By Lillian Aluanga-Delvaux
Political parties have registered an improved representation of women within their ranks.
But even though all the 51 parties registered have met the one-third women representation rule as required by the new Constitutio, there still exist huge gender disparities in the composition of National Executive Committee (NEC) members among the outfits.
According to statistics from the Registrar of Political Parties, nearly all of the 51 parties listed have a less than 50 per cent representation of women within their NEC.
With the exception of Party of Independent Candidates of Kenya which has women making taking up 57 per cent of the NEC slots, Agano Party (53 per cent), National Party of Kenya (54 per cent), and Chama Cha Mwananchi (55 per cent), majority of the parties have a less than 40 per cent representation of women holding positions within the parties.
With only 33 per cent of women making up the list of officials, the Kenya National Congress, Alliance Party of Kenya, the Conservative Party, Social Democratic Party, and Ford Kenya are among those with the lowest representation of women in their National Executive Committees.
Parties that have less than 40 per cent representation of women among their NEC include: New Ford Kenya (34), Ford People (34), Narc-Kenya (37), Party of National Unity (34), Wiper Democratic Movement (34), The National Alliance (38), United Republican Party (38) and the United Democratic Forum Party (38).
Narrow the gap
Those that have tried to narrow the gap include the Grand National Union, with percentages for men against women at (53/ 47), respectively, Restore and Build Kenya (54/ 46), Party Of Action (53/47), Shirikisho party (55/45), Chama Cha Uzalendo (56/44) and Orange Democratic Movement (57/43).
Overall, women account for 39 per cent of slots within the National Executive Committees of political parties, with men taking the lion’s share at 61 per cent.
Fida Kenya Executive Director Grace Maingi-Kimani says the figures are telling of parties that are truly committed to the inclusion of women within their leadership.
“Most of these parties promise a 50-50 sharing of party positions, gender equality and women’s empowerment in their manifestos but the face of their leadership tells a different story,” she says.
Women, she says, must be vigilant both within and outside the parties to safeguard the gains promised by the new Constitution.
“It’s not enough for parties to give token positions to women simply to meet the one third rule as required by the Constitution, but parties must be seen to give a chance to women who are interested in contesting for top positions within the parties.
A survey among most of the parties reveals that most women hold deputy positions, with a majority heading the gender affairs, labour, youth, and environment departments. This has seen them lose out on other key positions such as Party chair, Secretary General, Director of Elections and Treasurer.
Community Advocacy and Awareness Trust Executive Director Daisy Amdany, says while there has been a marked improvement in the inclusion of women within party ranks, they (women) must ensure nomination rules set by the political entities for these positions do not disenfranchise them. She points to the importance of the NEC within any political outfit and the need for women to seek top positions within them.
“Although we have the National delegates conference where decisions are either endorsed or rescinded, the National Executive Committee of any political party remains a critical decision making organ and is responsible for co coordinating key party activities,” she says.
Parties edge closer to bridging gender gap
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Amdany says while the law has opened up space for participation within the parties by the women, its up to them (women) to prove they are equal to the task.
The Executive Director of the Women’s Political Alliance Wambui Kanyi, points to the position of gender /women’s affair’s as one that ‘further marginalises’ women within party leadership, and should be scrapped.
“In over 90 per cent of the parties this position is reserved for women, which narrows their options with regards to going for other top seats within the parties,” she says.
She too acknowledges the import of the one -third rule, which makes it mandatory for parties to include women within their elective positions.
“The women may have got the lower positions within the parties for now, but their inclusion is a move in the right direction and offers a good learning experience,” she says.
In contrast to the sharing out of leadership positions within political parties, statistics from the Registrar of Political Parties show majority of the parties have women accounting for over 40 per cent of their members.
Of the 51 parties listed only the National Agenda Party of Kenya has a less than 40 per cent women representation of its membership at 33 per cent.
Interestingly parties that score poorly in the representation of women within leadership ranks such as New Ford Kenya, Alliance Party of Kenya, Ford Kenya, Wiper Democratic Movement, Party of National Unity, and Ford People, register impressive results in gender parity among the members.
Of the total members registered New Ford Kenya has 59 per cent men against 41 per cent women, Wiper Democratic Movement (54/46), Party of National Unity (55/45), Democratic Party of Kenya (56/44), Alliance Party of Kenya (53/47), Ford Kenya (59/41), and Ford People (53/47). Others like The National Alliance also have a smaller gender margins among members at 56/44, ODM (56/44), and Kenya African National Union (55/45).