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One-third gender rule a raw deal for women

By Michael Ndonye | September 4th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

As we celebrate the constitutional anniversary, I have a quarrel with women leaders. Not a bad one; a little quarrel brings sobriety. I'm persuaded that the one-third gender rule is a progressive idea. However, implementing it through the nomination of women into offices makes them objects of control. What do I mean?

In Deuteronomy 15, Hebrew slaves were supposed to serve their masters for six years and be freed in the seventh—the year of Jubilee. However, the slaves had a choice to make; to leave and self-establish or remain if they were comfortable with their masters. If the slave chose to stay, the master would take a metallic borer and pin their ear on the door, thus making them slaves forever.

Women, seek to be elected and be masters of yourselves or pursue reservations of positions in which you’ll be nominated as slaves forever. To be own masters comes with responsibilities. You must be ready to spend, own political parties and battle it out on the ballot with men. Yes!

Whenever you fear the responsibility that comes with this freedom, you sign to remain under your former masters forever—you must bear the hot metal pinning you on the door of servitude. Enough of this poetry. Let me simplify my supposition.

Women are approximately 50 per cent of the world population, but they hardly hold a quarter of political seats. Besides outlier countries like Rwanda, Cuba and Bolivia, elsewhere there are a few women, if any, in politics and nominations are not the solution.

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Amend the constitution

I salute Ms Kaluki Ngilu of Kitui, Ms Anne Waiguru of Kirinyaga and Ms Joyce Laboso of Bomet (posthumously). I also commend all women who battled it out with men and were elected as senators and MPs in the 2017 elections. For the nominated women, sit back I amplify what you’ve been desperately whispering!

Without resolve, it is impossible to exercise freedom in politics, for those who cometh to politics must believe in themselves and know that posterity rewards those who seek leadership diligently.

For this reason, efforts must be made to amend the constitution to ensure electoral campaigns are not done on unequal grounds. Isn’t it possible to legislate ways of eliminating expensive campaign strategies to create a level ground for all?

Political horse-race campaigns where candidates are weighed by their display of wealth, pomp and ability to pull crowds through sensational entrances into stadia should be checked and curtailed. All candidates should be accorded equal chances without the need for exorbitant spending. That’s what women leaders should be thinking about on the tenth anniversary of the 2010 Constitution.

Why is this important? Women who have battled it out on their own in politics speak loudly. Talk of Martha Karua and Kaluki Ngilu—iron ladies who own political parties. Those who seek nomination are vulnerable to modern politics of enslavement.

3.4 per cent

Take, for example, the case of Senate. You must have noted that it is easier to lobby for Bills in the Senate than in Parliament. Senate has a whopping 20 nominated members, making 30 per cent of the 67 senators. Parliament has only 12 nominated members which account for 3.4 per cent of the 349 seats.

These 20 nominated senators are 'voting machines' whenever political parties are pushing Bills. The 'nominated' have no decisions of their own; they must toe the line of their nominating party boss. This does not require substantiation.

Many who have defied this political truth like senators Naomi Waqo, Imana Dekow, Millicent Omanga, Victor Prengei and Mary Yiane have stood before party disciplinary committees. Of course, politics is about loyalty. No party nominates its ideological challenger.

During Senate sessions elected members refer to their colleagues as 'nominated'. The term is used to remind them that their choices are limited to those of their political party bosses—they are dispensable and expendable.

Senator Waqo descried this intimidation during the Monday 13 August session; that the  (nominated senators) couldn’t make decisions due to interference by their party leaders.

The senators, one after another, confessed having switched off their mobile phones to avoid lobbying calls. Had they the power to act independently, they would pick the calls intrepidly knowing their jobs are secure in the hands of electorates. But nay!

Unless we level the ground for women through changing the law and women decide to pay the cost of seeking power from the electorate, they will remain at the mercy of the parties that nominate them. And this is not a curse.

-Dr Ndonye is a political economist of media and communication

One-third rule Gender rule Constitution 2010 Parliament
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