The burden has been lifted but are we taking up the mantle as women?

By Hannah Ondiek
I look at the new Constitution in Kenya as both a blessing and a curse for women in Kenya especially political aspirants.
The Heinrich Boll Foundation – HBF monthly forum on 30th August 2012 was an eye opener for many in attendance. The very able panellists Commissioner Rose Osoro, Commissioner on Revenue Allocation  (CRA) and Dr. Kiti Birika, a professor, School of Business, University of Nairobi and a Consultant took the participants through the topic “Determining Gender Equity in Fiscal Devolution” both coming with different approaches to the matter. Commissioner Osoro mainly gave a report on the commission whose function is to make recommendations concerning the basis of equitable sharing of revenue raised by the national government. Dr. Kiti on the other hand challenged Ms. Osoro’s presentation that resulted in a thought provoking discussion and way forward there after.
Memorably, Ms. Osoro gave an analogy of an elephant in the circus. To hold the baby elephant down, a rope is tied to a large rock and every time the baby elephant tries to move, it is held back. The elephant then grows and though now bigger and stronger than the rock, it does not move beyond the stone because it still believes that the stone is too heavy. The Commissioner then likened Kenyan women to the grown elephant that still won’t move beyond the rock. She noted that although the new Constitution has opened numerous opportunities for women in many different areas especially politics, many women are still being held down by a ‘rock’ even when they have so much strength and power to move beyond the ‘rock’.
CRA’s principle on gender equality is guided by Article 27 of the Constitution which states the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender. This brought in the most interesting part of the commissioner’s presentation which was the issue of ‘The Gender Penalty’ which is the penalty placed on any county that will not have a 2/3 representation of women elected. This will lead to the nomination of women into the administrative posts which will increase the number of posts in that area.
This means that the particular county will have more salaries to pay than the counties that voted in women and thus the money in the budget that would have been used for alternative purposes will now go into paying the salaries of  not only those elected but also those nominated representatives. It is the additional wage bill if women are not elected.
Example of the Gender Penalty Analogy using County ‘A’ and County ‘B’
                                                                                                                            COUNTY ‘A’                                             COUNTY ‘B’
Elected -men                                         ………………………..                                 20                                                                  30
-Women                                                   ………………………..                                 10                                                                    –
Total Elected                                          ………………………..                                 30                                                                  30
177 (1) (b)
Nomination of women                                                 ………………………..         –                                                                       15
Total County Assembly                                               ………………………..         30                                                                  45
SHS. MILLION                                        SHS. MILLION
Monthly remuneration assuming Shs.300, 000 per member
                         ………………………..                                                                             9                                                                     14
Annual Wage Bill                                                        ………………………..         108                                                               162
Gender Penalty (162-108)
Annually                                                                           ………………………..         –                                                                       54
Five years (54×5 yrs)                                                 ………………………..         –                                                                       240
1,450 ÷ 1/3 = 484 X 150% = 726 x KSHS. 300,000 = 218Million MONTH, = 2.6 Billion YEAR, = 13.1Billion, 5 YEARS
This shows the figures in billions that the counties will need to pay as a penalty for not voting in women. And the big question is: are we ready to waste such huge amounts of money as a country? Think of how much development work can be accomplished with those funds.
Dr. Kiti in her discussion noted that though it easier for women to vie for various elective positions as provided under the Constitution, the resistance will be more than before because the stakes are higher. So women need to brace themselves for an even harder battle. She urged women to take part on politics by first registering in political parties and ensuring that they are active in the party politics.
The whole discussion got me thinking about an article I had read concerning the new Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission – IEBC rules that may bar women. Women politicians in Kenya will have a hard time if the election regulation laws are accepted. These include the mandatory nomination fee of up to Ksh 500,000 for women. This brings in the discussion on women’s economic abilities knowing well that we are still partly a patriarchal society where men own most property and only a few women will afford those exorbitant amounts of money. There is also the problem of cultural barriers to women’s participation, lack of proper education for women especially in the rural areas and also the problem of people, including women refusal to vote for women for reasons they may never be able to verbalize.
After the meeting it was clear that more education needs to be done especially in the grassroots. We also asked CRA to ensure they do an extensive community sensitization which they said they would. Now that we have the information, how are we going to use it to ensure gender equality in Kenya especially in the issue of politics?
Take responsibility! The ball is now in your court!
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