JOHN HARRINGTON NDETA
Despite increased prominence of women’s issues in public limelight, progress towards gender equality is still painfully slow in Kenya.
This is the case when it comes to elections where the populace has to make a choice of who should lead or represent them. Gender biases and myopic cultural beliefs have conspired to muscle women out of political leadership.
But the concept of gender equality stretches far back in history when the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1979 UN Convention voted to abolish all forms of discrimination against women.
In 2010, Kenyans too voted for a new constitution and in it; Chapters 6 and 7 are perhaps the most important chapters to consider when talking equal representation.
Kenya is a multiparty State and representation of the people is an essential facet in the functioning democracy.
Democracy is defined as “leadership by the people, for the people and to the people.” But not every one of the 40 million Kenyans can be a leader at the same time. The citizenry get to participate directly in leadership through referendums, and electing people to represent them at various stages.
This representation is made possible through an electoral process as the one that Kenya is preparing for come March 2013.
Through elections, citizens choose the kind of leaders they want, which political party they deem fit, and which political ideologies appeals to their real needs, hopes, aspirations and expectations.
This gives an open platter for both men and women to offer themselves as candidates to be elected leaders. Every Kenyan aspiring to hold elective office is thus free to vie for any seat they aspire to, so long as they meet the specifications outlined in the constitution.
Chapter 6 of the Kenya constitution provides detailed information on how people shall be represented in government processes and systems. It outlines the general principles for the electoral system including freedom of citizens to exercise political rights; equity of men and women where ‘not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender among others.
Electoral systems must thus be seen to be free and fair; upholding the rule of law and fostering gender parity. Electioneering process should be free from violence unlike what was witnessed in Kenya in 2007 where more than 1000 people died and 500, 000 others were displaced due to electoral violence.
The principle of equality of men and women where not more than two-thirds of public office holders are from the same gender forms the thrust of my discourse.