Women urged to change strategy on gender rule

In the tenth Parliament, the women representation was 9.8 per cent and this went up to 20.7 per cent in the 11 Parliament.

The 12th Parliament was billed as one of the most gender-inclusive since independence, 59 years ago. It broke the record of having a good number of women with some chairing some of the most powerful committees

In the 12th Parliament, The National Assembly had 76 women MPs, of whom 47 were representing the counties, 23 representing constituencies, while six were nominated to represent special interest groups.

Many women had high hopes of being elected in last year's elections. The was an increase in the number of women candidates in the various elective posts.

From last year's elections, out of 290 constituencies, at least 29 women MPs were elected to the 13th Parliament, an increase in the number of women elected as MPs from single constituencies from 2017 where only 23 were elected.

In the Senate there are three elected female senators namely Keroche Tabitha Karanja (Nakuru), Dullo Fatuma (Isiolo) and Muthama Agnes Kavindu (Machakos). And there are 18 nominated female senators.

This means that the Senate, which comprises 67 members, including the nominated ones, has only 21 women senators.

In terms of women representation, the 2022 General Election had a bitter-sweet outcome. Compared to 2013 when no single female governor was elected, the polls saw seven governors, three senators and 29 MPs having been elected. However, despite this marked improvement, the achievement of the two-thirds gender rule, as stipulated in the Constitution again proved elusive.

It can be concluded that the polls did not cure the elusiveness of the two-thirds gender rule in elective politics despite the country recording the highest number of women to ever be elected. So what is the missing link?

Vie and apply

According to Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru, an experienced political leader and the current Chair of the Council of Governors (CCG), women need to go back to the drawing board and strategise afresh for a gainful win in elective and appointive leadership positions.

The governor, who is serving her last term, says that women need to shift gears and go for top elective and appointive leadership positions if they desire to occupy such offices.

She further says that women need to work towards nurturing their leadership skills by making applications whenever opportunities arise.

"While some people are born with intrinsic leadership abilities, such traits need to be nurtured to enable one to fulfill their purpose. Again there is a great need for those who want to lead to come out and front themselves for various positions," Waiguru said recently during a women in leadership forum at the Nairobi Golf Club recently.

She told the participants that in as much as there was a need to have more women in leadership, it remained a mirage unless many women came out to vie, and apply for elective and appointive positions.

She urged women to believe in themselves, be intentional and have the courage to go for what they want.

The forum brought together women from various corporate and public sectors, providing space for them to hold candid conversations on what drives them to take up positions in social, political. and corporate leadership.

They also deliberated on what they ought to do to remain resilient and relevant amid many challenges that face women leadership.

The event provided a platform for women to hold conversations on matters of leadership. The conversations, moderated by Patricia Okelo, Founder of Candid Conversations Circles for Women, were led by a panel of women in leadership positions who included Lina Githuka, Managing Director of Kenya Wine Agencies Limited (Kwal), and Christine Michira of Dala Paper Africa.

Keep trying

Waiguru added that though success may not come in the first instance, those who want to succeed should not give up but must keep on trying. She shared some of her experiences as she climbed the corporate and political ladder.

She said that her desire to transform public service delivery pushed her to take up top leadership positions where she could actualise some of the proposals she had made.

"I have always wanted to be part of the key decision-making where I could make positive, and impactful contributions to change the lives of ordinary Kenyans," said the governor.

She was answering a question from a participant who wanted to know what inspires her to keep seeking leadership positions. She explained that she too wanted to address the lack of representation of women and girls at the policy level.

Go for power

According to Githuka, getting more women in leadership positions is also about convincing those who are currently in power and about changing the very face of power itself.

"The movement of getting women into political leadership for me is about women moving also into corporate offices, which I see as not being about supplication, but about power," noted Githuka

Remain focused

According to Michira, there is a need to strike a delicate balance given that there is so much time between investing in oneself and working hard to deliver services to the people. She advised women to strive to make a difference whenever they get an opportunity and remain focused on the ultimate goal of delivering on the mandate given.

"It is important for women to focus on what drives them to take up positions in social, political, and corporate leadership, and what they ought to do to remain resilient and purposefully relevant amid many challenges that face women leadership," Michira told the participants.

Some of the challenges women in elective and appointive positions face include being judged on a higher pedestal than their male counterparts.

Mentor others

Her sentiments were endorsed by Waiguru, who further stressed the need for seasoned women leaders to mentor younger ones, especially for the two-thirds gender rule to be achieved.

She said that in her political journey, she has mentored many women, and put others in positions where they were able to sharpen their skills for higher

Waiguru said that she always recommended women for top positions whenever she got an opportunity to sit at high-level decision-making tables.

"I also have a mentorship programme in Kirinyaga that sponsors bright young girls in their secondary and university education. I take time to monitor their progress in school, and occasionally have them over for talks," Waiguru said.

During a separate interview with The Standard, Dr Joyce Mutinda, Chair National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) said there is more to the two-thirds gender rule as it transcends beyond women's leadership in elective and appointive positions.

"It touches on people with disabilities, the youth, the marginalised, and the minority so that the gender rule is not used in reference to women only as this would be wrong, and it would make the women's position weaker," says Dr Mutinda.

She notes that there is a need for engagement and discussion around Gender parity. She says she is lobbying MPs to strategise on achieving an all-inclusive two-thirds gender rule "to avoid going back to where it all started - an amendment of the Constitution."

- Additional reporting by Grace Nganga and Christine Koech