“Women Must LEAD! in ALL discussions that include those of Vaccines for COVID-19”
For Immediate Release: Nairobi, 9th March 2020
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unearth inequalities and injustices that have existed for a long time, Memory Kachambwa, the Executive Director of FEMNET has challenged the government to ensure women are equally represented in all decision making on COVID-19 recovery plans including the distribution and access of vaccines. She was speaking during a ‘Women Must Lead’ Policy Dialogue Series held on 8th March 2021, as part of commemorating the International Women’s Day 2021, whose theme is ‘Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World.’. She further went to note that the Kenyan political field is still violent and highly monetized, locking out a majority of women leaders from running for office. “How do we support women leader who might not have resources to run for office?” asked Memory Kachambwa in her opening remarks.
It is not lost on women leaders and aspirants that Kenya’s political field has been exhibiting fits of violence from current and past leaders as some counties go into by-elections. This is a worrying trend seeing that the next general elections is just a year away.
Kenya promulgated the Constitution in August 2010, with specific measures that seek to correct the historical discrimination and exclusion of women in leadership and in the same year in October ratified the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa better known as the Maputo Protocol. However, Kenya still lags behind in the equal and meaningful representation of women in leadership and particularly in the full implementation of the two thirds gender rule. What is glaringly missing is the political goodwill and real commitment by leaders in the three arms of government (the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary) to make it happen.
By 2030, Sustainable Development Goal, SDG 5.5 indicates that, states should have ensured full and effective participation and equal opportunities for leadership at all levels of decision-making in political, economic, and public life. “Something radical must be done to get women into positions of leadership if we are to meet the SDG deadline in the next 9 years,” Said Hellen Apila, the Africa Coordinator of Equal Measures 2030 adding that, ‘The world witnessed what women in leadership could do during the height of COVID-19 because countries that were led by women have dealt and continue to deal with the pandemic in a dignified and much better approach.”
Daisy Amdany, Executive Director of CRAWN Trust observed that discussing women’s political participation is a conversation that we must have in all spaces, always ready to challenge systems that are patterned to exclude women and using existing legal frameworks to redress barriers to women’s leadership. Adding that, “Women have been socialized to always be quiet and never take leadership positions which have been long viewed as a preserve for men. When they choose to vie for elective seats they face negative stereotyping.” Something she said must come to an end. She further urged the women leaders to continue demanding for the dissolution of parliament for its failure to remain accountable to the Constitution and the rule of law. In September 2020, Chief Justice Emeritus David Maraga advised President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve parliament. This was after parliament had failed to pass the two thirds gender rule for the fourth time, ten years after Kenya’s constitution was promulgated.
Daisy stressed that the dissolution of parliament is a political cost the parliamentarians cannot live with. She added, “Kenyan politicians continue to lie to Kenyans because there is no real political cost to short-changing women in leadership positions.”
Hon Waithera Chege, who is the Majority Chief Whip in the Nairobi County Assembly pointed out to the young leaders that it was not enough to be in the County Assembly. That they needed to also get into the available committees and get into the leadership in the national assembly and the senate. These committees discuss and allocate budgets and make decisions and women leaders must be present and contribute.
A 2022 Aspirant, Hon Hamisa Zaja from Mombasa shared that women face a lot of violence during the campaign trails. Buttressing the point was Hon. Caroline Agwanda from Kisumu who is the current advisor to the Governor on issues of disability. “Women aspirants with disabilities face tough situations first because they are women. Secondly because they have a disability.” Noting that they usually have to fight more than the rest of the candidates.
In Kenya, there are 72 political parties. Out of these, only 13 have adhered to the two thirds gender rule in paper. This was shared by Juliet Murimi, Director of Registration and Compliance at the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties. Ms. Murimi encouraged women who are interested in vying during the coming elections not to give up on getting into elective political positions. “Don’t be too trusting when it comes to getting certificates. Make sure you are involved actively to the end especially during party primaries,” She urged.
In 2017, women made incremental leaps in leadership through the election of three governors and three women senators. 23 women also got elected to the national assembly and 96 members to the county assemblies.
Marceline Nyambala, the Executive Director of AMWIK urged women leaders to be deliberately visible and participate in all media spaces. “The media is like the 4th arm of the government. It can help you make visible your agenda even as you start your political journey,” She said. Marceline urged the media to amplify women in political parties.
The meeting wound up with nominated Senator Rose Nyamunga urging trail-blazer women leaders to be intentional in identifying and mentoring (or even better “femtoring”) young women leaders who are aspiring to run for elective positions in the 2022 general elections. “Femtoring” as an approach challenges power dynamics in leadership and recognizes the mutuality of the femtor/ femtee relationship in terms of shared commitment and shared learning in their journeys, from a feminist perspective.
Enhancing women’s political participation in Africa
In the next two years, FEMNET, International IDEA and the WPP Consortium partners are keen to enhance women’s political participation in Africa with a view to advance the goal of gender equality in politics and governance. This partnership is committed to contribute to an increase in the voice and presence of women in all political processes and institutions in Africa at the different levels at which they exist. Through policy advocacy, strengthening of capacities and generating research and knowledge, the WPP consortium partners will work with women leaders and institutions in Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eswatini, Cote d’Ivoire, Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania and Zimbabwe to expand awareness and demand for the meaningful inclusion of all women in their diversities.
For more information and/or to request for an interview, please contact: FEMNET, Head of Communication, Rachel Kagoiya – firstname.lastname@example.org. Tel: 0110901551
The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET) is a pan- African membership-based feminist network based in Nairobi with over 800 members across 50 African countries. FEMNET envisions an African society where gender equality is achieved and women and girls enjoy their rights and dignity while in its mission it seeks to facilitate and coordinate the sharing of experiences, ideas, information, and strategies for human rights promotion among African women’s organizations through networking, communication, capacity-building and advocacy at the regional and international levels. Since inception in 1988, FEMNET has played a leading role in building the women’s movement in Africa and ensuring that women and girls’ voices are amplified, and their needs, priorities, and aspirations are prioritized in key policy dialogues and outcomes that have direct and indirect impact on their lives. For more visit our website www.femnet.org.