Across the world, gender equality has been a topic of discussion for years.
While some countries have taken major strides towards equal representation in various spheres, others continue to struggle to address social cultural and other challenges that inhibit formulation and implementation of programmes and policies aimed at women’s empowerment.
Kenya is one of the countries that have legislated heavily on women’s issues, including economic empowerment. From the country’s development blueprint, Vision 2030, to the Medium Term Expenditure Framework, to the Constitution, Kenya’s legislative and policy framework is intentional in its response to gender-related issues. Yet, women are still not accorded equal chances in social, economic and political fields. They remain under-represented in policymaking, leadership and management levels with many having to take up low-paying jobs, mostly in the informal sectors of the economy. Despite many affirmative action measures, political representation is still heavily skewed in favour of men. This is especially true for high-ranking offices such as the Presidency, and governorship. Despite efforts towards gender equality, women’s marginalisation in positions of decision making is glaring.
This is despite the advantages that come with female representation in any sector of the economy. In recent years, female leaders across the world have demonstrated commendable capabilities in running economic affairs at national, regional and international levels. From USA’s Kamala Harris, to the WTO’s, Nigerian-American Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, to Tanzania’s Suluhu Hassan and our own CJ Martha Koome, women have taken up critical roles and have proven that they have all it takes to lead. Unfortunately, in elective politics, society is yet to fully trust the leadership of women. This coupled with the challenges of running successful campaigns, including the huge amount of resources required, locks out many female candidates. Young women face even more discrimination based not only on their age, but also their gender.
Nevertheless, the question of the number of women in elective positions cannot be ignored now that the country is getting ready for elections. It is even more critical to talk gender and women’s representation as the two main coalitions hold discussions on the most suitable candidate for deputy president.
Kenya is ready for a female president but since the odds are against female presidential candidates, it is time to think seriously about giving the post of deputy president to a woman. Selecting a female running mate can only be advantageous for a presidential candidate. It will reinforce the commitment of the coalition in question to gender equality, which is a great campaigning tool. A female running mate will also most likely attract female voters.
It is time to give women a chance to lead. We are not short of qualified, tried and tested female political leaders. Martha Karua, for example, has proven time and again that she has the commitment, focus and guts to play in the otherwise harsh terrain that is the political arena. She is qualified to occupy the second most powerful political office in the country.
Dr Kiambati is a communications trainer and consultant, Kenyatta University