In Summary
  • Male political domination is not just an “African” problem. Many developed democracies are among the worst offenders
  • In the Gender Inequality Index, Kenya ranks 145 out of 186. There have been relatively few successful female leaders

Two weeks ago I took part in the Women in Politics and Government (WIPG) conference, the brainchild of Winihin Jemide. The speakers, who included female MPs, ministers, and senators from across Africa, were universal in lamenting the lack of women in African politics.

Of course, male political domination is not just an “African” problem. Many developed democracies are among the worst offenders.
Only 23 per cent of the UK parliament is female, while in America men make up 82 per cent of the legislature.

This compares poorly to Rwanda, where the use of quotas has resulted in successive parliaments with a female majority.

IMPORTANT FACTORS

But many African states have not made as much progress as Rwanda. So what are the most important factors that increase female parliamentary representation?

Somewhat surprisingly, there is no clear relationship between the quality of democracy in a country and the representation of women.

The parliament in Botswana, one of the most open and liberal states in Africa for the last 60 years, is almost wholly male (83 per cent).

The relationship between gender equity and having a female head of state is also unclear.

Consider Liberia, where President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf was able to win the presidency but failed to persuade the legislature to introduce a 30 per cent gender quota. As a result, women make up just 11 per cent of the House of Representatives.

By global standards, Kenya is not doing badly: 23 per cent of the National Assembly are women — more than America, and only just below the UK. However, in other ways the country has a long way to go. (READ: Gender balance to ensure equity)

In the Gender Inequality Index, Kenya ranks 145 out of 186. There have been relatively few successful female leaders.

In the medium-term the 2010 Constitution should help to change this picture.

Article 81 (b) of the new constitution stipulates that “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.”

The World Bank celebrated the new provision by citing Kenya as a global leader in gender equity reform.

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