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Blow for Kenyan women as MPs reject special election kitty

By Alphonce Shiundu | April 21st 2016

NAIROBI: Women in Kenya Thursday suffered a double loss in the National Assembly when male MPs rejected changes to the law to set up a special fund to give all women candidates in the country campaign money in the next elections.

The MPs also shot down a proposal to reward political parties that elect more women in Parliament with a larger share of the Sh3 billion Political Parties Fund.

In a heated debate, in which women MPs were overpowered in a verbal vote, the male MPs said the two clauses were "spoiling the mood" to approve the constitutional amendment to shore up the number of women in Parliament. They said the proposal for a fund was "discriminatory and unconstitutional".

The chairman of the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee Samuel Chepkonga (Ainabkoi) faced a vicious tide from the male lawmakers when he tabled the amendments to the Political Parties (amendment) Act.

"Men control the capital, so women must be given a fund to effectively compete in elections," said Chepkonga as he pushed for a Special Election Fund for women candidates to be set up and administered by the Registrar of Political Parties.

But Majority Leader Aden Duale (Garissa Township), Deputy Minority Whip Chris Wamalwa (Kiminini), Malulu Injendi (Malava) and Mohammed Abdi (Banissa) rejected the fund. They said it discriminated against men; condemned women as poor, and that it ran afoul to the provisions of the Public Finance Management.

"You cannot discriminate how you disburse public funds. It is unconstitutional to disburse public funds to just one gender. Let us not create an issue that women in this country have no money, that they cannot win seats. The people of Kenya don't elect leaders based on gender," said Duale.

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Wamalwa warned the women MPs to 'tread carefully" or else the male lawmakers will frustrate the constitutional amendment to enact the two-thirds gender rule. He called the clause to set up a fund "funny".

"When you look at some of the women here, such as Janet Nangabo (Trans Nzoia County MP), the hair on her head cost Sh10,000 to make. These women have money," said Malulu Injendi as he opposed the amendment.

The other issue was that if the women got a special fund, MPs will be obligated to set up another fund for the youth and the disabled.

Chepkonga was upset that all his proposals, which he termed as a "fall-back plan" to encourage more women to vie in national politics.

"I did not know that there are many anti-progress forces in this House," a resigned Chepkonga said.
The women MPs tried to put their case arguing that they needed political parties to back them, and the State to give them money, so that they do not just depend on nominations to make it to the august House.

"Women never have resources to campaign, that is why very few of them participate in politics. We need to support this fund," said Christine Ombaka (Siaya County MP).

Women MPs Aisha Jumwa (Kilifi), Dorcas Kedogo (Vihiga), Zuleikha Hassan (nominated), Janet Nangabo (Trans Nzoia), Fatuma Ibrahim (Wajir) pleaded with the male MPs to back the proposals but their pleas fell on deaf ears.

"We really need this fund and the criteria for sharing the fund, so that political parties do not just nominate women, but they follow up and ensure that the nominees win their seats," said Kedogo.
But Peter Kaluma (Homa Bay) gave an example where in Kisumu West, ODM lost the seat after it nominated Rosa Buyu to fight it out with Olago Aluoch in the last General Election, and concluded that Kenyans won't be forced to elect women.

Chepkonga had proposed that 15 per cent of the political parties fund be shared out based on the number of the women that are elected to Parliament.

Sabina Chege told the men in the House to show respect to women MPs.

"Every time you make a decision about women, make the decision taking into account how your mother would have managed it, not just based on the women who are campaigning against you," said Chege.


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