What you need to know:
- The arrival of the country’s new Constitution inaugurated on August 27, 2010 marked a time of change for most advocates of the rights of women and girls.
- Ten years since its enactment, women and other advocates of gender rights are still lobbying, mobilising and pushing to have it operationalised.
- To his credit, President Uhuru Kenyatta has guaranteed that his Cabinet has fulfilled the two- thirds gender requirement.
- Political parties have colourful manifestos proclaiming commitment to promoting women’s participation in politics, but they are usually the weak link.
After years of struggling, lobbying, advocating, passionate consultations and mobilisation for inclusion of women in all aspects of political presence and socio-economic spheres in Kenya, it was time to enjoy the fruits of this toil.
That was the mood with which most advocates of the rights of women and girls greeted the arrival of the country’s new Constitution inaugurated on August 27, 2010.
After all, the Constitution of Kenya 2010 contained specific Articles and Clauses in the Bill of Rights - on the protection of women and other marginalised group from discrimination and equality as well as assurance of their inclusivity and representation in all domains of socio-economic and political sphere.
While Article 27 of the document requires both levels of government to ensure that either gender has more than two-thirds of public officers, elected or appointed, Article 10 champions one of the central national values and principles of governance of inclusivity and representation of women, persons with disability, youth and other minority groups including marginalised ones.
However, the 'good' Constitution despite its critical significance in amplifying, gender equality especially - as specifically stipulated to entrench the principle of not more than two- thirds of either gender in governance and leadership is yet to be obeyed- a decade later.
Ten years since its enactment, women and other advocates of gender rights are still lobbying, mobilising and pushing to have it operationalised. This, as it remains mute before Parliament for years leading, partly, to a glaring failure to implement gender equality in governance and leadership at both levels of government.
There is some progress though, albeit insufficient. To his credit, President Uhuru Kenyatta has guaranteed that his Cabinet has fulfilled the two- thirds gender requirement, with seven women in the 21-member line-up.
They are Farida Karoney, Betty Maina, Prof Margaret Kobia, Dr Monica Juma, Amina Abdalla, Raychelle Omamo and Ms Sicily Kariuki. His first Cabinet of 18 members in 2013 also met the requirement, before Ms Charity Ngilu was later dropped later leaving in place five women.
His administration has also done much better than his predecessors in appointment of women Principle Secretaries and Chief Administrative Secretaries (CAS). He has gone a step further in appointing young women to these offices. Dr Mercy Mwangangi, Health Ministry’s CAS and her counterpart Ms Nadia Abdalla, of Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Innovation and Youth, are the most visible.
Case of Judiciary
A recent audit on gender parity found the Judiciary wanting. It was conducted by the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) in partnership with the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ)-Kenya Chapter and the International Development Law Organisation.
While it is encouraging that the audit also found that the Judiciary “is gradually and progressively becoming receptive to the principles of gender equality,’’ it should also raise questions why it has taken such a critical institution that long time to do the right thing.
There have been success stories too, on the political front, although with slow progress. Kenyans have become more aware of the need for gender equality. Although no women were elected governors or senators in 2013-the first election under the 2010 Constitution, nine governors picked women as their deputies.
The 2017 elections saw three women elected to the governorship. It was historic. They were the late Ms Joyce Laboso of Bomet, Charity Ngilu of Kitui and Kirinyaga’s Anne Mumbi. At the Senate, Ms Fatuma Dullo of Isiolo, Prof Margaret Kamar and Ms Susan Kihika of Uasin Gishu and Nakuru respectively, made the historic entry to the House.
At the National Assembly, 16 women were elected to the single constituency seats in 2013; this number rose to 23 in 2017.
While women rights advocates and organisations have put in lots of work in sensitising the people on importance of electing women and empowering them to participate in political processes, authorities at the national and county levels must do their part.
The opposite gender rule should be made compulsory to all their structures. This must be enforced right from the presidency, governorship where candidates have deputies of the opposite sex. It should also apply to Speakers of both Houses of Parliament and County Assemblies, as well as at other leadership positions including committees.
While political parties tend to have colourful manifestos proclaiming commitment to promoting women’s participation in politics, they are usually the weak link. Most of them do not implement policies that would get women in top positions.
Appearing before the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) team, women, under the auspices of the Common Women Agenda (COWA), singled out mainstreaming of women in political parties and elective leadership as a requisite for inclusivity in governance.
“It’s important for parties to exercise internal democracy by including women in their party ranks,” COWA says in the recommendations to the BBI team. “If the party believes in rule of law and constitutionalism, it must adhere to values of participation, inclusivity and non-discrimination.”
In their justification for inclusion of women in political parties, COWA says women representation in political parties and other decision making institutions is a central issue in advancing gender equality.
The Constitution, which guarantees representation of women by reserving for them seats in the Senate, National Assembly, County Assembly and Executive structures, is the most significant instrument for enhancing women’s representation and participation in political parties and elective leadership, according to the women under COWA.
Challenges and barriers to progress in political and socio-economic front, aside, women, more than ever before, are suffering from all forms of violence especially Sexual and Gender Based (SGBV), including political violence.
Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG), has been more manifest and vicious since March when the first case of the deadly Covid-19 was reported in Kenya and the government put in measures to contain the spread. Statistics show that the situation is yet to get better as more girls also suffer sexual abuse leaving them pregnant and with an uncertain future.