Over the past couple of days, the media has been awash with news of the nominated Senator Hon. Elizabeth Ongoro. The Orange Democratic Movement blocked her candidature to contest for Ruaraka Constituency seat on the party’s ticket. ODM instead advised her to choose another constituency, a move she said was not in good faith.
She argued that she couldn’t change her constituency of interest as it is the people of Ruaraka who had approached her and requested her to come back and represent them. She also said this is where her heart belonged and it is the constituency she knows best. It was also laughable that the party had asked her to do these just 11 days to the party’s primaries, which is due on April 25th.
This case of Ongoro, happening at a time when the country is grappling with how to implement the gender law, makes us wonder whether our political parties are honest about implementing the Constitution of Kenya (CoK) 2010.
When we passed this new constitution, women were pregnant with optimism as it assures them of enjoying their rights more comprehensively than even before. The CoK, the supreme law of the land which embodies the people’s political will and is the basis upon which all other laws of the country originate, had created a new dispensation under which women had equal rights with men.
The women were not alone in this; youths too had their fair share of the cake. The Constitution of Kenya 2010 identifies the vulnerable groups of the population, i.e. women, youth, persons with disabilities (PWDs) and ethnic minorities as special groups deserving of constitutional protection.
The constitution protects the Kenyan youth against exploitation and entitles them to enjoy equal opportunities in social, economic and political environments. The same rights are enjoyed by women, which the constitution espouses that both men and women are equal in the eye of law.
The article 81 (b) of the CoK outlines the general principles electoral and democratic process should abide to. It states:
“The electoral system shall comply with the following principle – (b) not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.”
To uphold this article, the CoK in Article 27 further obligates the government to create policies and laws that address the past discrimination that the marginalized groups have faced. These policies should include affirmative action programs that ensure not more than two-thirds of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same sex; and ethnic minorities, youths, women, and PWDs enjoy a fair treatment in all arms and levels of the government.
The CoK, though article 177, ensures that Articles 27 (8) and 81(b) are complied with at the County level through the nomination to the assemblies of special seat members. But this is not guaranteed when it comes to the National Parliament, which constitutes of the National Assembly and the Senate.
It was expected that the 47 assured elected women through the counties would have coupled with the women elected as representative of various constituencies, will help meet the 2-thirds gender rule. This formula would then amplify the voice of women in the national matters and provide a platform for the advancement of women needs.
However, the affirmative action on gender equity has proved to be efforts in futility. In 2007 we had 16 out of the possible 210 constituencies electing women to represent them. In 2013, though the number of constituencies was increased to 290, the number of women elected to represent constituencies remained unchanged. It follows that 80 more men MPs were elected to the 11th parliament than in the 10th house, automatically negating the impact of the 47 women MPs representing counties in the national assembly.
The bottom line is if we want to uphold the new constitution, women contestants of the 2017 elections must be treated with a baby’s gloves. Political parties too have to be pushed to give women a fair fighting chance and ensure that the list of nominees they forward to the IEBC for the general elections meets the gender requirement. Failure to do this will reduce the gender rule to a cosmetic gesture meant to fool the people of Kenya. And to the women reading this, be your sister’s keeper by VOTIN ONE OF YOUR OWN in the coming elections.