Source: All Africa

Kenyan women have a huge task ahead if they are to achieve the basic one-third representation in the next government.

Speaking Thursday at a breakfast meeting with the Kenya Parliamentary Journalist Association at Nairobi's Stanley Hotel, women representatives said it will be "difficult" for the women to raise at least 116 seats in the next Parliament.

They said that even though the campaign to ensure that at least one-third of Parliament is women-Kenya being a patriarchal society--the odds against them were so high to the extent that they need a boost through legislation.

Ms Sofia Abdi Noor (nominated, ODM), Ms Tiyah Galgalo, a commissioner with the Interim Independent Electoral Commission, Ms Rosemary Orlale of the Kenya Editors Guild and city councillor Racheal Kamweru joined Ms Agnes Mugane in saying that the time has come for women to claim their position in the politics.

The women leaders said the country was staring at a constitutional crisis, if say, in the next polls, men occupy more than two-thirds of the elective positions.

The Constitution says that not more than two-thirds of the elective or appointive posts should be dominated by either gender.

Electoral violence, poverty and lack of political base plus the relegation of women to home-making are also some of the challenges that they have to overcome to beat the constitutional threshold.

"Our fear is that we may not have women coming forward to contest these special seats," said Ms Galgalo, alluding to an apathy among women when it comes to discussing issues to do with the law under the Constitution.

The lack of money to mount political campaigns is also a key challenge for them to run as independent candidates.

"I'd love to be the mayor of Nairobi. I know I can be the mayor, but you know what happens? People are pulled aside, say to Mombasa to 'strategise' before coming to vote. Which woman can afford that for 100 councillors?. It all boils down to economic power," said Ms Kamweru.

Ms Mugane, a programmes officer of the Association of Local Government Association of Kenya, said that if there's no law to back Constitution, then the women's representation will be at 15.1 per cent in the National Assembly and at 26 per cent in the Senate.

There are 47 women special seats, at least four nominated women MPs, which brings the total of those to sit in the national assembly to 51.

For the Senate, there will be 16 women, and one young woman and another woman from the disabled group, bringing the total to 18 slots.

The women said that unless there's a law to favour women to occupy the posts, they may not have a "voice" in politics.

"We know there are very few Martha Karua's, the ones who whether they are alone or in a group, their voice will still be heard. But most of us need a critical mass to be heard," said Ms Mugane.

She said that women "were their own enemies", because the ones in position of influence were not keen to mentor the aspiring ones.

Ms Mugane said the public had complained that women MPs were "unreachable" to the rest of the women and to prove her point, none of the 22 women MPs serving in Kenya's Parliament, save for Ms Sofia Abdi, had shown up for the meeting.

"Many women currently in positions of leadership in local authorities have not gone to school and they're likely to be locked out if education is one of the criteria for candidates in the county polls," said Ms Mugane.

Male politicians were also on the receiving end for misinforming the public, saying that women had no point campaigning in the elective posts because they had 47 special seats reserved for them in the National Assembly and 16 seats in the Senate.

This propaganda, the women said, was rampant in the pastoral areas where the reach of the media and civil society is remote.

"I was in Sengeilu in Ijara and asked people there if they knew the gains brought by the Constitution. They said they know about 'Yes' and 'No'. There's no radio, no TV, no newspaper and thus the few people who know about the Constitution misinterpret it. The male politicians tell off women, because they have special seats," said Ms Sofia Abdi Noor.

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