The Importance of Women to be Seen and Heard in the Political Space.

Linda Mariwa Shuma is a politician. Her visibility in that space first came to light during the 2017 Kenyan General Elections. She was the running mate of Hassan Omar Hassan who was vying for the position of Governor of Mombasa and would have made her Mombasa’s Deputy Governor. During the 16th Series of WLW, Ms. Shuma of the NGO WAGE(Women & Girls Empowerment), shared with participants on the importance of women, not only to be seen on in the political space, but also to be heard. Her presentation made brought to light that there was insufficient female representation by women both in the political space as well as other leadership spaces.

To demonstrate how poorly the female representation is in political office in Kenya, and in general, Linda shared the following statistics.

Shocking Statics

Female Representation in Elected Office

  • Women account for just 23% of the National Assembly and Senate. This includes seats reserved exclusively for women representatives. This falls short of the 33.3% required by the constitution.
  • Of the 18 women appointed to the Senate in 2013, 14 of them went on to run for elected positions in 2017. They had a 35% success rate in gaining office.
  • Out of the 12,188 contenders in the party primaries, just 1,333 of these were women making only 11% of the total numbers!

IEBC Gazettement

The electoral body IEBC gazetted 1,862 persons as duly elected. Out out of these, only 172 were women garnering only 9% of the total votes. This constituted of 3 Governors, 3 Senators, 23 MNA, 47 MNAs and 96 MCA’s. The success rate of  women in 2017 remained similar to that of 2013 with around 13% of the women winning office. No woman ran for the presidential post.

No Female Representation

While the above numbers showcase the female participation in the elections, there were 10 Counties that had no elected women MCAs necessitating in their nomination rather than election. These counties are Kwale, Garisa, Wajir, Mandera, Kirinyaga, West Pokot, Samburu, Elgeyo Marakwet, Narok, Kajiado Isiolo and Embu

Female Governors and Deputy Governors

  • Seven women became Deputy Governors having been running mates of elected Governors.
  • The number of female Governors fell from 9 no. to 7 no. in 2017
  • Though Deputy Governors could be viewed as potentially a springboard to higher office, there is no clear guideline on the Deputy Governors’ role and authority.
  • Two of the female Deputy Governors from 2013 unsuccessfully ran for elected office.

County Assembly Speakers

Following the 2017 elections, 47 county assemblies appointed their speakers. Out of the 47 Candidates, only 5 women were elected. These women have gone off to have numerous challenges while working on executing their mandate. A typical example is the Nairobi County Assembly speaker Dr. Beatrice Elachis who is constantly being battled by her male counterparts.

Senate and County Assembly Speakers

The Senate and the County Assemblies have a total of 27 standing committed. Just three of these committees are chaired by a female. That is at the National level. When it comes to the Senate, the is zero female representation.

It is clear that while the constitution stipulates that there should be a third female representation across the board, this is not the case on the ground. The one third gender rule is being flaunted.

Mombasa County

Mombasa County has just one one Women’s Representative member of the National Assembly.

  • There are 4 females out of a possible 30 MCA’s
  • Women constitute 10 out of the total 12 MCA nomination seats,  making Mombasa a leading county in this aspect having met the two third’s gender rule.
  • 14 out of 42 female MCA’s
  • Out of a possible 6 seats at the Sub Counties, at the constituency levels, there is just one(1) female Member of parliament.

During the 2017/2018 elections, Linda Mariwa Shuma was the single female candidate for the post of Deputy Governor out of the total of 7 candidates that vied for gubernatorial seats. The question that arises is why  there is such poor representation of women in the political from.

Challenges Faced by Women Seeking Political Posts

  1. They lack training on how to seek political office. Mercifully, NGOs and Civil Society are coming forward to support women towards achieving better political education.
  2. Many political parties do not give political support to women candidates. We live in a patriarchal society where men are viewed as better candidates. The positions availed to women are only as part of the required fulfillment of the one third quota
  3. Negotiated Democracy. Women are often asked to step aside so that they may be favored with nominations
  4. The Media fails to cover women candidates vying for office hence diminishing their chances to connect with the electorate. The media space has been negotiated in such a way that candidates need to pay for coverage.
  5. Financial resources pause a huge challenge for many women candidates. Unlike their male counterparts, the lack of finances inhibits their capacity to do campaigns and produce campaign material
  6. Politics tends to be a man’s world and women who enter into this space often suffer physical, psychological, economic, and sexual abuse from the men. This comes in the form of taunting and bad press meant to erode their integrity. This renders many women fearful and uncomfortable hence shying away from offering their candidature.
  7. The African Cultural and traditions relegate the female role as a secondary one. Women seeking to be at the forefront of leadership are often frowned upon and deemed to be taking on male roles.
  8. Women lack political experience. This remains largely the domain of men.

Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry

On the non-political scenario, the picture remains gleam. At the National Level, the only woman in the board of 15 members is Fatma El Maawy. She is the 2nd Vice President.  The scenario in Mombasa County is no better with just 3 board members out of a 13 members are women. Out of these, two are elected and one is a nomination.

Women Must Be Seen and Heard.

The Kenyan population statistics reveal that there are 500,000 more women than men. In spite of this, women are not well represented in places of leadership.  While it is the women who struggle with ensuring that children are in school, it is the men who get to sit in the School’s Board of Directors. Women’s presence in the Estate committees is relegated to just attendance and yet they are the backbone of our homes. It is a high time that they are not only seen but also heard. It is their voices that will ensure that:

  • There is a push for the Sexual Offence Bill. Women need to be behind it and push for it.
  • Deserved priority is given to the Reproductive Healthcare Bill.
  • Menstrual Hygiene products Zero Rating comes to see the light of day.
  • The legal age of consent of marriage remains above 18 years and not 16  years as some men would have it.  Women better understand why the girls child she needs to be shielded from early marriages.
  • They address the influx of the undesirable early pregnancies.
  • Continuously address the agenda of Women Empowerment.

In spite of the challenges that women face, it is now time for them to jump the hurdles and offer themselves for elected office. The female gender must be in the space where the policies that affect their lives are made. Women’s lives matter.

Data is courtesy of:  https://www.ndi.org/publications/gender-analysis-2017-kenya-general-elections 

Wanjiku Wambugu

A seasoned Woman Entrepreneur with a passion to hand hold other women into becoming leaders in their own space.

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