Kenyan women stand better chances to join political parties than ever before.
The women have received a boost from the Political Parties’ Act 2011 which among other requirements directs that political parties must uphold gender balance.
The Act that was assented on August 27th 2011 and became operational in November the same year has clearly indicated that no party shall be registered if it does not meet this condition.
Though gender does not only refer to women, historically the women of Kenya have been sidelined when it comes to politics.
According to Dinah Awuor, Vice chairperson of Safina Party, politics has for a long time been the main tool for economic empowerment.
She notes that if more women are involved in politics, then they will not only resolve problems surrounding them but they will also be empowered economically.
These sentiments are supported by Mary Wambui, Executive Director Women Political Alliance-Kenya, who noted that society has been using different techniques and ideologies to deny women a chance to be involved in politics.
“It is very unfortunate that the only way to be involved in politics in Kenya is through political parties,” she said. Wambui further explained that women in Kenya and many other countries have been oppressed through retrogressive cultural practices.
She pointed out that some cultures do not allow women to talk in public forums and in important meetings.
Her other concern is the religious practices that do not allow women to mingle with men.
“How do you expect women to be involved in leadership if you do not give them the chance to try?” posed Wambui.
However, Paul Muite, leader of Safina Party noted that as a party they have been involved with women even before the Act was enacted. He gave examples of powerful leaders like Supreme Court Judge Njoki Ndung’u and Njeri Kabeberi.
“Safina was the first party to nominate a disabled woman for a parliamentary seat. This was at the time when no party willingly accepted a woman leader leave alone a disabled one,” Muite explained.
Addressing women aspiring for various political leadership positions at the Bomas of Kenya, Njeri Kabeberi dared Kenyans to give women a chance.
“You cannot say that women are bad leaders by giving bad examples of a few of them,” noted Kabeberi.
She reiterated that women are usually harshly judged when they make a mistake while men have been committing a chain of offences.
However, women now have recourse in the Act and party leaders can no longer decide whether or not to include women because failure to comply will mean a violation of the law.
The Act requires that not more than two-thirds of the governing body is of the same gender.
However, according Wambui this clause may not apply to women in the future and instead will be very useful to men.
Section 27 of the Act provides the right of access to information held by the Commission. The Act requires the commission to publish and publicise all important information within its mandate affecting the nation.
According to Lucy Ndung’u, Registrar of Political Parties, Kenyans should take time and go through the records to expose any errors. “Men should swallow the bitter pill and involve women in the politics for their parties to be registered since they failed to do it willingly,” noted Ndung’u.