No country in this world can wish away the position of women in the society. From clichés “as empower a girl and you empower a whole community”, this has remained just but a farfetched pipedream in the minds of many a women.
There are very few female leaders world over who have taken up serious leadership roles, as compared to the male gender. Women as Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Teresa May of UK, and even Angela Markel of Germany who now tower over their country’s leadership had not an easier task scaling the heights to their current positions. Just recently, the US Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton faced a spate of online violence and even campaign mudslinging on her image even as she campaigned in the 2016 general elections against an abrasive Trump-led campaign team, who left no chance chiding her womanhood, often times referring to her as not dit for the American presidency, just by being a woman.
- Do women have an equal opportunity to take part in the political process? If not, what barriers stand in their way?
- In particular, are there any legal obstacles to women’s equal participation as voters, candidates, or elected leaders?
- If opportunities are equal, are women taking advantage of them, and if not, why not?
Back home in Kenya, this situation is not any rosier. Female politicians from the late Prof Wangari Mathai who suffered physical violence on her person through her Greenbelt Movement, and even in politics when she contested and won the Tetu Parliamentary seat; Martha Karua, Rachel Shebesh, Milly Odhiambo, to mention but a few have all fell into the hands of violence from men, either through slaps or through propaganda against their persons.
The previous elections have even seen quite a number of women throw their hearts into elective politics, and with the promulgation of the new constitution, more women got opportunities for representation in the both houses of National Assembly and the Senate. This was in line with the two-thirds gender rule in practice. However, this rule has never found effective inclusion into the various appointed levels of governance in Kenya. This also was partly because the National Assembly refused to pass the bill bringing this rule into reality.
In the forthcoming general elections, fewer women will be contesting various elective seats in the country. Available data shows that a paltry 206 women are contesting in the 2017 elections up from 303 in the 2013 elections. This is very worrying, as many questions should be asked why the numbers have gone down, instead of going up year-on-year of the elections as has been the trend. Has this been caused by the violence women have faced against a well-oiled money-laden male counterparts, or is it that the men folk were very much organized campaign wise against them? A study should definitely be done to find out the reasons as to why this has happened.
According to Taveta MP, Dr Naomi Shaban, women aspirants need serious commitment from the government that they will be protected against the political violence, and violence at large.
Dr Naomi Shaban says: women aspirants need serious commitment the govt that they will be protected against election violence.
Evidence shows that female leaders typically have more compassion and empathy, and a more open and inclusive leadership style. Is this not reason enough to elect and have more of them at positions of leadership 😶?
The Security Council adopted resolution (S/RES/1325) on women and peace and security on 31 October 2000.
The resolution urges all actors to increase the participation of women and incorporate gender perspectives in all United Nations peace and security efforts. It also calls on all parties to conflict to take special measures to protect women and girls from gender-based violence, particularly rape and other forms of sexual abuse, in situations of armed conflict.
Also, adoption of the UNSCR1820 marked first time UN linked sexual violence as tactic of war with women, peace & security issues.
Gender and Election Observation
An election is not in compliance with international obligations and standards unless it includes the opportunity for full and equal participation by women as well as men. For this reason, observations mission should ensure that they meet this minimum standard since gender issues tie in with all aspects of any electoral process. Thus, the missions help in the assessment and advancement of women’s participation in electoral processes.