Women dominate gender parity task force

Public Service, Gender, and Affirmative Action CS Aisha Jumwa. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A Cabinet secretary has picked only one man in a 17-member multi-sectoral working group that is supposed to advance gender parity in the country.

Through a gazette notice dated August 15, Public Service, Gender, and Affirmative Action CS Aisha Jumwa selected 16 women and one man to the team responsible for achieving the two-thirds gender principle in government.

The team includes a chairperson, Veronica Nduva, and co-chairperson, Daisy Amdany.

Other members comprise Harriet Chiggai, Faith Nziku Kasiva, Anne Nderitu, Tecla Tum, Angela Wambugu, Mercy Jelimo, Beatrice Kamau, Rahab Muhia, Mitchelle Oyuga, Lucy Mitei, Sarah Muhoya, Ruth Makuthu, Beth Michoma, Stellah Chepkemboi Ruttoh, and Frankline Mukhwanja.

Article 27 of the Constitution mandates that no more than two-thirds of appointive or elective body members be of the same gender.

While Executive Order No. 1 of 2023 tasked the Ministry of Public Service, Gender, and Affirmative Action with formulating gender and affirmative action policies, these recent appointments raise concerns about the government’s commitment to gender equality principles.

Similar to former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration, President William Ruto’s regime also faces challenges with the two-thirds gender principle. Already, there is a petition seeking a court order declaring Ruto’s Cabinet unconstitutional due to non-compliance with the one-third gender rule.

Operation Linda Jamii’s petition argues that Ruto’s Cabinet falls short of the two-thirds gender principle. Out of the 22 CSs, 15 are male. Factoring in the president, his deputy, and Attorney General Justin Muturi, the Cabinet comprises 18 men and seven women.

Of the 51 principal secretaries appointed by Ruto, 11 are women, accounting for 21 per cent, which is below his earlier commitment of 50 per cent women’s representation.

In 2020, Chief Justice David Maraga advised President Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament for failing to uphold the constitutional two-thirds gender rule.

In 2012, Attorney General Githu Muigai sought a Supreme Court advisory opinion on implementing the gender principle in the 2013 General Election. The Supreme Court allowed Parliament a five-year grace period, which meant compliance by August 27, 2018.

But Parliament breached the court-set deadline, taking three more years to address the two-thirds rule, with limited action following discussions.

Civil society groups attributed this inaction to political apathy and Parliament’s disobedience of court orders.

Despite the government’s failure to implement the gender rule, a December 9, 2022, memorandum from President Ruto to the Speakers of the National Assembly and the Senate proposed a formula to achieve this, potentially securing 20 additional seats for women through affirmative action, dependent on election outcomes.

Currently, Kenya ranks lowest in gender representation in East Africa, with women constituting only 9.8 per cent and 20.7 per cent of the 10th and 11th Parliaments, respectively.­