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Friday, August 19, 2011

Should women be “given” a third of seats in parliament?

According to the new constitution there will be 290 members of parliament and a third of which must be woman. Read more

In the news it was said that Cabinet hit deadlock over women seats, and said it will be practically impossible to achieve a third gender representation. Women MPs and lobby groups have demanded implementation of this section and requested to be given maximum number of seats and jobs in public office.

It is right for the women who can be heard to demand for the rights of women especially now that it is in the constitution. I also partly agree with the Cabinet that it is practically impossible to achieve this because it is like forcing leaders on people. For public jobs I believe it is possible because it is the Executive who appoints and if women are equally qualified and apply for public jobs, they should give women a third or even half of the jobs in public office. However I still maintain it is not practical for Kenyans to be told to elect women in certain constituencies. It is for us Kenyans to elect who we want whether man or a woman.

For it to be possible it is for us women to accept ourselves first because I have heard many of us say “I can never elect a woman”. Many of us have never even elected a woman councilor let alone electing a member of parliament. We say some women can be very proud and nasty when given high posts, some of us have had women bosses who are so terrible that one cannot imagine electing such a person into a public office. Yes we have women who have been elected as members of parliament, but they are few and they were connected to the right people hence got nominations for the right party so how could they lose.

I said I partly agree with the Cabinet that it is impossible because on the other part it is possible. Many women do not get the chance to get to the top because of corruption during political party nominations. A woman can be very famous in a constituency, even a mama mboga (selling vegetables) or just a housewife but when she decides to get a nomination from a popular political party, she will get nowhere because she is not known by the highly placed politicians or their representatives, she is not a member of big women groups that meet in big hotels, she is not from a family that has been in politics since independence, she is only a member of local chamas or micro finances that brings together women in an area to empower them financially. This way women in an area know each other well and know who can lead them, but still this woman or women cannot get far in their political quest even becoming a councilor is difficult.

Therefore I believe the only way the Government and Elections Commission can help more women to get more seats in Parliament is to ensure political party leaders and officials conduct free and fair elections at the grass root, stop victimization of potential women candidates by men aspirants, prosecute leaders who use their money to get what they want. Women leaders who lobby for this part of the constitution to be achieved, should also educate women at the grass root to realize our potential and appreciate one another. If this could happen, then women leaders and lobby groups will not have to demand for their rights and possibly we could be on the way to electing a woman president. Otherwise we are still far from achieving this.

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