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Is Kenya ready For A woman President?

From 1963-66 there were no women elected in parliament. I will give you statistics so that as we focus our eyes on the future we know what doors are open and which remain to be opened. Numbers speaks volumes. If we make decisions on how resources are going to be distributed, the voices of women have to be heard. We cannot afford to be represented.

Poverty is central to our ability to access power. Unless you are able as a girl to access education, you get married. It cuts across to the home; to be able to be an ambassador. In primary school the numbers are almost 50:50, but they drop as we move higher to secondary school, colleges.

In Kenya, only 36 women have made it to parliament since independence (with no female representation in the first two election years i.e. 1963 and 1966). The current ratio of women to men in decision making in political and public life is saddening: with men having four to five times more positions than women.  This is according to statistics from the Gender Report, published by Africa Woman and Child Features (AWC), and data from the Electoral Commission of Kenya for the 2002 elections.

Looking at: political parties, political parties determine governance in Kenya, and we are not in control of the political parties. So we are left out.  in the 2002 elections, 34 political parties participated with a total of 1,035 parliamentary candidates.  For every 23 male candidates there was 1 woman candidate.

In parliament a similar ratio was evident in the number of elected Members of Parliament (MPs) where, for every 1 female elected MP there are 22 male elected MPs. The greatest disparities were recorded in Nyanza province, where none of the women candidates who vied for parliamentary seats made it to parliament while in North Eastern there was no single female candidate.

In the local authorities, the ratio of vying female candidates to their male counterparts in 2002 elections was 1 to 17. Consequently, more men were elected for these civic seats than women on a ratio of 1 to 21. There are also grave inequalities in the civil service, the judiciary and other sectors

Challenges to realizing 50:50 representation in leadership remain:

• Cultural attitudes toward women and women’s leadership. Cultural biases are the main cause of blatant gender bias toward female leadership. These include tribalism and clanism. In constituencies with urban populations of mixed tribal groups and a larger number of political parties, tribe and party affiliation have been a determinant of how voting goes
• Inadequate political networking where many candidates do not have viable links with their political parties at the sub-branch, branch and national levels.
• Poor planning, lack of effective strategies and inadequate use of information by women candidates.
• Merging by political parties affects women’s chances for nomination where it is not uncommon for parties to sacrifice women candidates at nomination stage, in favor of male candidates who are perceived as stronger
• Difficulty in securing party nominations, where procedures by parties are not clearly articulated.
• The obvious lack of financial resources amongst women to run an efficient and effective campaign, and the late disbursement of the funds to women candidates in the event of sponsorship.
• Poverty, corruption and ignorance of Kenyans, resulting to bribery, and increased electoral offences such as vote rigging.

Some successes that have been realized include:

• Steady increase in the presence of women in decision making at parliamentary, government, civic, and community levels. This however by all means falls short of the targeted 50:50 ratio.
• The presence of women leaders continues to inspire other women to contest for various positions at different levels of governance. Their achievements encourage communities to entrust their leadership to women. e.g. the assistant chief in Kabuta sub-location, Muranga District.
• Research has shown that biases against women candidates have significantly subsided.  Accordingly, the possibilities of women candidates being accorded a fair fighting chance have increased with time, with the reasons advanced for favoring women aspirants including capability, gender sensitivity, and positive attitudes.
• Capacity building of women electoral aspirants: Skills acquired by the women are useful to them as they exercise their leadership in the different areas of their lives Benefits include the ability to strategize better; new knowledge gained especially relating to electoral laws and procedures; and better knowledge of voter’s perceptions and voter patterns.

Some recommendations to realizing 50:50 representation in leadership include:

• Revisiting our definitions and language regarding leadership by expansion to mean not just elective leadership, but also leadership that is exercised in the private space of the family and or village. Women who are already leaders in the private space will then begin to get the recognition they deserve for their role in our families and homes. They will also become encouraged and begin to venture more often into the public space of elective office, bringing with them a transformation in the brand of leadership.
• Seeing to the enactment of the draft constitution that guarantees increased opportunities for women in decision-making fora.
• Women candidates must capitalize on the indication that voters are looking for change in leadership, and demonstrate to voters that they are the best alternatives.
• Women candidates need to understand their constituents and voters well, consider their collective and individual problems, needs, and aspirations and then address them in their electoral strategies.
• While direct financial support may be provided to candidates to facilitate their campaigns, women must tackle the issue of being able to understand and deal with financial problems in their constituencies.
• Implementing partner organizations must enhance their lobbying and advocacy skills to realize 50:50 and see men and women governing together.
• Rigorous increase of civic education on gender, governance and voter education
• Working with the media to support aspiring and women leaders.
• Active participation by women in the governance of political parties.

When we look at the statistics, they tell a story. The story tells us that there is a cloud that hangs on women’s heads. There are break thoughts, but as we work for the 50:50 it is important to realize how high we have to jump. We want to see enactment of the new constitution. As a delegate of Bomas I want to walk to the seat I sat on right here in this room and see the fire burning for the constitution. We are not asking for favors, but we are asking for our rights. It is coming from our insides. That as women we bore the candle and let it burn.

Let us see the candle burning until we get our constitution. In the constitution are gains for women. They must not be sacrificed at the altar of political expediency. We need to encourage women aspirants for public office, we need to urge them to continue and when we have the critical mass, we can be heard in parliament. As implementing organizations of the GGP, we have a role to play in mainstreaming media. We shall do it to ensure that this eagle flies. Leadership of women has started and is going to penetrate the clouds.

Lifted from Kenyan women website.

Published by: Munala Wa Munala

JulyUTCbSun, 22 Jul 2007 21:31:47 +0000000000pmSun, 22 Jul 2007 21:31:47 +000007 19, 2007 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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