There are legitimate fears that women risk losing their voice in Kenya’s political affairs if the ongoing formation of alliances and coalitions is anything to go by.
It is clear that women are not included, in any way, at the top as male political leaders burn the midnight oil to form ‘winning’ coalitions as the succession politics hots up.
It is in these meetings where the leaders are discussing on power-sharing strategies and how they will dish out positions amongst themselves. And all these meetings are attended by the men who dominate party leadership positions in the country.
From the Orange Democratic movement (ODM) of former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, the ruling Jubilee Party of President Uhuru Kenyatta to the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) of Deputy President William Ruto there are no women at the top.
Women are also not visible in the One Kenya Alliance (OKA) that brings together Musalia Mudavadi (Amani National Congress (ANC), Kalonzo Musyoka (Wiper Party), Gideon Moi (KANU) and Moses Wetangula of Ford Kenya.
In recent weeks, political parties have been on a frenzy, holding day and night strategy meetings to outsmart one another as they seek to front formidable candidates for the August 2022 General Elections to take over from President Uhuru Kenyatta whose second and final terms is set to come to an end.
Even though most parties proclaim that they uphold the third gender rule from the onset, this is yet to be realised at the decision-making table because only men are seen taking part, begging the question…..are women spectators in the key meetings.
One wonders, for instance, why OKA decides to hold a men-only affair meeting of the top executives drawn from all the four parties involved.
Who will fight for the rights of the women if they can’t be included at the top decision-making table where key decisions on parties governance and leadership are made.
Apart from former Justice Minister Martha Karua who owns the Narc Kenya party, all other political parties in the country are owned and run by men, leaving women at the mercy of nomination slots and in mandatory positions like the Woman Representatives for each county or the party nominations which is never a fair game.
Even though the the Electoral Commission Chairman Wafula Chebukati has warned that nomination party lists from parties which do not comply with the two Thirds Gender rule will not be approved, there is a real risk of women losing out in the end as they will only be subjected to these nominations when their male counterparts will have shared plum posts long before the elections.
Sammy Muraya, a Programs Director at the Voice for Women and Girls’ Rights, a project of the Journalists for Human Rights (JHR) says failure by politicians to include their female counterparts in all political processes, particularly at the top amounts to discrimination.
“We have seen heightened political activities in the country on coalitions and alliances build-ups that is only involving male politicians, that is not the way to go,” he said, “there need to be gender inclusivity.”
A new report by the Gender Equality in Public Administration (GEPA), the first comprehensive in-depth research on 170 countries, concludes that that persistent gaps remain and women continue to hit glass ceilings and glass walls that stop them from advancing to positions at the highest levels of power and influence.
Though there’s been progress on women’s representation overall in public administration in many countries, women in all regions of the world are still significantly outnumbered by men in leadership and decision-making positions, including here in Kenya.
This is a tragedy that sets us back from achieving the elusive Two Thirds gender rule.
According to the Gender Equality in Public Administration (GEPA) report, when women take leadership roles in public administrations, governments are more responsive and more accountable and the quality of public services delivered significantly improves.
Data cited in the report shows that when women are in power, overlooked policy issues, such as ending violence against women, childcare services and healthcare, get more attention and there is often less government corruption and political parties are more likely to work together.
That is why it should concern us even more that male political leaders are sitting in meetings strategising on how to capture power with no single woman on the table as demonstrated in the coalitions and alliances that are being made in Kenya that is set to go to elections in August next year.
The author comments on Gender and Human Rights issues.