Kenyan women protest political gender gap

Hundreds of mostly female activists marched in Kenya’s capital Nairobi on Monday to protest repeated failures to apply laws that women must hold at least a third of government seats.

According to Kenya’s 2010 constitution, women must have at least a third of seats in parliament and a third of appointed positions.

But successive parliaments and governments have fallen short of the target.

“The women of Kenya are tired of being treated like second class citizens and now stand together to ensure that we take our rightful place at the decision-making table,” said Wangechi Wachira, an organiser of the protest from women’s rights organisation the Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW).

President Uhuru Kenyatta won re-election last year and has so far named an all-male cabinet, although vacancies remain.

“Out of the possible 13 positions that remain, the president must by law ensure at least nine go to women,” said Wachira.

Waving placards and chanting, the 500-strong crowd accused Kenyatta of making unconstitutional appointments.

“Implement Article 10, Article 27 and Article 81 (b) now. Women need to be free and not tearful,” read the banners, referring to various clauses of the constitution against gender discrimination.

Parliament, too, remains a mostly male domain, in spite of Kenya’s progressive constitution. Efforts to pass a law that would force the dissolution of parliament if the one-third threshold is not met has been repeatedly stymied by male lawmakers.

There are 76 female MPs in the current parliament, equivalent to just over a fifth of the 349 seats.

Kenya’s upper house, the Senate, fares better but still falls short with only 21 female senators instead of the 23 demanded by the constitution.

Wangechi charged that parliament is “improperly constituted and operating outside the law, a fact that parliament has conveniently chosen to ignore.”


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