Women leaders want 50:50 share of Executive positions

Women leaders under the ‘Embrace Kenya’ team arrive at KICC, Nairobi to present their recommendations to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force chaired by Yusuf Haji at KICC. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]
Women leaders under the ‘Embrace Kenya’ are confident that a 50:50 opposite gender sharing of positions at all levels of government would ensure their voice is heard in the running of the country.

The team and its partners - comprising female MPs, professionals, businesswomen, civil rights activists and elected leaders want the gender rule to apply to all arms of government - similar to Article 166 (C) of the Constitution where Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice are of opposite gender.

Presenting their views to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) task force at KICC in Nairobi last week, the women said their support to change the Constitution puts emphasis on empowerment of women.

Governors Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Homa Bay Woman Representative Gladys Wanga said their proposal would ensure the gender rule applied in the expanded Executive, with seats ring-fenced for women.

According to the document, the opposite gender rule should also apply to the national and county governments and all executive agencies, including in elections to provide that where a presidential candidate is male, the running mate is of opposite gender.

Amend constitution

In proposals contained in a 27-page memorandum, they want to see females share executive slots equally with their male counterparts.

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Governor Ngilu, while presenting their views to the BBI team, recommended that two of the five positions in the national executive be ring-fenced for women with the presidential ticket comprising persons of opposite gender.

“The opposite gender rule shall be applied in the expanded executive, with two seats set aside for women. Since independence, the two top seats have been going to men,” Ngilu  said.

According to a memo, partly read to the BBI task force, the leaders want the executive expanded with the Head of State, deputy president, prime minister and two deputy prime ministers.

They want the 50:50 sharing to also apply in all county executive bodies including nomination of all county executives and chief officers, as an absolute rule.

On leadership, the women propose amendment of Chapter 9 of the Constitution to provide for functions, swearing-in, removal, remuneration and benefits of the prime minister and two deputy prime ministers.

“The 50:50 gender rule should also apply in all public service recruitment and even in the military.”

“This pattern will follow at the gubernatorial level where the governor candidates and the running mates will be of the opposite sex. We further propose that the 50:50 rule shall be applied in the appointment of cabinet secretaries and other State and public officers to the national executive government structure and county executive committee structure across the 47 counties,“ read the memo.

The opposite gender rule, they said, should also apply at the cabinets of the national and county government levels, citing performance of women in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government, where they said female cabinet secretaries have performed exemplarily.

The women also want the gender rule to also apply in the appointment for principal secretaries, high commissioners, diplomatic and consular representatives.

They also propose radical changes in the law to ensure prosecution of graft suspects, which include locking those prosecuted from holding public office for a period not less than 10 years.

The Embrace Kenya Team also proposed that corruption cases be heard on priority basis for a period not exceeding six months and a mandatory lifestyle audit on all state and public officers and their families.

“We further recommend the setting up of a 10-year cooling off period of tenure for implicated State and public officers,” read the memorandum. 

The women who formed the Embrace team to spearhead peace and unity in support for the March 9 handshake between President Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga, called for greater partnerships among agencies dealing with corruption as well as the enactment of strong policy and legislation with watertight regulations that reward and protect whistle blowers.

They also want the role of Judicial Service Commission in appointment of the Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice abolished.

Special panel

According to the leaders, there is need to establish an ad hoc multi-sectoral panel of seven for appointment of the two.

They said currently, the composition of Parliament does not meet the gender threshold to the detriment of women, and that there is a need for full implementation of the Constitution to protect the gains of women enshrined within the 2010 Constitution.

The women say the 50:50 gender rule at the national and county levels could easily be achieved through Mixed Member’s Proportional Representation (MMPR) in the legislator.

“Mixed member voting systems are growing in popularity around the world as a method of proportional voting for determining the makeup of a legislative chamber. This system ensures that people have representatives of their specific constituencies in the Legislature who should be primarily concerned with local issues,” said the women leaders.

The women say MMPR will ensure the party that has the most support nation or region-wide also has a majority of seats in the Legislature, and that with it, a certain number of seats in the legislature is set aside for constituency representatives.

The push to change the constitution follows the 2017 election crisis that saw a repeat of the presidential election, where President Kenyatta won after the Opposition kept of in protest.

Thirdway Alliance Party’s Punguza Mizigo Bill and the BBI that has just completed collecting views from Kenyans both intend to avoid expensive and divisive elections.

The BBI task force is winding up collection of views and is set to retreat for report writing, according to its chairman Hassan Haji.

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Embrace KenyaChief JusticeBuilding Bridges InitiativeAnne Waiguru