How BBI champions gender parity in leadership
By Cornel Rasanga | February 28th 2021
“What is good for the goose is good for the gander,” a popular saying goes.
Though they hold unlimited potential, Kenyan women still face numerous hurdles in accessing available opportunities. For this reason, they are underrepresented in decision-making processes at all levels.
The Building Bridges Initiative (BBI), through the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2020, has a raft of provisions to ensure effective women’s participation. After years of painstaking efforts to attain the two-thirds gender rule, women now have a reason to smile. Topping the list of provisions is the proposed 50 per cent representation of women in the Senate. Clause 14 of the Bill proposes to amend Article 98 (Membership of the Senate) to structure the Senate’s membership to achieve gender parity. The Senate will have 94 members, each county represented by a woman, and a man elected by voters.
It is worth noting that the BBI taskforce championed adoption of a political representation system that will make it mandatory for Parliament and the Executive to ensure the two-thirds gender rule is observed.
In addition to the proposed 50 per cent representation of women in the Senate proposed in the original Bill, the revised Bill also provides more effective means of addressing the perennial question of lack of fair women’s representation in the National Assembly.
Special top-up seats would be allocated to ensure compliance with the constitutional principle that no more than two-thirds of the National Assembly membership is of the same gender. Candidates who unsuccessfully contested for the constituency seats would be given priority in the nomination in filling these special seats. However, the affirmative action for top-up will only last for 15 years.
But of great significance is clause seven of the Bill which proposes to amend Article 82 (Legislation on elections) to empower Parliament to enact legislation imposing sanctions on a political party that fails to ensure its list of nominated candidates complies with the principle that not more than one-third of such candidates are of the same gender. This is to compel political parties to facilitate actualisation of the gender rule in the electoral process from the nomination stage.
In addition, of 1,450 candidates for the Member of County Assembly (MCAs), 483 should be women. This is excluding the nominated slots in the National Assembly, Senate and County Assemblies. The 50:50 representations in the Senate offers equal power significantly to determine county allocations now set at 35 per cent, with 5 per cent going to the Ward Development Fund. Thanks to the Bill, Women Senators will now have an opportunity to include in the County Fund Allocation Formula, the Last Mile Water Connectivity to ensure 100 per cent water connection. In addition to participating in these, the women senators, now in a better bargaining position, will have the opportunity to allocate 5 per cent of county funds to women.
Another empowerment aspect of the Bill is that the Council of Governors (COG) will have two nominees (a man and a woman) at the Commission for Revenue Allocation (CRA) that generates the County Revenue Formula. The Bill also provides for Governor and Deputy Governor to be of opposite gender, with the deputy being assigned a portfolio.
Then there is protection and entrenchment of Article 43 on the Rights to Health, Housing, Food, Water, Education, and Social Security as priority budget items in public finance. Further, clause 24 of the Bill proposes to amend Article 132 (Functions of the President) to mandate the President to report on the progress made towards achieving the economic and social rights guaranteed under Article 43 by submitting a report for debate to the National Assembly.
The Bill also seeks to amend the Micro and Small Enterprises Act, 2012 to give youth-owned enterprises a seven-year tax break and establish business incubation centres across the country to provide business advisory services, which includes access to capital and government contracts. Further, the Authority will register and certify enterprises owned by young people, women, and people with disabilities.
The onus is on the womenfolk to embrace BBI and vie for elective positions next year. Women organisations should step up their efforts to train and empower women interested in joining politics and reaping from the gains BBI has offered.
- The writer is the Governor, Siaya County.
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