It was a fantastic idea when constitutional experts chose to include two articles in the Constitution requiring Parliament to have not more than two-thirds of the lawmakers from one gender.
But after nearly seven years of missed deadlines, failed amendments and legislative dithering, it appears that implementing Article 81(b) of the Constitution to ensure that “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender” is harder than anticipated, especially for the National Assembly and the Senate.
Many women have opted to go for the County Woman Rep seat which gets them into the National Assembly. But that is an affirmative action seat and it doesn’t ease the situation, because, anyway, 47 women must be elected, one for every county.
The real difference will be felt when and if more women are elected in the 290 constituencies, or to the Senate. The trouble is, very few of them are throwing their hats into the elective ring.
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The Sunday Standard combed through data from the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), and it shows that of the total of 1,811 people who signed up for the party primaries in all the 10 parties that submitted their lists, only 152 women want to be elected in constituencies or as senators. That works out to eight women for every 100 aspirants or put another way, just one woman, for every ten aspirants.
It is possible that in some constituencies, some women were given direct nominations by their parties because they have no opponents, and therefore no party primaries were held, but even so, this data gives an ominous signal on the constitutionality of the next Parliament, especially if the number of women do not increase to comply with the two-thirds gender principle.
According to the IEBC data, President Uhuru Kenyatta’s Jubilee Party which has 1,015 aspirants for Parliament has the highest number of women aspirants — 108 women. Of these, 90 have signed up for parliamentary contests which began yesterday, and 18 are eyeing seats in the Senate.
The number is less than the 117 minimum MPs required to meet the two-thirds gender threshold in the 349-member National Assembly. In that case, at least 70 of these women who have vied in the party primaries need to win the primaries, and go ahead and win in the General Election in order to avert a constitutional crisis.
Raila Odinga’s Orange Democratic Movement is the second with 36 women —33 who want to get elected in their respective constituencies to get into the National Assembly, while three want to get elected in their respective counties to get into the Senate. Musalia Mudavadi’s Amani National Congress is the next in the tally with five women competing with men for the National Assembly ticket.
These are Mary Makokha (Butula), Catherine Bunnett (Matayos), Mary Ojode (Ndhiwa), Getrude Mugoi (Bomachoge Borabu) and Nyatich Getrudah (Bomachoge Borabu).
In Kalonzo Musyoka’s Wiper Democratic Movement Party, only two women signed up to compete with men in party primaries for the parliamentary seat. These are nominated senator Judith Sijeny, who now wants to be the next MP for Lang’ata and Lilian Mogendi who wants the Wiper ticket in South Mugirango.
Wiper has no woman participating in party primaries for the Senate seat. Isaac Ruto’s Chama cha Mashinani only managed to convince one woman —32-year-old Janeth Chepkirui—to throw her heart in the ring. She faced off with three men for the Bomet East parliamentary seat.
Alfred Mutua’s Maendeleo Chap Chap, Peter Munya’s Party of National Unity, Moses Wetang’ula’s Ford Kenya, the Progressive Party of Kenya all have no women aspirants participating in the party primaries.
And it is not just in Parliament where the problem is. There is also a looming headache that will strike the Council of Governors, hitherto, an exclusive club of elected men from each of the 47 counties. When they sit together in Nairobi, that principle holds.
But a look at the party lists shows that out of all ten parties, only two have women seeking the gubernatorial seat in the party primaries.
ODM has only one woman — Migori’s Anne Anyanga — while Jubilee has five women: former devolution minister Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Runyenjes MP Cecily Mbarire (Embu), Deputy Speaker Joyce Laboso (Bomet), former MP Margaret Wanjiru (Nairobi) and Yulita Chebotip Mitei (Nandi).