The search for gender equality in political leadership and decision making in Kenya, has been a long and winding journey.
While trends from 2003 to date indicate a significant increase of women in the public service and in politics, the proportion of women to men in all the positions analysed still remains very low.
Representation of women in the public service has risen from 23 in 2003 to 39 percent in 2014, female Cabinet secretaries have increased from 17 in 2008 to 25 percent in 2016; while female principal secretaries increased from 11.7 in 2008 to 32.6 percent in 2016 via Executive orders.
Lest we forget, Kenya is party to various international and regional instruments on gender equality in all spheres of life.
These include the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies (1985), the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights and the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocal, 2003), the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (2004) and the African Union Gender Policy.
These instruments should act as a constant reminder to our country to fulfil our international commitments on gender equity.
Our Bill of Rights calls for recognition and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms in order to preserve the dignity of individuals and communities and to promote social justice and the realisation of the full potential of all human beings.
Equality and freedom from discrimination is a fundamental right. Article 27 (3) gives women and men the right to equal treatment, opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres while part (4) provides against State discrimination of whatever form.
The State is compelled in part (8) to take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender” and emphasised in article 81: “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender”.
Parliament has remained indebted to Kenyans to enact a legislation enabling the achievement of this principle. There exists political will at the highest level of the Executive to see the two-thirds gender principle come to reality.
This has been signified by the creation of strong national machineries on gender in the form of the State Department of Gender Affairs and the National Gender and Equality Commission. The Jubilee manifesto equally provides for women to play their rightful role in development.
Kenya has continued to lag behind its neighbours in women representation in Parliament that today stands at a paltry 19.7 percent while Rwanda is at 63.8 percent; Uganda, 35 percent; Tanzania, 35 per cent; and Burundi 36.4 per cent. The global average is 23 per cent.
Not to mention the proportion of women in the Mozambique parliament is 39.6 per cent, Namibia 41 per cent and South Africa 41.9 per cent.
Women in Kenya are campaigning for increased representation in politics and decision-making for valid reasons. Firstly, to get out of the marginalisation they have suffered for long and secondly, to add voice to decisions that affect them as women, mothers, wives and as human beings.
It is globally acknowledged that women add a different perspective to decision-making and planning. Women are less wasteful as they are always mindful of tomorrow. They are, therefore, more inclined to influence decision-making and planning that is more prudent, less wasteful, yet of greater impact to the society.
Further, women are more humane and therefore focused on planning and spending on more strategic investments that will transform the society. For these reasons, women should play a bigger role in the political processes of this country.
We appreciate and applaud the efforts made by current female representatives, through the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association, and the men of good will in our Parliament.
We have high expectations but we trust that they will not let us down. They will not let Kenya down.