Male champions in fight for gender equality

Maina Kageni photo:courtesy
Maina Kageni's announcement he will run for the Woman Representative seat for Nairobi County has stirred up positive and negative sentiments in equal measure. In what appears to be a press conference (or is it a mock press conference), Maina Kageni asserts that he is running for the Nairobi Woman Representative seat.

For those who may not be familiar with Kenya's system of governance, the Woman Representative seat is an affirmative action seat; one for each of the 47 counties.

The seat is open only to women contestants. Even with this and other affirmative action provisions in the Constitution of Kenya 2010, Kenya's 11th Parliament only had 86 women out of 418 members. Only 21 women out of the 290 constituencies were elected in the 11th Parliament.

I was made aware of this video through some flippant sentiments by some ladies in many social media platforms.

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Many women felt that Kageni's announcement was demeaning to women. In other forums, Maina was applauded, with those who support the announcement feeling that Maina Kageni is openly and unapologetically biased in favour of women in his morning show on Classic 105 FM.
 

Some argue he is the default champion for gender equality especially on relationships, and a strong advocate against gender based violence, a factor that has earned him recognition and appreciation from Nairobi women. I had not watched it until one of our members asked that such a video should not be shared. These sentiments made me curious enough to look for the video.

REVIEW PROCESS

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During the Constitution review process, I was among the civil society actors who promoted the principle of equality, based on various grounds as articulated in article 17 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. Having worked in the gender and governance sector in Kenya, I beg to differ with those against Kageni's candidature, whether real or imagined.

Although gender quotas have been successful in the dramatic increase of women in politics, the past five years proved the framers of the Constitution of Kenya 2010 wrong.

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Women leaders in the 11th Parliament as well as county assemblies gave Kenyan women a raw deal. Whereas the intentions of the Constitution were noble, to ensure that women political leaders will promote agendas that will change and transform the lives of women in the legal and policy realm, the performance of the women, both at national and county level, was appalling.

Political parties continue to be gatekeepers, and since the women have come in through political parties, the women political leaders seem to be guided more by party (read patriarchal) interests, rather than the interests of the very constituency they have been elected to represent (women).

Why did the two-thirds gender rule not see the light of day in the life of the 11th Parliament, which boasts of passing over 150 laws during its tenure? What was most absurd was the fact that even during the Parliamentary sittings to pass the crucial Bills, some women legislators would be conspicuously absent.

MALE CHAMPIONS

I have witnessed the power of male champions for gender equality. In an effort to find an alternative to the impasse of the two thirds ender rule, key champions that spearheaded the Green Amendment Campaign for the Two thirds gender principle were Kenneth Okoth (MP Kibra) and Augustino Neto (MP Ndhiwa).

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The campaign was a popular initiative by the people of Kenya, led by Kenya Human Rights Parliamentary Association (KEPHRA), National Women's Steering Committee (NWSC) and Civil Society Organisations to introduce an amendment that would ensure not more than two-thirds of members of members of the Senate, national and county assemblies are of same gender.

  The campaign was in response to the realisation that passing the Constitution Amendment Bill No. 4 through the national assembly was an uphill task. The two legislators were the most vocal and appeared to be the faces of the campaign. That they could openly identify themselves and lead such a cause is commendable.

The efficacy of gender quotas can only be enhanced if the minority gender (in this case women) comes in through other means other than political parties. For example in Rwanda the 30 percent reserved seats for women represent women from both political parties and other national women institutions. The nominated women are vetted through the women's body, and must demonstrate their experience in promoting gender equality to qualify for the nomination.

This process serves two purposes, one, the women who are nominated are not only skilled and knowledgeable on the key issues of gender discrimination, but also by default the leaders are accountable to women and not political parties. As long as the affirmative action seats will be through political parties, we definitely need male champions to penetrate and beat their own patriarchal system. And for this reason, by all means, "Maina Kageni, be on the ballot to represent our interests".

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