Katiba @ 10: Female lawmakers, lobbyists insist #WomenMustLead


Katiba @ 10: Female lawmakers, lobbyists insist #WomenMustLead
From left: Gathoni Wamuchomba (Kiambu Woman Rep); Millie Odhiambo (Mbita MP); Daisy Amdany (Executive Director of the Community Advocacy and Awareness (CRAWN) Trust; Memory Kachambwa (FEMNET Executive Director); Mildred Ngesa (FEMNET Head of Communications) and Editar Ochieng (Kibra activist and founder of the Feminist for Peace Human Rights and Justice Centre). PHOTOS | RACHEL OMBAKA

In Summary

5 ways used to pull women down
  1. Making invisible
  2. Making ridiculous
  3. Burdening with guilt and shame
  4. Double punishment
  5. Withholding information
Prof. Jacqueline Oduol

What hinders African women’s participation in politics? This was the question posed at a forum for women’s political participation in Kenya.

As Kenya marked the 10th anniversary of the new Constitution (Katiba @10), women leaders from across the political divide expressed their exasperation over violations and systems that still exist to discourage female participation.

KARUA: Redefining women leaders solidarity in political participation in Kenya

“Currently, out of the 349 seats in parliament, only 76 members are female representing only a fifth of the total. Yet according to the new Constitution, parliament should at least have 117 female members of parliament (MPs) thus falls short by 41 members,” said Memory Kachambwa, Executive Director of the African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET).

She was speaking during the policy dialogue that was convened in Nairobi on Friday.

FEMNET in partnership with the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) brought women leaders together under the theme #WomenMustLead.

According to Ms. Kachambwa, there is need for women to reposition themselves to realize meaningful representation.

Narc Kenya party leader Martha Karua, one of the pioneer female lawmakers in the East African region, reiterated Ms. Kachambwa’s remarks noting that even as Kenya marks 10 years since the promulgation of the new constitution, the three arms of government are yet to comply with the Two Thirds gender principle.

 

Ms. Karua then delved into barriers that women leaders face: she explained that just because an individual is a women does not mean that she is aware of her surroundings and the impediments.

“We’re raised in a patriarchal system that prioritizes men over women and it becomes normal. When you grow up in that set up you cease to realize you’re being discriminated against.

“Right from the family setting, girls are expected to help in household chores while their brothers play. These differentials are replicated in the workplace, in school and they become part of us. We cease to notice even when we are in an obvious manner treated differently,” she said.

The former Gichugu MP intimated that her journey of self-awareness that began decades ago got her to appreciate common goals and shared interests with other women.

It is then that she began to be conscious that people are born in a patriarchal society and all have a measure of the societal construct imbibed from the environment people live in.

“Patriarchy is something we must all learn to deconstruct. It is time to leverage on our numbers, our clout to demand our rightful place our rightful share. This we can do collectively by identifying ourselves with the course and committing to unity of purpose in all the spaces we occupy: in parliament, our political parties, our families and any other spaces available to us,” Ms. Karua said.

Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo also narrated how she had to endure cyber-bullying and verbal attacks from other politicians when she was entering politics.

The outspoken lawmaker also averred that women are often pitted against each other because there is fear of female leadership.

She also noted that the perception that women are their own worst enemies is a fallacy adding that affirmative action is the way to go.

“The first Kenyan men to come to parliament after independence came through affirmative action so there is nothing wrong with women wanting to lead through affirmative action.”

On feminism, the Mbita lawmaker noted that feminists are individuals who recognize that there are women who are excluded from certain spaces because of social constructs.

“A feminist is a man or a woman who understands how another woman feels,” she said.

Kiambu Woman Rep Gathoni Wa Muchomba stated that pioneer female politicians paved the way for more Kenyan women to join politics, adding that since the constitution made it possible for more women to be in Parliament, women have advocated for key legislations among them being ‘family bills’.

Wamuchomba who is also the Chairperson of the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) however recognized the need to identify barriers that hinder women’s active participation in politics.

She further emphasized the need to enhance political networks so that women are encouraged to fully participate in politics.

Daisy Amdany, CEO of Crawn Trust Kenya, pulled no punches at the forum, addressing how men and women in politics relate with each other.

 

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