The hurdles Kenyan women must surmount to clinch political seats have been identified, analyzed, and recommendations on how to overcome them suggested. These hurdles include cultural beliefs that view women as servants and not heads, susceptibility to violence, and the crooked strategies their male counterparts normally employ to block them from participating in political contests. These hurdles have however not deterred several Kenyan women of steel from effectively competing with men and in rare occasions beating the men in their own game.
In the 2017 elections, the Kenyan women who have surmounted unimaginable hurdles are women like Milly Odhiambo who had her house burnt during the party primaries back in April, and around the same time the driver who was driving her opponent’s car ran over her bodyguard to kill him on the spot. Earlier in February, Embakasi South female aspirant Eunice Wambui was attacked while on voter registration drive in Mukuru Kwa Reuben while Sarah Korere, a Jubilee candidate for the Laikipia North seat, had the contents of her car looted in April while campaigning.
We also read in the news stories of Sheila Githaiga who dropped her bid for Kieni West seat after she was trailed by 30 men riding on motorbikes & eventually attacked and Esther Passaris who was locked in a room at the UoN by a group of men demanding Shs. 150,000 to allow her to hold planned rally.
Despite those hurdles, the 12th Parliament (National Assembly) will have the highest number of women elected to represent 21 constituencies across the country. These women are:
- Sophia Noor who will be representing Ijara,
- Ruth Mwaniki to represent Kigumo,
- Charity Chepkwong to represent Njoro,
- Even Obara to represent Kabondo Kasipul,
- Dr. Lilian Gogo to represent Rangwe,
- Beatrice Kones to represent Bomet,
- Wanjiku wa Kibe to represent Gatundu North,
- Mishi Mboko to represent Likoni,
- Naisula Lesuuda to represent Samburu,
- Janet Sitienei to represent Turbo,
- Sarah Paulata Korere to represent Laikipia North,
- Martha Wangari to represent Gilgil
- Jayne Kihara to represent Naivasha
- Rachel Nyamai to represent Kitui South
- Alice Wahome to represent Kandara
- Mary Waithera to represent Maragwa
- Naomi Shaban to represent Taveta
- Aisha Jumwa to represent Malindi
- Jessica Nduku to represent Kibwezi East
- Millie Odhiambo to represent Suba North
- Mercy Gakuya to represent Kasarani
What is unique with these women is that they have demonstrated the impacts of affirmative action. For example, Sophia Noor who vied for the Ijara seat under the Party of Reforms and Democracy was once a nominated MP under Orange Democratic Movement. Others include former Journalist Naisula Lesuuda who clinched the Samburu seat under KANU was a nominated Senator under Jubilee, Martha Wangari who was also a nominated Senator, and Mary Waithera and Wanjiku wa Kibe who were nominated MCAs in Murang’a and Kiambu county assemblies respectively.
Although the 12 Parliament (National Assembly) has the highest number of female representation to date, the number of elected women are still far less when measured against the constitutional requirement of one third gender rule. The 21 women elected to parliament represent only 7.2%, but when the 47 Women Representatives are added to the equation, female representation comes to 20%. We will wait and see what parliament will do to assure the one third gender rule is met.
Clearly, despite the improved performance of Kenyan women in politics, especially given that this time round we also have women Governors in Bomet and Kirinyaga, the Kenyan society still needs to do more to give women the much needed voice in decision making forums such as Parliament. As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the biggest hurdles that deter Kenyan women from fully participating in the Kenyan politics are violence and cultural related. Violence may be simpler to deal with through provision of enhanced security to female candidates.
On cultural hurdles, bodies such as African Woman and Child (AWC) and UN Women have come up with frameworks to help educate the society on the need to allow female leadership in the political forums. Together with the help of the already elected women and the women to be nominated, we should expect the political space to be more accommodative to women, and by 2017, the one third gender rule shouldn’t be met through nominations, but through elections.