Contrary to the belief that Kenyan women do not perform well in political elections, the reality is they stand as good a chance as men of being elected to political leadership positions of they make it through the primaries, a review of election data for last two general elections shows.
The Nation Newsplex analysis also finds that a good number of the women who vied in the 2017 election made their entry into the public sphere as nominees to the Senate or national and county legislatures, or government appointments.
In the just concluded election seven women (three per cent) vied for county governor, compared to 203 men (97 per cent). Three of those women were elected, compared to 44 men.
This means 43 per cent, or two in five of women who contested for the governor’s seat were elected, compared to 21 per cent, or one in five men who vied for the post. In other words, the few female candidates who were presented were twice as likely to be elected governor as their male counterparts.
Newsplex finds that one in six women who contested for the MP’s seat won, compared to one in seven men who participated in the same race.
The three women who made history by becoming the first women in Kenya to be elected governor include Anne Waiguru in Kirinyaga (Jubilee Party) and Charity Ngilu in Kitui (Narc), who are former cabinet secretaries.
Even though she run on the ticket of a party that was not dominant in her county, Ngilu beat two Ukambani heavy weights, former governor Dr Julius Malombe and former Senator David Musila.
Joyce Cherono Laboso (Jubilee Party), a former MP for Sotik Constituency and Deputy Speaker of the national assembly, also won the Bomet seat. In 2013 no woman was elected governor even though six female candidates contested.
Other female candidates for governor who vied unsuccessfully were Martha Karua (Kirinyaga), Jacinta Mwatela, Mabel Muruli (Kakamega), Wavinya Ndeti (Machakos) and Christine Otieno (Kisumu).
During party nominations earlier in 2017 in which nine parties major parties participated, only seven aspirants (five per cent) were women, while 138 (95 per cent) were men.
Apart from Ms Waiguru, Ms Ndeti and Ms Laboso, they included Cecily Mbarire, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru Kariuki, Dr Yulita Chebotip Cheruiyot, and Anne Omodho Anyanga.
According to Ms Wambui Kanyi, a gender specialist with the African Women Studies Centre at the University of Nairobi the successful candidates are not new to leadership. “Most of the women who were elected for the various posts did not come from nowhere. They have been in leadership and the voters know what they are capable of doing. The voters therefore viewed them not as women but as leaders,” says Kanyi.
She says the successes of women in the election is a sign that affirmative action is working and voters are changing their mindset. Affirmative action is being used to make women leaders visible enabling them to reach for greater heights in future.
Re-elected Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo agrees that women leaders have been demystified. “Voters are no longer amazed to see a woman take to the podium because it has become normal and not unique. My experience is that voters have more faith in women and view them as less corrupt, more concerned about socio-economic issues and they see women as playing a motherly role to the community,” says the MP, who first made it to parliament in 2008 when ODM nominated her.
Chances of women senate candidates being elected in the recent election were also good this year. Of the 19 women candidates who were in the senate race, three won compared to the 44 men who won out of 237 men candidates.
This means that 16 per cent, or one in six of the women who vied for a senatorial seat in the 2017 election won, compared to 19 per cent or one in five of the men who contested the race.
The new women senators include former nominated Senator Fatuma Adan Dullo, who was elected Senator in the conservative pastoral county Isiolo, former MP and Minister for Higher Education Margaret Jepkoech Kamar and former Nakuru County Assembly Speaker Susan Kihika.
Because of the performance of women in the race, the Senate has just fallen short of the two-thirds gender rule for elective posts because there will be 21 women in the Senate. Only one woman will need to be nominated.
Article 98 of the Constitution establishes that the Senate shall consist of 47 elected members, 16 women nominated by political parties according to their proportion of elected members, a man and woman representing the youth, a man and a woman representing persons with disabilities for a total of 67 people, not including the Speaker, who shall be an ex officio member.
Twenty two (eight per cent) of the 289 elected MPs are women up from 16 in 2013. The MP election was postponed in Kitutu Chache South constituency after the Jubilee candidate died in a road accident before the election.
Only 133 (seven per cent) out of 1,885 candidates who contested in the Member of the National Assembly race were women, meaning that the proportion of women elected was one per cent higher than the share of women candidates for the post.