Kenya’s fertile ground for women participation in politics: But are young women responding to these opportunities?

 However, after a spirited push for gender equality by a strategic women movement, a new dispensation awakened for women in politics with the Constitution of Kenya (2010). The Constitution promotes gender equality and empowerment of women by providing articles that promote the participation of women in political leadership and decision making. The “not more than two thirds” principle of Article 81 of the constitution notably anchors the gains that the new laws offer to Kenyan women.

 

Young women participating in a County debate

More significant is that these Constitution provisions to move from the current position to the new dispensation of 33% minimum of any gender must be enforced and the  reality that at least 23% more of women are needed is slowly setting in as the elections date quickly draws nigh. The reality revolves around both the various enormous challenges women in particular and the Kenyan society in general will have to overcome to achieve the gender parity and the consequences as a result of the contrary. Key among the consequences Kenyan voters may be keen to avoid is a heavy wage bill arising from efforts by County Assemblies, the National Assembly and the Senate to achieve gender parity through nominations thereby increasing the numbers to unprecedented levels.

Some of the predominant challenges are being highlighted and extensively discussed in various CMD-Kenya County political forums aimed at enhancing youth participation in politics in a meaningful and empowering way. They include sidelining of women from participating actively in politics, from political party management, to elective posts and national and local governments and further in appointive positions in public service, prejudices against women leadership in some communities, the volatile nature of Kenyan politics and retrogressive bigoted practices such as husbands demanding their wives to vote as they (husbands) have decided.       

As a matter of fact, the challenges are more detrimental to young women under 40 years, which if left unaddressed will make their chances even slimmer. According to Ms. Denita Ghati from Kuria in Migori County: “Young women are in trouble because they seem ‘unwelcome and unwanted’ in both the women and young people’s political circles…. we are limbo because young male consider young women as women not youth and on the other hand, elderly women look at young women as youth.”

 Ms. Denita Ghati, a parliamentary aspirant addressing participants in the Migori County debate

Notwithstanding the notable strides to overcome ahead of the forth coming general elections in Kenya, the question of how the not more than two thirds principle will be achieved cannot be wished away. Different proposals by the National Assembly and other relevant stakeholders are welcome but the most favorable to young women politicians is the need to take courage to engage actively in politics and run for office. “I believe in as much as we are responding, the citizens also need to know that young women will come out, but they need to be voted for because the positions are elective,” said Phyllis Cheruiyot a 23 year old lady running for a County Representative in Kericho County.

 Ms. Phyllis Cheruiyot speaks during the Kericho County debate