African Woman And Child Feature Service

Challenges and Hopes for Samburu Girls: The Struggle for Gender Equality

It is now or never on the equality principle, legislators say

By Henix Obuchunju

Women leaders have intensified the push for the adoption of a formula that will lead to the actualisation of the two-thirds gender principle as provided for in the Constitution of Kenya.

This rule seeks to ensure fair representation of men and women in decision-making positions across various sectors of society.

During a National Dialogue on the Two-Thirds Gender Principle in March, 2024, organised by Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (Kewopa), women leaders said it was time women were given what they have been yearning for more than five decades.

The forum’s purpose was to look into the proposed Multi-Sectoral Working Group (MSWG) recommendations and formula around the realisation of the two-thirds gender rule.

MSWG was established by the Cabinet Secretary for Gender, Culture, the Arts & Heritage, in February 2024, and tasked to formulate a framework for the implementation of the two-thirds gender principle as enshrined in Articles 27(6) and (7), as well as 81(b) of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

Over the course of its work, MSWG reviewed memorandums, analysed best practices from other jurisdictions, engaged relevant experts and institutions, and conducted stakeholder consultations and public participation. One of the key recommendations is a formula on how to actualise the two-thirds gender principle.

Among the legislators present were: Beatrice Elachi (Dagoretti North), Jane Kagiri (Laikipia County), Rachael Nyamae (Kitui South), Edith Nyenze (Kitui West) and Ruweida Obo (Lamu East).

Speaking at the Forum, Daisy Amdany, the co-chairperson of MSWG, proposed inserting a transitional clause in Article 98A to enable the current Parliament to conform to Article 81(b) requirements.

“Amending Article 97 to provide for a formula to nominate additional special seat members of the National Assembly, if, after the declaration of results following a General Election, the membership of the National Assembly does not conform to the constitutional principle,” Amdany said.

Her team further noted that arguments by some people that it would be costly to have additional lawmakers to realise the two-thirds principle were untrue.

“Please do not accept formulas that will not get us the two thirds gender rule. Do not accept negotiating downwards of what is a constitutional entitlement,” warned Daisy.

Laikipia Woman Representative Jane Kagiri urged members of the public to change their attitudes about men and leadership.

“Let women take leadership positions. If you walk to a meeting, take the front seats, don’t assume leadership is left for men,” said Kaguri.

The MSWG’s report emphasises the importance of mobilising resources and creating an enabling environment to support the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule. It recognises the significance of collaboration between stakeholders, including government institutions, civil society organisations, and the private sector, to drive meaningful change around gender equality and women empowerment.

Kitui South MP Rachael Nyamai urged political parties to ensure women are elected by deliberately supporting their quest for leadership positions.

“This matter has been discussed by the 11th, 12th and 13th Parliaments. I think it is a matter of life and death now,” said Nyamai, urging men in Parliament and the society to support women.

She also urged financiers of elections to support women who have shown interest in political positions.

Her sentiments were echoed by Dagoretti, North Member of Parliament Beatrice Elachi, who urged the 47 governors to keep supporting women-led initiatives in their respective counties.

The MSWG report further emphasises the need for continuous monitoring and evaluation to ensure the effective implementation of the proposed measures. It highlights the importance of accountability and transparency in tracking progress and addressing obstacles during the implementation process.

During the forum, participants drawn from civil society and members of the public commended the efforts of the MSWG in developing the framework and acknowledged the vital role it plays in addressing gender disparities.

The two-thirds gender rule is a constitutional provision in Kenya that aims to promote gender equality and ensure that no gender is underrepresented in public institutions. The principle requires that not more than two-thirds of the members of any public body shall be of the same gender.

The debate surrounding the two-thirds gender rule in Kenya has been ongoing for several years. The provision was included in the 2010 Kenyan Constitution, but its implementation has faced many challenges. The main issue has been achieving gender balance in the National Assembly and the Senate.

On more than three occasion, Parliament has been unable to enact a law to operationalise the principle. Several attempts to amend the law have failed to garner the necessary support. Some people argue that the rule should be implemented gradually to allow for a transition period, while others believe that the rule should be enforced immediately upon enactment by Parliament.

This push and pull made former Chief Justice David Maraga, in September 2020, to rule that Parliament be dissolved for failing to pass legislation to implement the two-thirds gender rule. Maraga termed the formation of Parliament unconstitutional.

STORY 1-Kewopa