What you need to know:
- In Kenya, for instance, women leaders have taken the lead in campaigning against harmful cultural practices that undermine girls’ education and empowerment.
- The Constitution paved the way by introducing gender quotas that are helping Kenya move towards gender-equal power sharing and balanced political participation.
It's been a decade since the devolved system of government was introduced in Kenya to help end different forms of inequality and spur grassroots development.
Among the objects of devolution, as provided for by the 2010 Constitution, are: furthering development; recognising diversity; fostering national unity; enhancing participation of the people in decision-making and governance; and promoting and protecting the interests of the marginalised.
Since Independence, the country has been dogged by myriad cultural and socioeconomic challenges – from dysfunctional healthcare systems and economic crisis, to violence against women and girls and climate change. To some extent, this is due to political leadership and hegemonic masculinity. And at the centre of the problems was the exclusion of women from political leadership and governance.
Devolution was, therefore, meant to cure some of these ills. On that account, at a time of mounting economic distress, exacerbated by increased food insecurity, gender equality is imperative in political leadership and governance.
It provides the best chance for Kenya to tackle some of the most challenging issues of our time and creates an environment conducive to the long-term success of current and future generations.
Leadership, viewed as a social influence process, is central to the realisation of an equal society. The Constitution paved the way by introducing gender quotas that are helping Kenya move towards gender-equal power sharing and balanced political participation.
Each county elects a woman representative to the National Assembly. Nominations to the Senate and county assemblies also consider their gender composition. This has boosted their numbers in the legislature. It has been established that through leadership and political decision-making processes, women are better placed to champion the interests of the girl child.
In Kenya, for instance, they have taken the lead in campaigning against harmful cultural practices that undermine girls’ education and empowerment. This contributes to the overall growth of the country. Besides, female leaders act as role models for young girls and career women aspiring to certain levels of personal and professional growth.
Even so, data show women are still underrepresented in different tiers of decision-making, despite their participation in public affairs and political life being critical.
Notably, Kenya’s pursuit of sustainable development, including through Vision 2030, cannot be a success unless it embraces full and equal participation of women at every level of policy- and decision-making. Elsewhere, exclusive male leadership has proved to be potentially dangerous to the survival of a nation.
So, the country cannot ignore the gender agenda and the need to mainstream it in different sectors of the economy. The rising awareness of its significance to the success of society further makes a country reputable on the global stage, especially in compliance with the recommendations of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which calls on states to ensure women enjoy equal opportunities with men.
For that reason, applying a gender lens to political leadership becomes critical to growth. Besides, this is a human rights issue and a key tenet of egalitarianism and lasting peace—the prerequisites for sustainable development. No society can enjoy peace, human rights, and sustainable development without effective gender equality.
Empowering women and girls through enhanced leadership participation has massive consequent benefits. Making this a reality should be the modern vision of a country, one free from instabilities and inequalities. In this case, strengthening devolution would boost women’s leadership, support the gender equality cause and fast-track socioeconomic development.