EU offers proposals to have more elected women in Kenya

Published by Daily Nation
On 29 September 2016 saa 01:59
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The European Union is collaborating with Kenya for alternative methods that will have more women elected in the next elections.

A set of proposals publicised Wednesday show the government is working with the European bloc to solve a problem that has defeated it three times already.

Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs CS Sicily Kariuki met with envoys from the European Union after which they tabled a set of suggestions that will bring in more women once the next elections are done.

Besides returning proposals to amend electoral laws in parliament, the two sides hope to encourage voters to elect women by demonstrating success stories of known women leaders, educating masses on importance of gender balance in politics, supporting female candidates as well as using the media to demonstrate legal requirements for elective posts.

“It is true that the first two attempts, we didn’t manage to get the two-thirds gender rule through parliament.

“Even for the third time, we didn’t manage because we didn’t get quorum,” Mrs Kariuki told reporters after the meeting at the EU Head of Delegation’s residence in Nairobi on Wednesday.

“It is true to note that between now and the next elections, there is still be time to salvage the situation. It is for this reason the government has written and moved the matter back again to both houses to be able to get a resolution between now and the time we are going to the General Election.”

Fourth attempt

The Gender CS said the other efforts will run parallel to a fourth attempt at changing laws to have more women elected in parliament.

The European Union envoys said they were ready to support the country’s bid to resolve the problem because it fits in the global agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) passed last year at the UN meeting in New York.

“We believe providing women with equal access to education, healthcare, decent work and political representation is vital, everywhere in the world, to the full development of inclusive societies as well as successful and sustainable economies,” said EU Head of Delegation to Kenya, Mr Stefano Dejak.

“Yet women and girls continue to face discrimination and violence and are largely underrepresented in decision making processes.”

Despite being a constitutional requirement that at least a third of all posts in appointive and elective posts be filled by a different gender, it has been problematic for Kenya to fill them.

This is largely because there is no formula to do that and the fact that the electorate are free to choose complicates it even more.

In 2012, the Supreme Court allowed the government up to August 27, 2015 to have passed all relevant laws.

That deadline was missed but the Parliament extended it to August 27 this year which was also missed.

In the new proposals, the government hopes to circumvent the legal hurdles involved in putting more women in elective posts by going directly to the electorate and asking them to choose women.

“The strategy aims at profiling women in leadership already and demonstrating their development achievements that they have made in the spaces in which they were elected,” Mrs Kariuki said.

Kenya has the lowest gender ration in the East African Community (EAC) despite having the biggest economy.

Of the 290 elected MPs in the National Assembly, only 16 are women and 5 nominated out of the 12 positions.

In addition, there and 47 County women representatives meaning there are 68 women overall or 19.5 per cent. The Senate has 18 women but none of them was elected.

Amend constitution

There had been proposals to handle this gap. One group proposed to amend the constitution so that gender rule is implemented progressively and remove the five-year limit. Activists disagreed with this.

Another group has proposed the elimination of county women MP seats, which was also opposed.

The latest compromise position includes allowing political parties to nominate additional women to fill up slots, but it is also yet to garner absolute support.

The EU will also support government programmes against gender violence, a factor that has scared most women contenders away from politics.

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Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Sicily Kariuki (left) with European Union head of delegation to Kenya Stefano Dejak, at a media briefing at the EU head of delegation residence in Nairobi, September 28, 2016.