Beyond Remedial Measures: Re-thinking ‘Normalization’ of women’s election as part of political experience in Kenya.

Beyond Remedial Measures: Re-thinking ‘Normalization’ of women’s election as part of political experience in Kenya.

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  Beyond the ‘Remedial’ measures: Re - thinking ‘Normalization’ of women’s election as part of political experience in Kenya. By Dalmas Ochieng 1   Abstract Normalisation of women’s election is a noble target toward fulfilling the demands of international conventions amongst them the UDHR(1948) on gender and participatory democracy. It is a pathway that also fulfils the tenets of a functional democracy under various declarations. The adoption of the remedial measures and quotas in specific remain an acceptable strategy with respect to fast-tracking and strengthening such achievements with extant literature proving an average 20.9% women’s representation in parliament through quotas as of July, 2013. While the foundations of approach and progress so far remain philosophically sane, it is the thesis of this paper that such remedial measures might provide quick fixes without being socio-economically and politically tenable over long period of time. Borrowing widely from institutional based approaches used in post-re  volution Egypt, Tunisia and contextually, the Kenya’s March 4 th  2013 general elections outcome, the paper advocates for gender-nuanced complementary approaches that seek a bottom-up approach as to be able to dismantle the socio-cultural norms that have over the years played against the ‘electability’ of women in political offices within Kenya’s geopolitics. These complementary strategies are seen to be able to yield to the theories of equality of results and competitive equality but also remain culturally and economically tenable in the long run. Key words: Participatory democracy, Remedial measures, Gender Introduction  Women’s participation in social and political institutions is significant toward the development of democratically healthy institutions, more so, when participations is meaningful and inclusive across appointive and elective bodies in a democracy. The thesis of this statement is well espoused in Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) which recognizes the right of every person to take part in the government of his or her country. It underscores the fact that equal access of men and women to power, decision-making and leadership at all levels is a necessary precondition for the proper functioning of democracy. Equal participation of men and  women in political affairs makes governments more representative of the composition of society; it makes them more accountable and transparent, and ensures that the interests of women are taken into account in policy-making. A number of documents signed by United Nations (UN) member states over the years –  including the World Plan of Action in Mexico City in 1975, the 1  Dalmas Ochieng is a Doctorate candidate at the Institute of Anthropology, Gender and African studies-University of Nairobi.  Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women in 1979 and the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies in 1985 –  resulted in a landmark commitment in the 1995 Beijing Platform for  Action, signed by all member states at the UN’s Fourth World Conference on  Women, to a specific target of 30% women in decision-making positions. Given the deliberations of the conference, electoral gender quotas were passed in more than 100 countries subsequently  with signatories agreeing to work toward the achievement of the critical mass of 30 % of women’s representation in elective and appointive bodies. As a consequence, both scholars and international organizations have generated a wide body of scientific knowledge on these policies (Dahlerup, 2006; Krook, 2009).  Women, however, have traditionally been excluded from power and decision-making processes. Ricardo (2012) posits that notwithstanding their increased participation in the public sphere as  workers, women’s interest have been woefully underrepresented in the political process. In cognizance of the this, several conventions (CEDAW, 1979; BPFA, 1995; CSW, 1997/2; UNSC Resolution 1325; UN, 2003 Resolution 58/142) have all advocated for inclusion of men and  women in leadership and decision-making as a precondition for functional democracy. The premise of these conventions and resolutions being that public institutions should be a mirror image of the composition of its population. Taking the cue from earlier declarations on political participation, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) 1995 report findings showed that women as a group, to exert a meaningful influence in legislative bodies, required a 30% level of representation. It is however regrettable that women remain excluded from political and societal formal and informal decision-making processes as leaders, mediators, ministers and Chief Executives. Wome n are still perceived to be the exception to the ‘male rule’ as politics, political leadership styles and policies are understood in male – centred representatives’ terms  despite a global consensus on what is needed. In Kenya, despite the fact that women comprise 52% of the population and 60% of the country's registered voters 2 , women have failed to translate their numeric strength into political power, and this is attributable