these coalitions has further complicated politics and has consequently distanced women from the negotiating table where positions are shared among the political parties.

Equitable national development reflects the low levels of women’s participation in the public affairs in the country and yet women have been the principal force in the struggle against misery and dependency.

Challenges facing women in the Kenyan governance process have increasingly become insurmountable.

Despite the large number of political parties in Kenya, the influence of women and number of women leaders has remained largely unchanged.

Women are generally absent in the higher offices and organs critical to formulation and implementation of policy.

There is therefore need for a growing and consistent focus on political empowerment of women as well as an increased support for gender equality and participatory development.

The Affirmative Action Bill has raised debate with many arguing that it creates space for tokenism in the name of promoting women representation in the August House.

Further, some feel that most of the 18 women already in parliament rarely utter a word or table bills, which they say is a clear indication of how much women can do if elected.

But women have dismissed it as a sideshow to keep them out of the democratic space in the national assembly.

‘’Men shouldn’t fear us, we only want women to join men at the table of decision making,’ said the Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Martha Karua.

According to Afro news, the proportion of members of parliaments in the world who are women has risen from 13.4 percent to 15.7 percent.

Although an estimated 7 developing countries with Rwanda and Mozambique in the lead have more than 30 percent of women parliamentarians, Kenya still has miles to cover with women accounting for only 8 percent, which translates, to 18 women out of the 210 members of parliament.

Mozambique’s National Director on Women’s issues, Sansao Buque confirmed the reported transformation ‘‘at the moment, the country has a female Prime Minister, 6 women ministers, for vice - minister and to governance’’
Afro news further revealed that, Rwanda has shown a significant change in governance and it now holds the top place where women representation in key positions is concerned.

This has therefore put women in Rwanda as top ranking among women in national parliament in the world.

Further, the revelation indicated that Rwanda has 48.8 percent of women in the Lower House of parliament and 34.6 percent n the Upper House.
Read 3435 times Last modified on Tuesday, 06 August 2013 12:41

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