Article 81 of the Constitution stipulates that there should not be more than two thirds gender in elective and appointive positions. Attaining the appointive requirement is quite easy but it is the elective one that needs more focus. The National Assembly pushed the realization of this principle to August 2016.
As Kenyans ponder on the final formula, findings from a research Mzalendo conducted suggests women have earned the political positions they hold and make valuable contributions. Some of our key findings were:
First, Women MPs offer just as much value as their male counterparts. They contribute in terms of statements asked, motions proposed and Bills discussed and passed on the floor of the two Houses of Parliament: Senate and National Assembly.
Secondly, women parliamentarians are not just concerned about women issues. Hansard records reveal they present issues affecting everyone in society including men. From March 2013 to June 2015 women have spoken up regarding security, water, education, devolution, health, mining and food security in addition to the so called family bills.
In fact in many cases, the women representatives have provided solutions on how the issues should be resolved. On security issue for instance, there was a suggestion on better training, equipping and remunerating police reserves in far flung areas to ensure they complement the work of the police.
Thirdly, women MPs are quite knowledgeable. They leverage on their academic knowledge, professional expertise and life experience to argue and bring out quality contributions on issues.
Fourthly, the findings indicate that women MPs have the ability to support each other for influence and use theirs numbers for leverage on issues of interest to them and their constituents.
Lastly, there is no marked difference in contributions of women Parliamentarians whether elected, nominated or selected under affirmative action. They all provide quality contributions to national interest issues. Read more about the research here.
So far, the proposals presented to Parliament to meet the two-third gender principle, are about nominating women. However, Mzalendo believes Kenyans can elect more women Parliamentarians, as Debunking Myths report invalidates the fears and stereotypes the public has held against Women politicians as a whole.
On the other hand, political parties need to offer women a favorable environment for them to actively participate in party politics. This is a key building bloc to their participation in elective politics. Kenya has tales of violence being meted on women to intimidate them against running for political positions so that they quit and leave the seat for men. Men who believe in women place in leadership have to step up and create space for them in political parties.
Even so, for women to be given an equal footing in competitive politics, sustained public pressure is essential. The prevailing mindset against women in politics has to change. Women and youth should join political parties then use their numbers to support and elect women as political leaders. What do you think?