to structural imbalances inherent in the Kenyan society that discriminates against women and makes their search for leadership difficult. A cursory examination of the results from Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in the March 4 th  2013 General Elections reveal that out of the total of 197 women who vied for a National Assembly seat, only 16 made it to parliament (Kenyan Woman, 2013). This figure compares very poorly to 1,908 men  who vied for the same position and 274 made it to the House. The 16 women who were elected represent a paltry 12% of the total women who vied for a parliamentary seats and accounts for a mere 5% of members of the National Assembly. At the county representative level, 623 women 2  Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) Kenya Population and Housing Census Volume 1C- Population Distribution by Age, Sex and Administrative Units Census report (2010)   vied and only 85 were approved by voters. The same position attracted 9,287 male contestants,  where 1,365 were elected, and leaving women to account for less than six per cent of the county  ward representative seats. In the whole, not a single woman was elected a senator or a governor  with the sole female presidential contestant performing dismally (Kenyan Woman, 2013). It is imperative to note that these results were realised despite the Constitutional provisions in Article 27(8) and 81(b) that require a minimum 30% of either gender representation at the National and County levels.  Whereas this paper takes into cognisance the significant role played by the Affirmative Action measures herein referred to as ‘remedial measures’ in addressing the historical biases in gender and political leadership, specifically as a tool to overcome the socio-cultural biases that largely define the male-politics in Kenya, the paper posits that these ‘magic bullets’ do not in themselves demusculinise politics neither do they change the socio- cultural norms that define the ‘electability’ of women and subsequent normalization of women’s elec tion as part of political experience in Kenya. It is the premise of this paper that such measures should be practised alongside mechanism that build women’s competence diffusing the notion that women are to be elected by mere gender dimension into leadership. I therefore argue for more gender-pronounced undertakings that will address themselves to the prevalent norms and stereotypes that have worked against women in elective politics in Kenya. The paper concludes that this kind of approach will embrace itself to the bottom-up approach to provoke attitudinal change amongst the electorates with respect to their  view on women’s ‘candidature’ and ‘electability’.   Global consensus on equality of participation : ‘derailed emergency or just acultural’   Equity in political participation is fronted both as a legal entitlement and social inclusion tool that reflects the composition of a society in its governance and leadership at large with the latter being premised on the differential experiences, needs, interests and priorities of women and women.  Across the community of nations, several declarations and conventions have come to advance equality in participation of men and women in governance based on several theses amongst them:  Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognizes the right of every person to take part in the government of his or her country. Equal access of men and women to power, decision-making and leadership at all levels is a necessary precondition for the proper functioning of democracy. Equal participation of men and women in political affairs makes governments more representative of the composition of society; it makes them more accountable and transparent, and ensures that the interests of women are taken into account in policy-making. The premise of equality before the law has therefore become a tagline for many democracies including Kenya that has enshrined the same in its Constitution (2010) under Chapter Four. However, there is always a caveat toward the realization of the same t hrough inclusion on the tag ‘progressive realization ’ hence more often the rights are ‘cosmetic’ and ‘long - term’ rather than quick fixes to the blaring gender-gaps in governance and political leadership.  The 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) provides the basis for realizing equality between women and men through ensuring  women's equal access to, and equal opportunities in, political and public life, including the right to  vote and to stand for election, as well as to hold public office at all levels of government (Article 7). States parties agree to take all appropriate measures to overcome historical discrimination against  women and obstacles to women’s participation in decision -making processes (Article 8), including legislation and temporary special measures (Article 4). The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women consistently expresses concern over the low rate of implementation of Articles 7 and 8 of the Convention. In its general recommendation 23 of 1997 the Committee reviewed the persisting barriers to women’s participation in political and public life and set out a series of steps for Governments to take in order to abide fully by Articles 7 and 8, urging especially the adoption of temporary special measures in accordance with Article 4 of the Convention. The recommendation 23 of 1997 