Actualizing women's rights under the new constitution in Kenya

On March 29, the SID Regional Office for Eastern Africa convened a meeting of experts including members of the Kenyan government, representatives of civil society, and academics in order to discuss possible actions to guarantee the implementaiton of women's political rights envisaged under the new Kenyan constitution.

The previous constitution in Kenya was not sufficiently representative of women, disadvantaged groups and minorities with the result that  their voices, opinions and perspectives were therefore not heard within the public policy making process. Through a consultative process of reforms that culminated in the new Kenyan constitution in 2010, a proportional representation  electoral system has been endorsed. Women's demands of political representation have been  captured in the new system. It is envisaged (articles 27/8 and 81b) that the State shall take  measures - legislative and of other kind -  to implement the principle that  'no more than two-­thirds of members in elective or appointed bodies shall be of  the same gender'.  Despite that, the implementation of this principle has resulted to be very controversial. 

This debate has raised much attention in Kenya due to the fact that if  the principle is not complied with, then this could render the two Houses - the National Assembly and the Senate - unconstitutional after the 2012 General  Elections. 

It is therefore important that discussion and consultations among experts and decision makers are encouraged in order to find ways to achieve the thresholds set  within the constitution. 

The meeting was chaired by Hulda Ouma (National Gender and Equality Commission of Kenya) and addressed  the following questions:  

  • How do we give full effect and a lasting solution to the issues of gender  parity  and  equity in elective positions specifically in the National  Assembly and the Senate?
  • Does the  design of the electoral system  guarantee women's representation through distinct constituencies and  mechanisms within the electoral system?  
  • Will women from minorities be appropriately represented within the new electoral system? 

Background paper | Agenda 



Photo: Pink Sherbet Photography/flickr