More gains for women on elective posts

A section of Women leaders led by Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru (right), Nominated MP Denita Ghati, Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo, Baringo Woman Rep Gladwell Cheruiyot, Likoni MP Mishi Mboko, Busia Woman Rep Florence Mutua, Kitui South MP Rachel Nyamai among others during a press conference in Nairobi on BBI and women agenda on Monday, October 19, 2020 [David Njaaga, Standard]

The membership of the Senate could increase to 94 from 67 if a proposal by the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, is adopted.

Similarly, the National Assembly will have 360 members up from the current 349 as part of efforts to bridge the gender gap.

The report proposes retention of the 290 single-member constituencies, which leaves 70 seats, some of which will help in this course.

The report, handed to President Uhuru Kenyatta and ODM leader Raila Odinga yesterday, proposes that each county should elect two senators, a man and a woman. This is meant to cure the problem of gender inequality in representation.

Kenya is struggling to implement the two-thirds gender rule in the constitution, and aimed at boosting representation of women.

Drafters of the constitution wanted to ensure women are well represented in positions of power. They argued that the country will not progress economically, politically or socially without half its citizens participating meaningfully in political spheres and critical decision-making processes.

To this end, the State was to ensure not more than two-thirds of members of all elective and appointive positions are of the same gender.

However, this has not happened and recently, Chief Justice David Maraga advised the president to dissolve parliament over its failure to enact laws to effect the gender rule.

Currently, Kenya has 19 female senators of which 16 are nominated. The implication of the new proposal is there will no longer need to nominate members to achieve gender mainstreaming.

The new proposal reads: “The senate to consist of ninety-four members, being one woman and one man from each county, elected by the registered voters of the counties.”

This proposal will consequently amend Article 98 of the constitution which specifies the membership of the senate. It is a key proposal that will see more women take up governance positions if it is adopted.

At the same time, the BBI report proposes that a candidate for the position of the governor should nominate a person of the opposite gender as their running mate. Currently, only Kitui, Narok, Kirinyaga and Kericho counties have people of the opposite gender as deputy governors.

To achieve this, the document proposes amendment of Article 180 of the constitution that guides the election of governors and their deputies.

The report also wants Article 91 of the constitution changed to require political parties to take measures to ensure not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies are of the same gender.

The team noted that women feel excluded in major decision-making organs and that the county needs to enact measures to promote inclusion.

“Vast number of submissions regarding the lack of inclusivity for women were received during the validation process. The Steering Committee was struck by the deep and widespread feeling of exclusion and marginalisation among the women of Kenya, who felt that mainstream socio-cultural and political arrangements prevent them from fully accessing their rights under the Constitution,” the report says.