“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” – Marianne Williamson (Author and Activist)
Overwhelming evidence has proven that politics remains primarily a male-dominated affair. A closer look at the political matrix of many countries will show that men dominate political participation. This evidence is not geographically or culturally distinct but extends the world over. In Africa, for instance, owing to a large extent to tradition, women are considered minors and second-rate to men. In contrast, some analysts may argue that no one is barred from political participation and that politics is an even field for all who care to join. Regardless of gender and social status, the structural basis for participation does not suggest so. This is especially so when it comes to holding elected public offices. It has to be noted that while holding public office is considered the epitome of political participation; it’s not the only way. Other forms of political activity exist that shape the domestic political climate.
Women’s role in governance has for a long time been downplayed not only in Africa but in the world. Women are considered second-class citizens whose role in society is to accept the status quo and obey their male counterparts. They have been taught to be correct in the men’s place. They are the ones who make the laws, implement them, and punish whoever is acting contradictory to the law and for the women to be the foot-soldier and only obey as they are told. Women have not been taken seriously when it comes to governance, with some having to force their way so that their voices are heard. Some of these women have taken on advocacy roles to improve the environment for future generations. Women face many challenges when participating in the political sphere. They lack the proper knowledge with which to make informed decisions, patriarchal norms which always serve to oppress the women, and lack of proper means to access power.
Over the years, women and more women in Kenya have overcome such adversaries to participate in the country’s politics. While there is still a long way to go, great strides have been made from when the country gained independence to date. It is, however, essential to evaluate ourselves (the country) at every milestone and determine if that is where we want to be and, if not, what should we have in place in order to have the desired goals. Despite the hurdles women face, they have had a tremendous impact on the country’s governance, where they have been actively involved. It has been proven that all-inclusive participation in society is the right way to go in as far as governance is concerned. The only thing that varies from country to country is the political will to make this a reality.
What Criteria Are Used for Nominating Candidates in Political Parties?
The issue of nomination is riddled with two things that impede women’s participation in politics in Kenya. To start with, women are underrepresented in the organs tasked with the nomination of candidates. This underrepresentation means that there are only a few people who can advocate for women’s rights and voice the challenges women face when participating in politics. The other is financial constraints. Concerning the nomination, parties in Kenya still have a long way to go. Ideally, nomination to vie for a seat would depend on the competence of the individual vying for the said position and the candidates sharing the same ideals as that of the party. Women cited Finance, nepotism, popularity, and patron-client relationships as influencing the nomination of a candidate.
What role does Finance play in nominating candidates for political parties?
Finance plays a huge role as far as nominations are concerned. According to a survey by Coalition for Accountable Political Finance, politicians and their parties spent an enormous sum of money during the nomination week. The amount is estimated to be Kshs 5 million in each of the 210 constituencies. This money is primarily used for bribery purposes. Where such amounts are directed into nominations alone, the cost becomes too much for the women who cannot afford this amount. The result is more men than women will be nominated to vie for seats and at the end of the day, we’ll have more men than women in office.
What role does popularity play in nominating candidates for political parties?
This issue of popularity explains why we have some legislators in office. In 2017, for example, in the run for Governor of Nairobi, businessman Peter Keneth sought to vie for this seat using a Jubilee ticket. Despite the fact the businessman has a wealth of experience and is competent, the party decided to vote for Mike Sonko simply because he was more popular. Mike Sonko has stirred up controversies in the past in the constituency he was representing. He has demonstrated with the masses and engaged in running battles with the authority. Sonko was also on record inciting members of the constituency he represented to disrupt the flow of commuters from the capital city Nairobi without an alternative public transport plan. He later denied this and issued a public apology. During his term as a Member of Parliament, his conduct was questionable. Therefore, when he was nominated to vie for Governor under the jubilee ticket in 2013 and 2017, the criteria under which parties nominate their candidates could not go without being questioned.
What role does nepotism play in nominating candidates for political parties?
Candidates in Kenya have been selected based on their relationship with party leaders. The most recent example is the nomination of Moses Kajwang’ to be the senator of Homa Bay County following the death of his older brother and very popular Otieno Kajwang.’ Moses’ nomination was very contentious as the other candidates interested in the seat under the ODM ticket claimed that the issue ought to be treated as a political affair, not a family affair. Raila Odinga, who is the leader of ODM, was accused of imposing the candidate on the people of Homa Bay and that the process was very undemocratic. This issue of nepotism is closely tied to the patron-client relationship. Otieno Kajwang was a very close ally of Raila Odinga. Raila endorsing his younger brother could easily be a way of maintaining close ties with the Kajwangs and the area’s support. This caused a rift within the party, but the party maintained the seat at the end of the day through Moses Kajwang. This was, however, not an isolated case. There has been a trend of family members being nominated when their loved ones perish while still in office.
To many, it is a thought that the nature of political parties’ structure hinders women from participating in governance and politics in Kenya and Africa. From the narrative, this holds true. The manifestos that are mostly gender-inclusive are not implemented by the parties and the Electoral Commissioning Authority. Women are often bulldozed by men who know their way around the party and given that there are very few women actively involved in these parties, the number of women who can act as mentors to aspiring female candidates is very low. Parties need to reform so as to promote women’s participation.