Team rejects free seats for women in Parliament


Health CS Susan Nakhumicha (fourth left), and NSDCC CEO Dr Ruth Masha together with Women leaders from the Western region during Women's Summit. [Mercy Kahenda, Standard]

A team appointed by the government to find ways of realising the two-thirds gender rule has declined a proposal to double the number of seats to be allocated to women.

The Multi-Sectoral Working Group (MSWG) has instead proposed a top-up model similar to what obtains at county assemblies to achieve the goal.

“After considering all the proposals that were given to us by the different stakeholders, we resolved to present the gender top-up, which is a similar provision as what is provided for in the County Assemblies," said Daisy Amdany, co-chairperson of MSWG.

She said that with this plan if the elections do not meet the two-third gender principle, not more than two-thirds will be nominated.

Amdany said the reason they have rejected additional seats for women such as the Women Rep seats is that it will go against the principle as the two-third gender principle is not about women.

"If we went the route of doubling the seats for women, then it will lock out many of them from other dual-gender elective seats. The two-third gender rule will be seen as a mechanism for women whereas it’s about any gender," Amdany said.

She said that their top up model is already happening in Rwanda, where the country has 62.64 per cent of women and when they need to resolve that issue, then top up is applied.

Speaking while receiving the report, Cabinet Secretary for Gender, Culture, the Arts and Heritage Aisha Jumwa said there is political goodwill to achieve the goal.

She said President William Ruto supports the move and hoped that Parliament will also pass the gender rule.

“We are very optimistic that this time round, we will get it right,” Jumwa said on Friday.

She said the report would be delivered to Parliament immediately.

Overall, the team proposed an implementation framework to facilitate gender representation in elective and appointive positions.

They are categorised into legislative proposals, policy interventions and administrative actions to actualise and accelerate the realisation of the gender principle.

On legislative proposals, the team has drafted the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2024, Political Parties Act Amendment Bill, 2024 and Elections Act Amendment Bill, 2024.

The proposal to amend the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2024, builds on The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2023 (Beth Syengo Bill).

This Bill, published by Senator Beth Syengo on March 29, 2023, was a replica of Senators Farhiya Haji and Mutula Kilonzo Junior Bill, 2019, except that it provided that a person was only eligible to be nominated once to the National Assembly, Senate and County Assemblies.

The Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill, 2018 (Aden Duale Bill) provided that persons nominated serve for a maximum of two terms, which MSWG supported.

The Beth Syengo Bill is yet to be tabled for debate before the Senate and its mover agreed to await the outcome of the MSWG proposals.

In September 2020, then Chief Justice David Maraga asked then-President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament over failure to pass two-thirds gender rule but this was not successful.

Jumwa said she hopes MPs will pass the bill before Parliament goes to the next recess.

The CS said the report handover marks the beginning of the next phase, which will now be Parliament-led.

"This journey has taken us more than 10 years and there are myriad of reasons why we have not achieved this principle of the Constitution. However, this is a turning point because what was lacking then was political goodwill including from the highest office of and not just in talking but doing," Jumwa said.

She said the agenda of achieving the of two third gender rule was given a clean bill of health by the National Dialogue Committee (Nadco).

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