EU Project boosting women political aspirants countrywide

As the 2017 general elections drum beats get louder, women aspirants in 18 counties may have a better chance of getting elected following the roll out of a Shs. 216 million, European Union (EU) project that is training women on skills and tactics of campaigning.

Through the European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights, the project was launched in January 2016 and will run until November 2017. It aims to bolster the capabilities of women politicians through training and mentorship and increase women membership in political parties. The project also plans to increase citizen’s awareness on the importance of equal participation for women in the politics.

Four established NGOs have been tasked to implement the project in different counties: We Effect and its partners will work with women in Kiambu, Taita Taveta, Laikipia, and Homa Bay. Media Focus on Africa Foundation and its partners will assist women in West Pokot, Mombasa, Trans Nzoia, Nyandarua, Kajiado, Kisumu, Narok and Nandi. ACORD and its partners will work with women in Bungoma and Oxfam GB and its partners will roll out their plans in Kisii, Nakuru, Wajir, Turkana and Nairobi.

We Effect, formerly known as the Swedish Cooperative Centre, together with two other CSOs; GROOTS Kenya, and MEGEN, are rolling out the project called Women Political Representation Enhanced (WOPRE).

The NGO released a recent study which showed that women political aspirants seem to have received poor or biased coverage by the press in every election. They plan to transform the media image of female leaders and politicians so that the wider electorate can get to know them and judge them fairly in their leadership quest and promote gender equality. This publicity is expected to assist in convincing the community that women leaders are just as capable as men. The project also plans to use community organizations to champion gender equality among members so that they can consider women for elective positions.

We Effect has started mapping out the four counties, targeting potential women aspirants. They plan to make sure that the current elected leaders retain their seats and train more women so that they can run competitively and win more seats.

In Kiambu, the NGO is targeting to retain the 29 women MCAs in the assembly and the two women MPs and women representative. They also plan to encourage the 15 women who contested in 2013 for MCA to run again and urge additional 62 women aspirants – two for each of the 31 wards in the county to stand. They will train 12 women to vie for the National Assembly seats and one woman to compete for the governor’s post.

This similar plan will be rolled out by We Effect and its partners in Laikipia, Taita Taveta and Homa Bay counties.

In order to realize their goals, the project is currently working with women in political leadership, female aspirants, political parties, Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), county officials, leaders, media and community groups to help increase the number of women successfully participating in the upcoming general elections.

As it stands today, Kenya still has a long way to go in electing females to the legislatures. Currently women politicians represent only 19 per cent in the National Assembly, in the Senate it is 27 per cent, and in the County Assemblies it is 34 per cent. Despite the increase, many of these legislators are nominated and were not competitively elected.

Though the 2010 constitution delivered significant progress in female representation, mandating 30 per cent representation, Kenyan women continue to face challenges in elective politics.