• Women representation in Kenya lags behind its East African neighbours at only 23.5 per cent across government institutions and agencies
• If Kenya is to have a woman president, she would have to curve a path that’s not from the mold of many a path beaten by male politicians.
The Constitution demands that women occupy at least one-third of all seats in Parliament and in all appointed positions.
The question of whether this is a realistic mandate or, even more importantly, is it necessary at all? This doesn’t mean one doesn’t support gender equality in politics, far from it.
It’s rather a question that should be asked, especially given the bloated government and wastage in spending. Currently, out of the 349 seats in Parliament, 76 members are female, representing 1/5 of the total.
To be sure, women representation in Kenya lags behind its East African neighbours at only 23.5 per cent across government institutions and agencies. Rwanda leads with 61 per cent, followed by Tanzania at 36 per cent, Burundi at 36 per cent, Uganda at 34 per cent and South Sudan at 28.5 per cent. Comparatively, that number is 19.3 per cent in the US House of Representatives and 23 per cent in the US Senate. The African Union has set the goal at 50-50 representation of women in all leadership positions.
The solution is not arbitrarily imposing quotas just for the sake of reaching this goal. Rather, an effort should be made to encourage an organic increase in the participation and to specifically address the underlying barriers that make it difficult, if not impossible, for women to be involved or participate in politics.
Such obstacles include patriarchy, lack of access to financing, weaker professional networks and family or other responsibilities that make it harder to take up leadership positions.
Imposing quotas in the Constitution is not the way to go and those complaining about the President’s failure to effect the two-thirds gender rule are ill-informed.
The way to go is by first changing attitudes about women participation in leadership and voluntarily so.
A recent survey, for example, shows in seven of the top 10 countries in female representation, political parties have voluntarily implemented their own rules on the matter. Globally, over 100 parties in 53 countries have effected voluntary measures to increase the number of women candidates and party officials.
Much as it is desirable to increase women participation in politics and leadership, women such as Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and Laikipia Woman Rep Catherine Waruguru are setting women back 50 years with their man-like, in your face confrontational politics.
One could not help but wonder what was going through Nanyuki OCS mind as he probably resisted the urge to whack Waruguru as she berated him with what amounts to disorderly conduct.
While criticising or pointing out perceived or real wrongs is the right thing to do, doing so with cameras solely for the sake of humiliating and nothing else is equally wrong.
For her part, Jumwa is behaving in a manner leaving some wondering whether she received the proverbial brown envelope from Team Tangatanga but she’s going about her politicking in a manner that is unhelpful to the women’s cause.
Women are nurturers and should have a softer edge in their leadership style.
It’s just a turn-off to have women imitating men in speech delivery in rallies. Embracing diversity does not mean we abandon that which makes women different but not unequal from men. These differences exist and should be harmoniously fused with advancing women agenda.
To be sure, being honest, holding up under pressure and standing up for what one believes are the right examples of traits that are viewed as essential for leaders in politics and business, and in none of these does gender make a difference.
However, if Kenya is to have a woman president, she would have to curve a path that’s not from the mold of many a path beaten by male politicians. We know at least for now it’s not agenda that determines who is elected president but having access to the system, or more accurately, having the system endorse you.
Such a woman will leave the shouting at rallies and empty rhetoric to male politicians, who have come to master the art to the point of stupidity.