Legislators challenge Wajir women to seek elective positions

Wajir Woman Representative Fatuma Jehow with students from Chief Adano Secondary School during a sensitization tour by Kenya Women Parliamentary Association in Wajir on Friday. [Mohamed Saman, Standard]

The Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) has challenged women in Wajir to seek leadership positions.

KEWOPA chairperson Leah Sankaire and area Woman Representative Fatuma Jehow, while on a sensitization tour of the region, said there is a need to have more women in leadership as a way of promoting gender equality.

The association, whose members are women parliamentarians from across political parties, works to promote and protect democracy and advocate for women's rights.

Part of their efforts has been the push to attain the two-thirds gender rule, which Kenya has failed to achieve. Despite election promises to promote gender parity in government and the two-third gender principle in other public appointments, President William Ruto's cabinet failed to meet either threshold.

Even parliament, which saw the highest number of women elected to the National Assembly and Senate since independence, also failed to achieve the two-thirds gender rule.

The law provides that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective and appointive bodies shall be of the same gender. The government is also required to take measures to implement the principle. On the other hand, parliament (National Assembly and Senate), is required to enact legislation to promote the representation of women and other marginalised groups in parliament, according to the constitution, even though the mark has often been missed.

And during the campaign in Wajir, the women leaders said they are also advocating for enhanced access to education by women, to empower them, and increase the engagement of women in social discourses.

"The future is women. That is why I want to encourage girls and women from northern Kenya to work hard and take up leadership roles. As a woman, just know that you can become anything...governor, senator, MP, or even president. Yes you can," said Jehow.

Wajir Woman Representative Fatuma Jehow (second right) enjoys a light moment with local women during a sensitization campaign for women by Kenya Women Parliamentary Association in Wajir on Friday. [Mohamed Saman, Standard]

She added: "Women play an important role in the betterment of our country. To be more specific, our Somali women are known for their resilience and entrepreneurship. They are good at business. They are often the main income earners in their families, all the reasons they need more visibility so they can take up more responsibilities in the society."

Jehow lamented that leadership and local politics are male-dominated due to cultural norms that have locked women out.

"This has been a major impediment to women in their efforts to take up leadership or participate in key decisions in society or even family. Clans have also posed a major hindrance to women, not only in Wajir, but across the entire region," she said.

Sankaire called on women and girls to break the barriers and aim to take up leadership roles.

Said Yasmin Abdullahi, a resident who attended the meeting, said: "We are happy to see women leaders converge here to talk to us, and especially encourage and motivate girls. You are doing a great job and I hope you continue so women and girls can be empowered to realise their potential."

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