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Kenya: Ruled by men, assisted by women

NAIROBI, September 26 – Ever heard of the saying, it is a man’s world? Well, let me take you through a journey of women representation in high decision-making positions in the country then you will confirm that this is indeed the case in Kenya.

Let’s begin with the 2007 election campaigns when numerous pledges were made to the women voting bloc. According to the voters’ register, by March 2007, women represented over 47 percent or 6.1 million of the 13 million registered voters.

The main political parties pledged to “ensure equal representation of women in decision making positions.” The promises ranged from 30 percent representation to 50 percent.

However, government circular No.1/2008 of May this year had a different reflection. It spelt out the organisation of the government after the formation of the grand coalition government in April.

Take, for instance the first eight key positions at the Office of the President – Secretary to the Cabinet and Head of the Public Service, Ambassador Francis Muthaura; Comptroller of State Houses, Mr Hyslop Ipu; Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet, Mr Samuel Mwale, Public Communications Secretary, Dr Alfred Mutua.

Others are Directorate of E-Government, Dr Sylvanus Juma Okech, Secretary, State Corporations Advisory Committee, Mr Stephen Kirogo, Secretary, National Economic and Social Council, Dr Julius Monzi Muia, Secretary, Presidential Press Service, Mr Isaiah Kabira.

None of the positions are held by women.

At the Office of the Vice President, both the Permanent Secretary and Commissioner of Prisons are male. The Assistant Minister’s position is now vacant following the death of Lorna Laboso, the only female who held a senior position in the office.

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The Office of the Prime Minister is similar to that of the President with regard to gender imbalance. Here, the Assistant Minister, Permanent Secretary, Secretary Administration, Permanent Secretary-Public Sector reforms and performance contracting are all men.

The position of Inspector- General for State Corporations and Director of the Efficiency Monitoring Unit were left vacant.

“Even when you look at the Judiciary and Parliament itself, you find that women are not represented in key positions,” notes Grace Maingi Kimani, Deputy Executive Director, Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) Kenya.

“They are not appointed into these positions despite the fact that they have the qualifications and experience.”

Although according to government statistics there is 39 percent women representation in the Judiciary, Mrs Kimani says these are concentrated in the lower levels.
“In the Court of Appeal we have only one female judge out of 14 and it is the same trend High Court,” she says.

Most of the women judicial officers, she adds, are serving at the magistrate’s level where you will find between 38 and 44 percent women.

As of May this year, there were 15 women judges of the High Court out of 45 positions.


269 women vied for parliamentary positions in the 2007 General Election as compared to 44 aspirants in 2002.

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Only 15 made it to the August House, which leads to the question; could it be that the society is also not ready for women leaders?

“There is also a society stereotype where there is the perception that a woman MP cannot represent them well and that’s why we need to look at the progress the female MP’s who are there have made,” remarks the FIDA representative.

Out of the 32 Cabinet positions, only seven are women, while only six women have occupied the 40 Permanent Secretary posts.

 “The number of women who are graduating from universities is almost at a 50-50 percent with the males.  We have a lot of women in the workplace who have gained experience so what prevents them from ascending to some of these positions?” Mrs Kimani poses.

Women representation in Kenyan missions abroad is also minimal with 14 women out of 50 positions, according to official statistics from the government.

The Public Service Commission of Kenya has had no woman chairperson since 1954. There has only been one woman secretary since 1955.

This situation, compared to Rwanda, puts Kenya to shame. The tiny country recently made history as the first country in the world where women out-numbered men in Parliament. Its post-genocide constitution also ensures that 30 percent of legislators are women.

Armed Forces
In the armed forces, the commanders of the police force, the military, Kenya Army, Kenya Air Force, Kenya Navy, the Criminal Investigations Department, General Service Unit, Administration police and Kenya Prisons are all male. So is the Director-General of the National Security Intelligence Service.

With this sort of picture, Kenya is at risk of not achieving the millennium development goal number three which touches on gender equality and women empowerment despite being a signatory to various international conventions.

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“Though we have made small strides, they are just that. As much as a lot of girls are being enrolled in schools and there has been affirmative action on that it does not then translate into automatic jobs for them in the high positions,” Mrs Kimani says.

However, Public Service Minister Dalmas Otieno insists that 30 percent women representation in the public sector has been achieved, saying the current tally stands at 34 percent.

“The potion that is now remaining for us to implement is to raise it up to the higher policy and decision making organs in the public service where the ratio is still lower,” he told Capital News.

He is optimistic that there will be a big difference in the next five years.


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