Supreme Court Judge Justice Njoki Ndung’u arguably reflects how best women Parliamentarians have a critical role in politics. Through focusing on one issue, sexual offences and drilling it down, she was able to birth the Sexual Offences Act 2006. The journey towards realizing that law was fraught in many hurdles but she never lost sight of what she wanted to achieve.
Today, while sexual offences continue to occur, the current regime is incomparable to before. Tougher penalties with broader definitions are ensuring that sex pests are locked out of society for more years. Society in general must be better enlightened through various forums while some repugnant cultural practices must be fought tooth and nail.
This highlights the debate around women inclusion in political office. Justice Njoki was nominated in the 2003-2007 Parliament and this birthed that law. Women continue to have a tougher challenge to win political office fairly in a contest with their male counterparts.
At the moment, constitutional provisions in Article 27 (8) and 81 (3) inform efforts towards ensuring that no gender has more than two thirds in public office. Reaching this milestone through appointments is straight forward. However where people are expected to exercise their democratic rights; more effort and tact is necessary.
The National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) is currently working on mechanisms of realizing that constitutional imperative. The law they come up with will be one hurdle passed. The real devil lies in culture and political parties.
Women lead in all other spheres of life including some homes except politics. Most cultures do not believe that a woman is an equally capable individual of leading a certain political constituency. Those who vie and win have to undergo a lot of cultural hurdles including in some areas convincing elders of their capabilities. This therefore calls for massive targeted civic education.
Political parties must also show leadership. They are the bedrock of political leadership. The law governing political parties must equally be amended to compel them to come up with strategies that will see more women in positions of leadership and critically well positioned for main elections.
In addition, the patron-client relationship in our politics where wealth is a good indicator of whether one will be elected needs to be addressed. Early restrictions on availing candidates to the electoral commission, like political parties to submit their candidates list at least six months before the elections, can be used to shift the debate from monetary influence to ideology. Ideology should inform the kind of development that aspiring leader will bring if elected.
Affirmative action to increase the number of women in political office is not necessarily a pedestal but recognizes the multiplicity of factors that reduce their role in active politics. It is this recognition that first birthed their nomination by political parties to either Parliament or County Assemblies. Only when better structures are in place, will merit and pure political campaigning be the basis for their inclusion.