Kenya: The New Dawn of Women in Politics

Kenya: The New Dawn of Women in Politics

The Kenyan 2022 General Elections represents a great step forward for women’s representation, albeit an incremental one. We have seen that a lot of women, both those who won and those who lost, have come forward to show that despite many decades where women have been despised in regards to political leadership, they can also be leaders like anyone else. Up forward from only four women elected to Parliament in 2002, to the Promulgation of the 2010 Constitution there is a significant and really great transformation in regards to the number of women representing the people. This article will showcase the new dawn of women in politics; fearless, courageous women.

Kenya’s legal framework for women’s political representation, participation, and inclusion are laid out in numerous documents and directives.[1]These include not only the 2010 Constitution, but also an array of national and international laws and treaties. The Judiciary has also developed significant case law in this area, In The Matter of the Principle of Gender Representation in the National Assembly and the Senate, [2] Katiba Institute v Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission,[3] Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) v the Attorney General and the Commission on the Implementation of the Constitution.[4]

Kenya has also ratified various International treaties that now form part of Kenya’s law,[5] which encompass women representation and equality in all fora. Among the key international laws that recognize such is the CEDAW(Convention Against all Forms of Discrimination against Women), UDHR(Universal Declaration of Human Rights) ACHPR(African Charter on Humans and Peoples’ Rights), ICCPR(International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) among others. Kenya has also signed the ‘Maputo Protocol’ (African Charter on the Rights of Women) which affirms the principle of equal participation and the use of affirmative action to ensure equal and effective participation of women in politics.[6]

In traditional Kenyan culture, men are viewed as leaders while women are expected to work at home and support their family. We can attest that this macho society is quickly shifting gears through women. Quick forward to 2022, we now notice a good figure in the number of women governors, senators, Members of National Assembly and Members of County Assembly vying and those elected. More women are now elected to office than previously, and women achieved valuable milestones and won as first timers for the Gubernatorial, Senatorial, Members of Parliament and Member of County Assembly seats and even the Woman Representative of each county to the National Assembly seats.

Perhaps most importantly, women who run for office win at the same or greater rates than their male counterparts. In some counties, we noted a huge gap between the female candidate who was leading and other male candidates in the race, this is a positive move, now that even men themselves who vote for such women begin changing the traditional mindsets that not only men were meant for leadership and start realizing that women too have the capability of leading and even a greater one. Women sit on male-dominated boards and also draft decisions of the company, we have seen women directors in well-doing companies and institutions and then what else prevents them from seeking and getting leadership positions? Absolutely nothing!

For the first time in history in Kenya, we saw women in all seats dominating numerous billboards across the country, and most salient, some as candidates for the office of the Deputy President. This is exceedingly encouraging and we cannot run away from the fact that women have woken up from their slumber. They have realized there is a lot than just working at home and supporting their families, women can double-task and we have witnessed this in our homes where they concern themselves with cleaning, cooking and also controlling the children at once! Being a woman leader does not bar anyone from doing their wifely and motherly duties at home.

There is therefore a need for heightened gender responsive voter and civic education to support women aspirants across all positions. As more women enter politics and government, whether through open constituency, gubernatorial, senatorial, member of county assembly seats or appointed office, the benefits of their experience to long-term political advancement will lead to longer term gains in representation and success in running for office. Further, the effect of social media and other civic education campaigns has contributed toward a gradual change in societal attitudes toward women and greater awareness of acceptable standards for electoral conduct.

There is a great need to give women more space in a political landscape dominated by men. It takes a lot in such a landscape, for women to show up even at the Party Primaries, whether or not they get to fly the Party’s flag of the particular seat, to go as independent candidates, be at the ballot and whether they grab the seat or not, it vastly takes and requires a lot. Perhaps most interesting, women’s success rate augmented in some areas, indicating that women were able to maintain their competitiveness despite the larger numbers of candidates in all races. As noted in the 2013 General Election in Kenya, a principal conclusion is that voters are willing to elect women, given the opportunity, and will do so at rates equal to that of men.

To the fearless and courageous women who underwent party primaries, who stood as independent candidates for various positions confidently and were on the ballot, notwithstanding their male counterparts in the competition, whether they won or lost, those who lost at the party primaries and held other women helping them to climb the ladder to leadership, theirs is an act of heroism and is highly commended and encouraged even in the coming years.

Fast-forward to 2022, it is indeed a new dawn of women in politics!

The author is the National Council on the Administration of Justice, Wakili wa Watoto Club.

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