Enough With Party Colours! Women Kick Off Fresh Gender Rule Battle

By Kamau Maichuhie

Even though Article 27(8) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 provides for the two-thirds gender rule, its implementation has been arduous.

It mandates the State to ensure that not more than two-thirds of members of all elective and appointive positions are of the same gender. However, ten years after the enactment of the law, it is yet to be enacted.

The gender rule dilemma has stalked the tenth, eleventh and the current parliaments, with all their four attempts to operationalize it failing to find a solution.

Women’s representation in Kenya’s parliament remains minimal, currently standing at 22 per cent.

Bottom in East Africa

The tenth and eleventh parliament had 9.8 and 20.7 per cent of women respectively, making it the lowest in East Africa.

Apart from the political arena, women’s underrepresentation in positions of power in the cabinet, senior government positions and State corporations have been a concern.

During a meeting convened, last week, to find ways of increasing women’s political participation, UN Women Country Representative Anna Mutavati decried the low number of women in political leadership in the country.

Ms Mutavati observed that it is a shame countries like Burundi and South Sudan that are coming out of conflict, are ahead of Kenya in terms of women representation.

“It is disheartening to see that Kenya is in the list of shame by being at the bottom in East Africa in terms of women representation at 21 per cent. We need to have 50 per cent of women leadership in 2030 and we only have nine years left,” she said.

The UN Women boss challenged more women to vie for positions in the forthcoming election, to increase their numbers in parliament. She also called for the mobilisation of resources to support women candidates.

2022 election

Some international organisations and women have also come up with initiatives aimed at realising the gender rule in the 2022 election.

The Common Women Agenda (Cowa) on Tuesday last week, unveiled a plan to ensure the gender rule is implemented.

Cowa is a consultative forum under the leadership of Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Prof Margaret Kobia that seeks to promote women advancement in Kenyan politics.

The group plans to have 5,000 women candidates for the various positions in next year’s election, to have a good chance of meeting the two-thirds gender rule.

Out of this number, they will ensure at least 15 elected governors, 16 elected senators, 97 single constituency MPs and 483 MCAs are elected.

Cowa plans to undertake legislative amendments to secure compliance by political parties with the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) requirement that all party candidates’ lists are two-thirds gender compliant.

The group also indicated it will be pushing political parties to allow women candidates to vie in party strongholds, to give them high chances of winning.

Also on the group’s cards are legislative amendments to establish a special fund under the office of the Registrar of Political Parties, to support women candidates in competitive seats for gubernatorial and parliamentary elections.

Political parties

Public Service and Gender Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Beatrice Elachi said women must ensure the next parliament is compliant with the two-thirds gender rule.

“To achieve our objective, we must not allow women to be divided along political parties, but stand for one common agenda. We must work with IEBC to ensure the lists submitted by political parties are compliant to the gender rule. We must also negotiate with male gubernatorial aspirants for the deputy governor positions,” said Ms Elachi.

Gender CAS Rachel Shebesh, told the gathering that Cowa has initiated talks with political parties’ leadership to back women candidates in their strongholds.

Ms Shebesh said time is up for political parties and their leaders to use women for public relations exercises and don political party colours.

“Time for women is now. We are done with theories and boardroom talks and it is now time for the practice on the ground. We will look for all the resources and time needed to support women candidates,” said Shebesh.

A commissioner at the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) Priscilla Nyokabi, said Cowa will remain vigilant to ensure IEBC sticks to its commitment not to take a party candidates’ list that doesn’t comply with the two-thirds rule.


The two-thirds gender rule push has gained momentum in recent days with organisations stepping in to support the plan.

In September, Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida-Kenya) launched a campaign to promote women’s participation in political leadership both at the national and county levels, ahead of next year’s polls.

The campaign dubbed ‘#VoteADada’ calls for increased women’s participation and representation in the country’s leadership.

It is also geared towards initiating dialogue and actions that will lead to achieving the gender rule in elective and appointive positions.

Two weeks ago, UN Women and the Canada High Commission embarked on a three-year initiative to increase women’s participation and representation in political leadership and decision-making in the country.

Canadian government pledged more than $5 million to address the barriers that exclude women.

Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya David Da Silva, noted the project which will also rope in the government, UN Women, women’s rights organizations and women themselves, will help increase the number of women running in next year’s election and reduce gender-based violence (GBV) related to elections.

Finland is also supporting Kenya in getting more women into leadership through support in the implementation of the 1325 action plan and in fighting GBV.

Women aspirants have welcomed the ongoing initiatives.

Julia Chege who is vying for the Kangema parliamentary seat, said the initiatives are long overdue.

‘As aspiring women leaders, we are happy about the initiatives to increase women political participation. What we need is the levelling of the political playing field to ensure fair competition,’ she told the nation Africa.

Out of the 14,000 candidates who ran in the 2017 election, only 1,300 were women representing only nine per cent. A total of 172 women were elected out of the 1,883 seats in Kenya, up from 145 in the 2013 election.

Source: Daily Nation

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