Primaries may be a barrier to women’s entry into politics


Voters queue to casts their ballot in Bungoma. file photo | nmg

I recently participated in training of political parties women leaders across the country. This was an excellent initiative by the Registrar of Political Parties and UN Women to empower over 400 women leaders.

In Kenya’s history, women and the youth have always been shortchanged in access to political nominations and appointments.

Rwanda as an example introduced structures and processes designed to advance women leadership at all levels of government.

They consequently achieved 56 per cent of parliamentary seats just 14 years after the 1994 Genocide. The country’s approach can and should be replicated by any nation seeking to improve its governance.

One of the roles of a political party is to democratically facilitate governance. But democracy without women is not democracy.

The Kenyan government has, however, shown a commitment to gender equality and empowerment of women by stipulating the rights of women in the Constitution, the Political Parties Law, with further requirement to have political parties list women for nominations.

But parties have a bigger role to play for the implementation of these laws. Parties must enhance women political participation and representation in parliament as well as the broader public decision making processes.

Potential women candidates need to be elected, and then their capacity and influence build. KEWOPA, parliamentary caucus for elected women leaders has tried to fill this gap.

This initiative should begin with political parties as a commitment of good political will.

Voter and civic education should be based on the value of women’s leadership, and encourage them to voice their support for it.

Money has long hindered women from participating in politics. Insufficient economic resources is one of the biggest obstacles.

This factor is evident to parties that do not receive government funding. But how can women access economic resources to expand their presence in the political realm? In a typical campaign funding, money dominates politics, and women lose out.

A widely accepted assumption is that men are the main breadwinners. That women should only make a complementary income or receive money from their husbands.

This is where the political system remains unresponsive and impenetrable to most women. Fully skilled and empowered on finance sourcing, our women can do wonders.

Another outstanding challenge to women participation in politics is cultural barrier, gender stereotype and women antipathy. Politics is considered a masculine environment.

Recruitment done by parties, and internal primaries also have gendered effects.

In most cases, majority of members of parties are men. The election officers are men. Those who vote and fight in murky primaries are men.

Parties should therefore embrace and strictly adhere to laws, code of conduct, and procedures that promote gender equity.