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We must achieve the constitutional gender quota

By Kethi Kilonzo | August 2nd 2015 at 23:17:00 GMT +0300

The Constitution creates a special place for women, persons with disabilites, youth, marginalized communities and ethnic and other minorities.

Article 27 (8) requires the Government to enact laws and policies to ensure that women represent a third of the members of all elective and appointive bodies.

This is in addition to the protection under Article 100 which is meant to make it easier for women, the youth, disabled, minorities and marginalized communities to be elected or nominated to join Parliament or Senate.

Women have actively campaigned for a law to ensure that at least a third of the members of the National Assembly and Senate are women.  They were unable to achieve this for the 2013 General Election.

However, with the publication of the recent bill to amend the Constitution, it is likely that by the end of this year such a law would have been passed. The draft law proposes to achieve the one third quota through nominations.

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If the elected women representatives in the National Assembly and the Senate are less than a third of the total membership after the 2017 General Elections, both houses will have much larger membership because women will be nominated to ensure the one-third quota is met.

This is a good step forward in realizing one of the dreams of the Constitution. Much more can be done.

Nomination of women to special seats does not increase their ability to independently compete for political seats. More than likely, once a woman receives one nomination it will probably be the last.

There are other ways in which women can claim their rightful seat at the political table. One route is to reserve through law one third of the constituencies and counties for women candidates only.

The special one third constituencies and counties can be picked on a rotational basis. This would mean that in every 15 years each constituency and county will be led by a woman for at least one term of five years.

Alternatively, Parliament can amend the Elections and Political Parties law and make it compulsory for political parties who want to contest in any election to have a third of their nominated candidates as women. This can be coupled with a mandatory rule that parties can only nominate women to the special seats in the National and County Assemblies and the Senate from the pool of the women candidates who lost their competitive elections.

This will ensure that political parties nominate women candidates to secure their quota of special seats, and at the same time encourage more women to enter into competitive elections. Women should have adequate representation in the legislative and executive bodies at the County and National level.

Parliament should also consider passing a law requiring that for every post that requires duality of nomination, the candidates for such a post should not be of the same gender. For example, a presidential candidate should nominate a deputy of a different gender.

The candidate for the post of governor should likewise nominate a deputy of a different gender. It is important for women to continue the fight to secure their rightful beyond the National Assembly and the Senate.

The dream in Article 27 (8) of the Constitution is to also ensure that women constitute a third of the members of Cabinet, the Kenya Defence Forces, the National Police Service, the National Youth Service, political parties, governing arms of political parties, the Judiciary and its support staff, independent commissions, parastatals, boards of parastatals, and so on.

The next battle call by women should be a nationwide compulsory census of all government bodies, and their governing arms, at the national and county level, to determine whether they all meet the one-third Constitutional quota.

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