Women are the Big Winners from the 2017 General Elections

The just concluded elections have seen women emerge among the biggest winners. The elections played a role in narrowing the political inequity for women. This is in line with the UN’s Millennium Development Goals to prioritize gender equality and empowerment of women. In particular, the 3rd Millennium Development Goal, which purports to promote gender equality and empower women.

The ‘new’ Constitution of Kenya 2010 has facilitated a big stride that has enabled women’s participation and representation in decision-making positions and political institutions. Some sections of the Supreme Law worth mentioning with regard to this are Articles 27(8) and 81(b).

Article 27 (8) in part stipulates that–

…the State shall 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.

Article 81(b) on the general principles for the electoral system stipulates that–

Not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.

Article 97 of the Constitution reinforces these laws by creating the positions of 47 women representatives. Women representatives are an outcome of the two-thirds gender law that aims at increasing the representation of women in parliament. The law also creates 16 special seats for women at the Senate to ensure fair representation

In the 2013 general elections, only 16 women were elected at the Constituency level out of 290 MPs. There was no woman elected as a governor or a senator. This time round, women have won big with the number of elected women MPs at the Constituency level increasing to 23. Also, three women have been elected as governors and three others as senators up from none in 2013.

Perhaps the major shocker came from Garissa and Isiolo where two women were elected as Senator and Member of Parliament in a highly patriarchal society. Sophia Abdi Noor became the first Somali woman to become a Member of Parliament, representing Ijara Constituency in Garissa County while Dullo Fatuma Adam was elected the first female Senator for Isiolo County.

The Women elected as Governors are Anne Mumbi Waiguru in Kirinyaga County, Joyce Cherono Laboso in Bomet County and Charity Kaluki Ngilu for Kitui County. The other two women elected as Senators are Margaret Jepkoech Kamar in Uasin Gishu and Susan Wakarura Kihika in Nakuru County.

The full list of the 23 women elected as MPs and the Constituencies they represent is as follows:

  • Lilian Achieng Gogo – Rangwe
  • Sophia Abdi Noor – Ijara
  • Even Akinyi Obara – Kabondo Kasipul
  • Mercy Wanjiku Gakuya – Kasarani
  • Alice Muthoni Wahome – Kandara
  • Ruth W. Mwaniki – Kigumo
  • Aisha Jumwa Karisa Katana – Malindi
  • Jayne Njeri Wanjiru Kihara – Naivasha
  • Millie Grace Akoth Odhiambo – Suba North
  • Janet Jepkemboi Sitienei – Turbo
  • Charity Kathambi Chepkwony – Njoro
  • Mishi Juma Khamisi Mboko – Likoni
  • Mary Wamaua Waithira Njoroge – Maragwa
  • Josephine Naisula Lesuuda – Samburu West
  • Jessica Nduku Kiko Mbalu – Kibwezi East
  • Beatrice Pauline Cherono Kones – Bomet East
  • Annie Wanjiku Kibe – Gatundu North
  • Rachel Kaki Nyamai – Kitui South
  • Martha Wangari Wanjira – Gilgil
  • Sarah Paulata Korere – Laikipia North
  • Naomi Namsi Shaban – Taveta
  • Peris Pesi Tobiko – Kajiado East
  • Grace Jelagat Kipchoim – Baringo South

The election of more women into the Kenyan Parliament is crucial. Increased female representation in the political process, governmental institutions and decision-making bodies is crucial for the overall empowerment of women, especially their inclusion in decisions about all issues—not just those that are traditionally known as “women’s issues,” such as child and elder care and reproductive health.

Improved representation for women provides them with a source of empowerment and enhances women’s capacity to negotiate their role and status within the political arena.

Many international conferences have agreed to the target of reaching 30% representation of women in government. With 23 percent representation, Kenya has not reached this goal yet. However, the election of more women MPs is a sign that Kenya is moving forward in the right direction.

Some challenges the women faced in this election

We must also acknowledge the challenges these women MPs have undergone to reach where they are right now.

They have gone beyond the existing marginalization of women. They have challenged the stereotypes and attitudes that lead to marginalization of women in Kenya. This is a unique position to encourage and foster women’s leadership and decision-making. It will ensure that women have equal representation.

Some women like Sophia Abdi Noor have overcome difficult cultural challenges. Some of these are flimsy if you look at them such as possible requirement for maternity leave. Some even went as far as to say that her community would be cursed for having a woman leader.

The party primaries were also not an easy time for women. They had to battle it out in rough and murky competitions with their male counterparts. Many lost in the process but it was a relief to see that some made it to the final round and more so, those elected for the first time in new positions.

Some assailants burned down Millie Odhiambo’s house during the ODM party primaries in April. A driver who was driving her opponent’s car ran over her bodyguard. In February, Embakasi South female aspirant Eunice Wambui was attacked while on voter registration drive in Mukuru Kwa Reuben. Someone looted the contents of Sarah Korere, a Jubilee candidate for the Laikipia North, from her car in April while she was campaigning.

Sheila Githaiga dropped her bid for Kieni West seat after 30 men on motorcycles trailed and attacked her. A group of men locked Esther Passaris at the University of Nairobi demanding KSh150,000 to permit her to continue with her planned rally.

Therefore, women have faced invincible challenges ranging from limiting cultural beliefs that view women as inferior to men. They were also the most vulnerable to violence. They also had a difficult time to overcome the crooked tactics used by their male counterparts to block them from leadership positions.

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