Data Hub

Kenya trails regional peers in women top leadership positions

Gender-Bill

Women legislators address the media outside Parliament Buildings in Nairobi on February 27, 2019 after a vote on the two-thirds gender bill flopped for a record fourth time following a quorum hitch. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

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Summary

  • Men dominate Kenya’s economic, political and social spheres despite women making up the majority of the population.
  • The lack of empowerment has prevented women from taking up top leadership positions like their male counterparts.
  • With limited opportunities, their roles have been reduced to farms where they perform labour-intensive jobs to sustain their livelihoods.

Men dominate Kenya’s economic, political and social spheres despite women making up the majority of the population.

The lack of empowerment has prevented women from taking up top leadership positions like their male counterparts.

With limited opportunities, their roles have been reduced to farms where they perform labour-intensive jobs to sustain their livelihoods.

Nowhere is the disparity more visible than in the political arena where men ran the show. And despite the number of women parliamentarians growing over the years, this is a small proportion compared to their population.

This is backed by the latest United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Government of Kenya report titled ‘Consolidating Democratic Dividends for Sustainable Transformation in Kenya’ that shows only 21.78 percent and 30.88 percent women sit at the National Assembly and Senate respectively compared to Rwanda, whose women legislators account 61.25 percent.

Kenya also trails Burundi (38 percent), Tanzania (36.9 percent), Uganda (34.8 percent) and South Sudan (28.46 percent) in terms of women representation in Parliament.

“Prescribed gender roles, patriarchal attitudes, structural barriers, limited financial resources, non-compliance with the regulations that are gender-responsive, limited training on navigating the governance landscape, violence against women and girls and limited access to media coverage disadvantage women, reducing the pool of women in leadership and decision-making spaces,” says the report.

The Constitution sought to address gender inequalities at workplaces by offering both men and women equal opportunities.

Section 27 of the Constitution requires the county and national governments to ensure that neither gender has more than two-thirds of public officers, whether elected or appointed.

Under the two-thirds gender rule, the dominant gender should only occupy 66.66 percent of public offices. However, as of September last year, there were 290 men in the National Assembly out of a total of 349 MPs.

This means that the 290 male MPs occupy 83 percent of available seats. In the Senate, the 47 male lawmakers account for 70 percent of the available seats.

Affirmative action

Ten years down the line, this seems not to be the case as more men occupy top positions in all spheres of life, unlike women.

This is why the former Chief Justice David Maraga last year urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve the Parliament for failing to pass the affirmative action legislation under the Constitution.

Mr Maraga’s advice followed six petitions by the Law Society of Kenya, former Marakwet West MP David Sudi, Margaret Toili, Fredrick Mbugua, Bernhard Aoko and Stephen Owoko.

“A contributing factor to non-realisation of the principle is a lack of an implementation mechanism. A case in point is the legislature, which as currently constituted, does not meet the two-thirds threshold, thus undermining the gains for women enshrined in the Constitution,” the UNDP report notes.

To address the problem, UNDP and Ministry of Devolution and Arid and Semi-arid Lands are implementing a two-year programme that aims to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on Gender Equality and SDG 10 on reducing Inequality.

The UN Women, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, ministries, departments, agencies, counties, legislative assemblies and non-actors as core strategic partners will also support the project.

“The broad objective of this project is to support State action and citizen engagement towards realising improved democratic governance, accountability, respect for the rule of law, access to justice, human rights and gender equality,” the report says.

“Further attention will be given to mainstreaming women leadership structure to ensure more capacities and visibility for the women in political processes as well as encouraging mentorship and dialogue between older and younger women to ensure open communication, cohesion, and partnerships.”

The report notes that advancing women empowerment in leadership and decision-making requires a multifaceted approach that removes legal and structural barriers and implementing supportive normative and legal frameworks.

Positive shift

Others include promoting women leadership through political party reforms, civil society organisations support and a positive shift in societal gender norms.

Under the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Right, on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality in Africa (2004), and the African Union Gender Policy, Kenya is mandated to protect, promote and fulfil gender equality.

In the private sector, the report notes that only 22 percent of women occupy leadership positions, highlighting challenges that Kenya faces in attaining gender parity at workplaces.

This comes when more women are breaking the glass ceiling by occupying C-suites in the corporate world. Some of them include Jane Karuku, East African Breweries Limited managing director, Family Bank chief executive Rebecca Mbithi, and Cheki Kenya chief executive Resian Leteipan.

In February this year, the Nairobi Securities Exchange (NSE) became the second bourse in the continent after the Johannesburg Securities Exchange to join the 30 percent Club, a global gender equality lobby group.

Founded in the UK in 2010 by Helena Morrissey, the group, made up of board chairs and chief executives from across the world, champions the appointment of women in top positions in company boards and management.

NSE chief executive Geoffrey Odundo said the firm would use its position to push for gender diversity in the 62 listed companies.

Gender parity

Female representation remains low with less than 10 NSE-listed companies led by women. Only two have attained gender parity in the composition of their boards.

Last year, the Kenya Association of Manufacturers launched the first-ever Women in Manufacturing report that outlined the need to review laws through a gender lens and create guidelines for gender-responsive implementation.

The report also recommended implementing the existing gender-aware or gender-sensitive laws such as the Micro and Small Enterprises Act 2012 and the Public Procurement and Disposal Act 2015 and the engagement among the public sector oversight agencies to ensure compliance.