The Maputo Protocol, a pivotal instrument in the advancement of women's human rights in Africa, has had a transformative impact in some parts of Kenya with Nakuru County providing the best recent example.
This protocol exemplifies the African Union Member states' unwavering commitment to investing in the development and empowerment of women, who comprise the majority of the population in many countries across the continent.
Notably, Nakuru County experienced a significant increase in the number of women elected to parliamentary positions during the August 2022 elections, reflecting a remarkable shift in gender representation and political engagement — considering the challenges female candidates usually go through.
The Maputo Protocol, through its Article 9, outlines the right to participation in the political and decision-making process. Although Kenya has been involved in the protocol, it is in Nakuru County where noteworthy progress has been made, particularly in the 2022 elections.
Women's leadership in Kenya has roots in pivotal events such as the Beijing Conference and the Pan African Women's organisation. These movements laid a solid foundation for women's leadership, which is bearing fruit today.
Furthermore, the Maputo Protocol has emphasised women's rights and leadership in Kenya by holding the country accountable for promoting women's participation in political and decision-making processes.
The protocol advocates for affirmative action and increased representation of women in these spaces. As a result, women have dominated top leadership positions in Nakuru County. Notable female leaders who contested and won various seats in the county include Susan Kihika (Governor), Tabitha Karanja (Senator), Liza Chelule (Woman Representative), Charity Kathambi (MP Njoro), Martha Wangari (MP Gilgil), Irene Njoki (MP Bahati), Grace Mwathi (MCA Bahati), and Jane Kihara (Naivasha MP).
In Kenya, women have long been marginalised in politics, with the Kenyan Parliament historically dominated by men since independence. However, the enactment of laws to enforce Article 81(b) and Article 100 of the Constitution has facilitated the realisation of gender equality in political representation.
The impact of the Maputo Protocol on gender representation is evident in various areas across Kenya. The country's Constitution is committed to promoting the political rights of women, ensuring increased opportunities for their representation in elected bodies. Nakuru County serves as an inspiring example of this commitment, showcasing the positive changes that have transpired since the adoption of the protocol.
To safeguard the rights of women, including those aspiring for political office, there is a pressing need to enhance protection measures. The recent Maputo@20 conference stands as a significant milestone, reminding African women of the progress Kenya has made and the steps the country continues to take in implementing the protocol.
The Maputo Protocol has not only broken barriers but has also fueled the cause of gender equality, as witnessed in the remarkable shift in women's political representation in Nakuru County.
The writer is a History PhD student at Laikipia University