Of the innovations of the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 the gender parity provision that not more than two-thirds of positions in all state offices shall be occupied by persons of the same gender, has proved to be the most problematic to implement. A decade after the promulgation of a constitution that has been described as transformative and revolutionary, processes aimed at attaining this particular aspiration have remained reactionary with the trading of barbs and blames being a norm.
Gagged and barred from decision making for many years, the voice of women has been heard at the periphery and muffled to mean nothing even where it matters. On August 4th, 2010, in a plebiscite, Kenyan’s spoke in one voice and decided it was time their women who form a majority of the population deserved more than they were getting. It was time for women’s voices to be heard.
It is said that this is yet to be. It is disturbing to note that the gender rule is still a mirage even in instances where it can be achieved vide presidential fiat; appointive positions. It will be utter tomfoolery to suggest that there are no women who can be appointed to these positions given the strides made by women in education and the participation they have shown in civic society and in other spheres of leadership. To this end, there is a need to see that more women are appointed to the cabinet and as directors of government agencies and departments.
As to how this noble cause will be attained in elective positions, particularly in the National Assembly remains a Gordian knot. Gender parity has been attained in the county assemblies at the face of it, this is laudable. However, critics have been quick to point out that men have been hell bent to influence and actually control how these nominations are done. As such, a majority of women who are nominated to these positions are stooges who are only keen to assuage the interests of men who nominated them and do little to articulate the issues of women who they supposedly represent.
The good news is that although women are yet to be accorded the opportunities the constitution grants them, a few strides have been made. In the recent past, women have been appointed to serve in cabinet positions that are considered “powerful”. In this regard, Monica Juma and Rachel Omamo continue to serve the nation as defense and foreign affairs cabinet secretaries. Our very own Amina Mohamed went very close, with the support of the government, to serve as the African Union Secretary-General. This demonstrates a bit of commitment from the government to actualize the gender parity dream.
Women in leadership positions continue to demonstrate that they can equal and even surpass their male counterparts in terms of service delivery and in meeting the development demands of their electorates. Kitui governor, Charity Ngilu best exemplifies this. Her administration is a benchmark for what devolution means to the people. The county has made great strides in the attainment of food security and continues to be a trailblazer in the provision of quality and affordable healthcare. Her brainchild Kicotec, a textile factory based in Kitui, is proving to be a game-changer in the fight against the ravaging coronavirus as it continues to churn out thousands of facemasks every day.
It is therefore oxymoronic that society continues to place hurdles to the ascension of women to leadership yet they have shown they are capable of delivering and they possess the willpower to go for global positions when given the necessary support.
The zeitgeist of our times is the full liberation of women from the shackles of oppression they have been bound in for a long time. Let us accord them the opportunity to serve in state positions. They form the majority of the population and therefore deserve more than they are currently getting. The achievement of this is dependent on the full implementation of the two-third gender rule. This is long overdue and should happen now.