Women representation in Parliament still a mirage, despite numerous constitutional provisions. Here’s why!

By Treezer Michelle Atieno

Kenya’s new constitution outlines two ways woman’s representation in parliament are to be increased. One is the two-thirds gender rule, and the other is through the woman representative position.

Article 27(8) of Kenya’s 2010 Constitution states that: “not more than two-thirds of members of the elected house can be of the same gender”. The Supreme Court advised the Attorney General to implement the one-third gender requirement in the National Assembly and Senate progressively in successive elections.

This quota has been opposed, making the one-third provision an aspirational target.

Third the 2017 general elections, there was no law to facilitate the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule. This resulted in the composition of parliament being noncompliant with the constitution. Despite six court orders directing it to comply, parliament has yet to enact the law.

Another major reform meant to increase women’s participation in politics is Article 81(b) of the 2010 Constitution, which sets 47 women representative seats in the National Assembly specifically for women.

The main reason for creating the women’s representative position in Kenya was to enhance women’s representation in the government. However, this position may have created further challenges for women who wish to represent a party in an election for a regular constituency seat; it requires them to raise and spend even more money during the nomination phase because the regular seats are now the ‘men’s seats.

Even though the constitution does not outline the framework for implementation of the two-thirds gender rule at the National Assembly and the Senate, at the county level, there is a clear procedure of achieving that.

Pamela Amondi, a veteran politician who served as a councillor in the pre-devolution era and a Member of the County Assembly (MCA) between 2013 and 2017 in Kisumu County, has much to say about how far Africa has to go to achieve gender parity in politics.

“Because of politics, I have endured being branded a prostitute. I was forced to remarry in 2001 after my husband’s death in 1994 to prove I was a family woman. On 19th April 2022, during the ODM Party primaries, I lost my son to cruel butchers who hacked him with an axe. This move was to frustrate me,” laments Amondi.

Amondi was first elected a councillor for Aerodrome Ward in 1997, a few years after her husband’s death. She also won the seat in 2002 and 2007 in the same ward. In 2013 she was the first elected MCA for the Central Kisumu Ward.

Despite this, she says that representation of women in Kisumu County’s political space is still low. Amondi attributes this to various challenges, including a lack of proper support from political parties, cultural beliefs, predominant gender roles and financial issues.

According to Women’s Political Participation Report 2021, the rising cost of seeking political office in Kenya hinders women from participating in politics. These costs make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the average person to seek political office; women and youths are often locked out.

According to a report titled A Gender Analysis of the 2017 Kenya General Elections by United Democratic Institute and FIDA Kenya, there are few elected women leaders because of poor implementation of the country’s legal frameworks related to women representation and non-compliance of political parties.

A comprehensive review of the experience of female candidates in the report shows that women faced the same challenges in 2017, the same as in 2013. These include inadequate political support from their parties in the primaries, lack of financial resources, gender-based violence, gender stereotyping, and patriarchal structures across society.

The UN Women categorizes obstacles that prevent women from participating fully in political life into two. The first is structural barriers, whereby discriminatory laws and institutions still limit women’s ability to run for office. The second is capacity gaps, which occur when women are less likely than men to have the education, contacts, and resources needed to become successful leaders.

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