Scorecard: Most female MPs silent in the House

75 per cent of legislators below score, with performance blamed on lack of capacity, absenteeism
Scorecard: Most female MPs silent in Parliament

What you need to know:

  • Mzalendo Trust evaluated the contribution of MPs, Senators in 2019.
  • Only 12 female MPs featured among the most vocal or best performing legislators. 
  • Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo the only female MP among the top four performers. 
  • Amina Gedow Hassan (Mandera Women Rep), Beatrice Kones (Bomet East MP) and Rose Mumo (Makueni Women Rep)  among the 19 most silent MPs. 
  • Sabina Chege (Murang'a Women Rep) among the four youthful MPs most active.
  • Among MPs representing special interest groups, Jacqueline Oduol is most vocal.
  • Ms Rachael Nyamai is ranked third among the five best committee chairpersons,
  • Nominated Senators Halima Abdille, Christine Zawadi and Mercy Chebeni the most inactive.
  • Best performing Senators are all nominated; Gertrude Musuruve, Abshiro Halake, Farhiya Haji, Agnes Zani and Mary Seneta. 
  • Creaw Executive director says with mentorship and Speakers’ support, female legislators can dutifully deliver on their mandate. 

Female parliamentarians would be failing in delivering their legislative, representative and oversight role due to lack of capacity and support to do so.

Mzalendo Trust evaluated the contribution of MPs and Senators towards the business of both houses in 2019.

There are 97 female legislators in the current Parliament - 76 in the National Assembly and 21 in Senate. Parliament has 23 elected, six nominated and 47 County Women Representatives, and they performed poorly in general.

Only 12 featured among the most vocal or best performing legislators, with Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo, being the only female MP among the top four performing MPs.

She is also the overall best performing legislator in the National Assembly.  To her name is Assisted Reproductive Technology Bill, which seeks to legislate fertilisation of an egg by a donated sperm in a laboratory. Through this legislation, Ms Odhiambo seeks to bless parents unable to have children with joy of parenthood.

Recently, she was among the MPs who opposed imposition of taxes on income from the National Social Security Fund (NSSF) – a Treasury proposal that could reduce citizens' retirement benefits. The House finally rejected the proposal and pensioners will, in the meantime, enjoy their retirement benefits without statutory deductions.

SPEECH COUNTS

Ms Odhiambo leads the pack of the four best performing female MPs in Parliament. She is followed by nominated MPs Jacqueline Oduol, Jennifer Shamala, Ruweida Mohamed Obo (Lamu County Women Representative) and Sophia Abdi Noor (Ijara MP).

Mzalendo Trust scorecard puts 18 speech counts as average performance for female MPs, with only 25 per cent of them being above the score. 

Amina Gedow Hassan (Mandera Women Rep), Beatrice Kones (Bomet East MP) and Rose Mumo (Makueni Women Rep) are among the 19 most silent MPs. 

Ms Hassan and Ms Mumo are first time MPs while Ms Kones is serving a second term. She served in the 2008-2013 as Bomet MP. Her profile in Parliament website shows she is the vice chairperson of Maendeleo ya Wanawake, a position she has held since 2014.

Sabina Chege (Murang'a Women Rep) is among the four youthful MPs most active in the House. Others are Didmus Baraza ( Kimilili,MP), Ndindi Nyoro (Kiharu MP) and John Mwirigi (Igembe South MP).

Ms Chege is also the chairperson of the Health Committee. Under her leadership, the committee has pushed for accountable and equitable delivery of health services.

They opposed rules introduced by National Health Insurance Fund (NHIF) management in January, which required new beneficiaries to pay Sh6,000. President Uhuru Kenyatta later suspended their implementation.

Among MPs representing special interest groups, Jacqueline Oduol is most vocal after Mr David Sankok and Mr Godfrey Osotsi. Ms Oduol, represents marginalised women, Mr Sankok represents persons with disabilities, while Mr Osotsi represents workers.

On House leadership, Ms Rachael Nyamai who chairs the Lands Committee, is ranked third among the five best chairpersons.

SENATE

Last year, her committee rejected Tiya Galgalo’s nomination by President Uhuru Kenyatta to join the National Land Commission (NLC) as a commissioner.

Female legislators’ performance in the Senate is, however, more worrying. 

None features in the Senate’s overall best performing senators or committees. They are also missing among the outstanding youthful senators. 

Additionally, three out of the five most silent Senators are female. 

Nominated Senators Halima Abdille, Christine Zawadi and Mercy Chebeni are identified as the most inactive Senators. Ms Abdille never uttered a word in any of the plenary sessions held in 2019, reports the scorecard. 

The best performing Senators are nominated. Leading is Gertrude Musuruve, followed by Abshiro Halake, Farhiya Haji, Agnes Zani and Mary Seneta. 

Ms Zani sponsored three Bills in 2019 namely establishment of Children’s Home Bill,

County Tourism Bill and Public Finance Management Amendment Bill.

The rest sponsored one bill each with Ms Musuruve’s Kenya Sign Language Bill, Ms Haji pioneered Lifestyle Audit Bill, Ms Seneta introduced County Stray Dogs Bill and Ms Halake has Law of Succession (Amendment Bill, 2020). 

The scorecard puts 109 as the average speech counts for senators with 60 per cent of them below the count.

KEWOPA INDUCTION

There are 21 female senators including three elected - Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo) and Prof Margaret Kamar (Uasin Gishu).

Executive Director of Mzalendo Trust Caroline Gaita says their dismal performance is linked to consistent absenteeism and unfamiliarity with Parliament rules.

“First time members in the House struggle to understand and follow House rules and procedures as opposed to their more experienced counterparts,” says Ms Gaita.

She adds: “(Others) attend but do not request to speak during the sessions,”

Executive director of Community Advocacy and Awareness Trust (Crawn Trust) Daisy Amdany says the burden of strengthening the capacity of female legislators heavily lies in the hands of Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (Kewopa).

“The role of Kewopa is to ensure women are inducted when they join legislature,” she says, adding that political influence seems to have infiltrated the association that has lost focus on its purpose.

Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (Creaw) Executive director Wangechi Wachira says with mentorship and Speakers’ support, female legislators can dutifully deliver on their mandate. 

“I would propose seasoned and senior MPs like Millie or Martha Karua to mentor new MPs so that they know how well to play their roles,” she says.

“The Speaker has a role to ensure they actively participate. What if he decides a quota of women and men speak at the floor of the house?” she asks.

She says the women should not limit their contributions to committee sittings, but let their voices be equally louder during plenary sessions.

“They (female MPs) are in Parliament for a reason and they must be deliberate in playing their roles well,” says Ms Wachira. 



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