must have been premised on the reality that state interventions on their own had failed to work and produce same results in different socio-cultural contexts. That equality of opportunities in access to power failed to question the cultural definition of power, ‘the cultural - given’ male jurisdiction of public office and the magnitude of attitudinal and cultural norm interventions needed to realize the same. In Kenya, a culture of political survival balance cropped into the leadership of the time thus such ratification ended in themselves and at best, roadside political pronouncements without a constitutional basis were used to paint the image of compliance at least to convince international community of the country’s commitment to the international conventions on equality and governance principles. The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, brought attention to the persisting inequality between men and women in decision-making. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action recognize women’s unequal share of power and decision -making as one of the twelve critical areas of concern. The Platform for Action outlines concrete actions to ensure  women’s equal access to, and full participation in, power structures (Strategic Objective G.1), and to increase women’s capacity to participate in decision -making and leadership (Strategic Objective G.2). The Agreed Conclusions 1997/2 of the 41 st  session of the Commission on the Status of  Women’s on women in power and decision -making processes called for the acceleration of implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action in order to achieve women’s full and equal participation in decision-making. Governments were urged, inter alia , to establish time-bound targets for reaching the goal of gender balance in decision-making, and ensure gender mainstreaming in legislation. The Agreed Conclusions stress the importance that achieving equal participation in decision-making has for the strengthening of democracy (para 2). The outcome document adopted by the 23 rd  special session of the General Assembly in 2000 reviewed achievements in the promotion of women into power and decision-making positions. It noted that an increasing number of countries had adopted positive discrimination  policies, including the establishment of quota systems during elections, setting of measurable goals, and the development of leadership training for women. However, there continue to be significant obstacles to reaching gender balance in decision- making bodies at all levels: “Women continue to be under-represented in the legislative, ministerial and sub-ministerial levels, as well as at the highest levels of the corporate sector and other economic a nd social institutions” (G.23). At the time of the review, it should be noted that there were only nine women within the Kenyan parliament and there was no constitutional basis upon which quotas could be established in the electoral process. The commitment to achieve gender equality in power and decision-making in political affairs was reaffirmed, inter alia , by Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security of 2000, which called for the integration of a gender perspective into the negotiation and implementation of peace agreements. General Assembly Resolution 58/142 on Women and Political Participation in 2003 urged Member States to eliminate all discriminatory laws in their national legislatures, counter “negative societal attitudes about women’s capacity to participate equally in the political process” (para 1d), and “institute educational programmes…in the school curriculum that sensitize young people about the equal rights of women” (para 1g) . The conventions cited above point inclusion and participation of the citizenry in governance of their affairs as fundamental to the functioning of democracy. There is emphasis on the states to adopt temporary measures that can help cure the observed historical marginalization of women from the political leadership platforms. However, statistical analysis of women’s representation in parliament paint a gloomy picture . Only 20.9% of national parliamentarians were female as of 1 July 2013, a slow increase from 11.6% in 1995 (IPU, 2012).  As of June 2013, 8 women served as Head of State and 13 served as Head of Government (UN  Women, 2012). Rwanda had the highest number of women parliamentarians worldwide with 56.3% . Wide variations remain in the average percentages of women parliamentarians in each region, across single, and lower and upper houses. As of 1 July 2013, these were: Sub-Saharan  Africa, 20.9 per cent; the Middle East and North Africa, 13.8%; Asia, 18.3%; Pacific, 15.4%;  Americas, 24.8%; Nordic countries, 42%; and Europe excluding Nordic countries, 22.7% (IPU, 2013;UN Women, 2013).  Whereas the consensus on equality of participation were and still remain philosophically well-grounded, their realization remain slow, uneven and more often ‘ acultural ’ in situations where th e norms and social characteristics of societies have not bought themselves to the principles of modern day democracy and equality of men and women. The fundamental questions thus remain:  Were targets to be magic in all cultural settings? What social impairments still challenge the realization of the global consensus on gender equality and governance? How far does quota system
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