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After Karua's pick, parties must take cue and empower women

By Koki Muli Grignon - May 21st 2022
Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga and running mate Martha Karua during a photoshoot done recently. [Allan Gichigi]

On Monday, Azimio la Umoja One Kenya flag bearer Raila Odinga nominated Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as his running mate for the August 9, 2022 presidential election.

Although she is the second woman to receive such a nomination among key national political parties, the nomination came with much excitement from those involved in the struggle for gender parity, equality and empowerment of women and girls.

The first woman running mate, Julia Odhiambo, was nominated by Wiper Democratic Movement party leader Kalonzo Musyoka. Prof Odhiambo is an accomplished trailblazer in all aspects and has dedicated her life to the women’s movement – fighting misogyny, patriarchy and tokenism. She is a giant, like the late Jane Kiano and so many great women on whose shoulders we stand.

Therefore, when Ms Karua was nominated as a running mate, the women’s movement got another boost.

Granted, there has been progress in this struggle, the greatest being promulgation of the 2010 Constitution, establishing the legal and institutional framework to support gender equality and parity.

Although facilitative legislation to enhance women’s spaces is still pending 12 years on, Presidents Mwai Kibaki and Uhuru Kenyatta have done much to empower women, persons with disabilities and the youth.

Indeed, it was the late President Kibaki who was first sworn in, in a wheelchair, who finally ensured the legal framework for PWDs is put in place. President Uhuru also has put in place various social security safety nets for women, persons with disabilities and the youth while the First Lady, Margaret Kenyatta, has done great work for women, running marathons and raising funds for her Beyond Zero project.

Therefore, this nomination is significant and although its motivation may be a convergence of interests, killing many birds with one stone, it is an important milestone for women in politics. Sadly, there are still very few spaces for women in political representation and electoral democracy, especially in Parliament and county governorship.

The Executive and Parliament are still male-dominated, it is difficult to imagine that women are 52 per cent of the population.

So, as we celebrate this step forward we hope and expect that whoever wins this election will ensure their government has gender parity. When the Independent Electoral Boundaries Commission demanded that political parties’ nomination lists comply with the constitutional requirement that, all elective and appointive positions ensure no more than two-thirds of either gender, they bitterly complained.

Yet, if all the political parties participating in the elections respected this rule, we would be almost certain that gender parity is achieved in our lifetime. The County Assemblies have complied with this constitutional requirement through nominations because there are clear provisions on how they should comply.

However, since Parliament has failed to enact legislation to effect the constitutional provisions, it cannot comply with the requirement. The political parties have blamed the IEBC, to whom the court shifted the responsibility to ensure compliance but parties have done absolutely nothing for the last 12 years to attempt compliance because they prefer the status quo.

Ms Karua’s nomination as a running mate and IEBC’s demands have raised the bar for all political parties to stop lip-service to women and act to ensure gender parity in all elective and appointive positions.

They must find innovative ways to conclusively ensure compliance with the Constitution and the various decisions by the courts. First, they must urgently enact the relevant legislation.

On a sad note, the two main coalition parties’ choice of running mates from the same region send the message that other regions are not important to them.

The Mt Kenya region has slightly more than a quarter of the total registered voters, while other regions have three-quarters of registered voters, political parties should endeavour to ensure we all have access to appointive and political positions and an opportunity to be president/deputy president.

This is because, if one region perpetually produces the president/deputy, others will become resentful resulting in voter apathy.  


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