Kenya still ranks below her neighbors on women representation despite being a political and economic force in the region. With 1,883 available political direct elective positions, only 172 are held by women. Women form only 23% of the current parliament, with 75 seats out of the total 347. In 2017, only three female Senators were directly elected through the ballot
With only five months to the August general elections, political parties are putting measures in place to guarantee a fair and level playing ground for women in the political space. The biggest political parties have taken the lead by slashing by half the nomination fee payable by women seeking to participate in party primaries.
Female aspirants in the gubernatorial contest will pay Ksh 250,000 compared to the Ksh 500,000 being paid by male aspirants. Senatorial aspirants are now paying Ksh 125,000 while their male counterparts are paying double the amount.
Female aspirants for Member of parliament are paying Ksh 100,000 with their male counterparts paying double the amount.
In the past elections, unable to pay the hefty nomination fees required by parties, most women were forced to peg their hopes of making it into county and national assemblies on nomination through party lists.
Njoro Member of Parliament Charity Kathambi, notes that nomination for women is no longer a prestigious thing like before. She notes that political parties have a big role to play in realising political gender equality in the country.
“For a long time, parties have failed to implement measures that would have guaranteed women a safe political space both socially, economically and politically,” said Kathambi.
But are political parties doing enough to help cure the women underrepresentation problem in Kenya?
Gilgil MP Martha Wangari blames parties and their leadership for “being unwilling and doing too little” towards political empowerment of women
“If political parties were serious about women empowerment, then the gender bill would have been passed long ago,”
“Whatever is being done by these parties is cosmetic and does not address the real problem,” said Wangari
With parliament having shot down the gender bill a record four times, Wangari lays the blame of political party leaders who she accuses of “failing to use their influence to salvage the situation”
Former Rongai Member of parliament Alicen Chelaite is of the view that political discrimination against women stems right from within political parties.
“All leading political parties are male dominated with women taking the back seat. This makes it hard to push and secure the women’s political agenda,” she said.
And even as political parties prepare to hold primaries ahead of the August polls, women aspirants are warning against the use of direct issuance of tickets and opinion polls to outfox women in favour of female aspirants.
Irene Njoki, a parliamentary aspirant in Bahati constituency, says that the notion of parties viewing men as strong candidates against as opposed to women should stop
“We don’t want a situation where we are being told that because you are a woman, you must step down in favour of a man who is considered as a strong candidate,”
Njoki wants political parties to create a level playing ground and an open field that will see female and male aspirants compete fairly.