2022 was a milestone year for women in Kenya

The gender agenda front has a lot to celebrate this year! 

First off, this year's elections brought a record number of female leaders to the fore, and women's rights have continually risen up in the political agenda.

We compile a recap of moments that have pushed women's agenda a notch higher in 2022.

From no female governors in 2013 to now seven governors, three senators and 29 constituency seats won by women. [Standard]
  1. Kenya elects the highest number of female leaders

The number of women entering Kenya's political sphere has grown over the years, reaching a record high in the 2022 election year. 

Kenyans proved their willingness to shade off the patriarchal mirage by electing 30 female MPs, up from 23 in 2017, seven female governors, up from three in 2017, and three female senators, the same number as in 2017.

It was refreshing, too, to see that three out of four vice-presidential candidates were female and double the number of women battling it out for gubernatorial seats compared with previous elections.

Kenya and Somalia are almost at par as the countries with the lowest number of female legislators in East Africa. Two out of ten members of parliament are female in the country, lagging far behind Rwanda, where six out of ten MPs are female. Uganda, Burundi, and Tanzania all have more than three out of ten MPs as females. 

"We saw more and more women running for elective positions this year, which tells us it has never been a problem about women wanting to participate in politics," says Dr Gladys Ngao, a sociologist and lecturer at Kenyatta University. "We hope more and more women leaders can take up their rightful positions and dismantle existing systematic exclusion of women."

Nelly Cheboi after being named CNN Hero of The Year. [Source: CNN]
  1. Nelly Cheboi, 29, named CNN hero of the year

It is not every day people quit lucrative jobs in America at the peak of their youth to directly solve problems in their native developing countries. Nelly Cheboi proved to the world that it is possible; in turn, it didn't take the world long to recognise her selflessness. 

Cheboi quit her high-flying software engineering job in Chicago and used her experience and her entire earnings to purchase and facilitate computers for school children. She co-founded Technologically Literate Africa (TechLit Africa) and went on to clinch the CNN hero of the year award, which comes with cash prizes, grants, training, and support opportunities. 

Cheboi gave a resonant acceptance speech, saying, "Every year, people are graduating into the corporate world without ever using a computer. This forces them to go back to the village with their education."

"Cheboi's deep understanding of her community's needs is the touch female leadership provides," said Dr Ngao.

Gold medalist Faith Kipyegon, of Kenya, celebrates after the women's 1500-meter run the at the World Athletics Championships on Monday, July 18, 2022, in Eugene, Ore. [AP Photo]
  1. Faith Kipyegon shines like a diamond and bags one

Kipyegon, once again, in 2022, proved the power of consistency and self-belief. In September this year, Faith Kipyegon clocked 4:00.44 to win the women's 1500m and racked up her third Diamond League title on the final day of this year's League.

"I wanted to finish my season in this way," said Kipyegon after the race. The dominant force in the women's 1500m and world champion once more demonstrated that the finish line is as important as the starting, if not more important. 

  1. Launch of a special SGBV court 

In March 2022, Kenya launched the first-ever specialised SGBV Court at the Shanzu Law Courts in Mombasa to handle sexual violence cases. 

During the launch, Justice Martha Koome gave a directive to the Judiciary against adjourning any Sexual Gender-Based Violence (SGBV) cases. This was timely as a report by The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODDP) revealed a report recently showing that pending sexual violence cases in courts exceeded by ten times the number of convicted cases. The reason, the report said, was due to interference with witnesses, and undue withdrawal of cases, lack of technical personnel and adequate resources.

The Head of the SGBV Division at ODDP and Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, Jackie Njagi, said specialised SGBV courts will reduce the time sexual violence cases pend in court and will be more targeted technically and more automated. “There’s a promise to roll out in other counties, ” she told the Standard.

Evidence by the UN supports creation of specialised SGBV courts as a win to gender-based inequalities because “they provide a stronger possibility that court personnel will be gender-sensitive, experienced in the unique characteristics of violence against women cases, and may be able to process cases more quickly, reducing the burden on victims.” 

Adding, “judges who consistently deal with cases of violence against women may see repeat offenders and can take appropriate action. Correspondingly, the fact that fewer individuals will deal with these cases can help deter future violence because offenders will expect increasing penalties and greater accountability.” 

  1. Kenya's first implementation of the 2013 Matrimonial Property Act acknowledging housework as work

Mary Wambui's divorce settlement in the Kenyan High Court set a precedent for the legal acknowledgement of women's labour across Africa. 

In the landmark case, divorcee and mother of three Mary Wambui was awarded half of her marital home following 13 years of marriage. The high court judge presiding over the case ruled that housework is work, providing the first implementation of Kenya's 2013 Matrimonial Property Act since it was passed. 

The Act defines domestic work and management of the matrimonial home, child care, companionship, management of the family business or property, and farm work as monetary and non-monetary "contribution[s]" that may be factored into court rulings during divorce proceedings.

Speaking to BBC Africa, Wambui said, "When I saw the ruling, I was very, very happy and relieved. I felt that my youth, my youthful days, did not go in vain." 

In Wambui's case, the 13 years she spent performing domestic duties in her matrimonial home were considered to have been significant contributions to the marriage, hence her compensation.