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MPs divided whether to back, reject two-thirds Gender Bill

Her Cabinet Administrative Secretary Racheal Shebesh stated that nominating women into political positions is a way of sensitizing the society on the value of women which eventually paves way for them to be elected/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 21- Debate on the Constitution of Kenya (Amendment) Bill 2018 on Two Thirds Gender Rule is set to continue Wednesday as a section of MPs called for a clear framework that will guard the constitutional affirmative action provision from abuse by political party heads.

MPs are however divided on whether to support or oppose the bill that is before Parliament.

Some like Kimilili Member of Parliament Didmus Barasa started mobilising his colleagues to reject the bill seeking to increase the number of women parliamentarians as others said they will fully back it.

Barasa said he is not opposed to women being given leadership positions but the criteria that will be used in the nomination selection is not clearly outlined.

“I support women to be in leadership, but we must get women of substance and people who will add value in our society. This Bill however leaves the decision on who will be nominated with few individuals who might be biased and end up bringing their girlfriends to Parliament,” said Barasa.

On their part, Machakos Woman Representative Joyce Kamene and her former Wajir counterpart Fatuma Ali urged MPs to accept and pass the Bill saying more women in politics are still facing gender related challenges thus need a voice of their own.

“We need more women to ensure that issues affecting women are well addressed in Parliament because there are some sensitive issues that require women attention and if we leave all the decisions to be made by our male colleagues then we might end up suffering and the only way to do this is through nominating women who still face challenges during elections,” Kamene said.

MPs Amos Kimunya (Kipipiri) Wilberforce Oundo, (Funyula) George Gitonga, (Tharaka) cited incidences in the elections to fill the Member of County Assembly posts where women are often prevailed upon to leave the seats for men, as they will get in through a top up nomination adding that such practices made elections an expensive affair for the country.

Justice and Legal Affairs Chairman William Cheptumo said the issue enjoys massive public support and pleaded with fellow members to support the bill for it to proceed to the next stage.

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An attempt by Kangema MP Muturi Kigano to halt debate on the two-thirds gender bill flopped after House Speaker Justin Muturi ruled that the amendment was proper before the House.

Kigano had interrupted Majority Leader Aden Duale as he introduced debate on the constitutional amendment bill, after he stated that it was unconstitutional because it does not provide for a referendum as required by the constitution when amending a provision dealing with representation of the people.

Duale backed by his Minority counterpart John Mbadi defended the mandate of House in effecting legislation.

They pleaded with MPs to support the constitutional amendment.

Despite division witnessed on Tuesday afternoon before and during the debate, Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia expressed optimism that the bill will sail through when the Members of Parliament vote.

The CS who spoke on Wednesday evening during a press conference said that the bill will not only see more women into leadership, but it will also bring about economic development in the country.

“This Bill is not only for women and I assure you, investing in women is a smart thing to do in developing our country and we are confident that we will see economic value addition when we put more women in leadership,” said Kobia.

Her Cabinet Administrative Secretary Racheal Shebesh stated that nominating women into political positions is a way of sensitizing the society on the value of women which eventually paves way for them to be elected.

“There are women who have been elected after nominations so what we are saying is that once the women are given opportunities to prove themselves then the possibility of being elected is high. We need these women not because we just want the number to increase but we want the society to have confidence in electing women,” Shebesh stated.

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