Kenyan Elections and Two-Thirds Gender Rule

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Reflecting on the August elections in Kenya, Jane Machira, Africa Gender and Inclusion Adviser for Side by Side member organisation Christian Aid, describes how Kenyans in the Side by Side faith movement for gender justice are among those contributing to a new environment where the Two-Thirds Gender rule may become a reality.

On 8 August 2017, over 15 million Kenyans peacefully thronged over 40,000 polling stations across the country to practise their democratic right to elect leaders of their choice. We still have not recovered from the impact! Four days of tension as we waited for the outcome of the hotly contested presidential election, two days of confusion as we witnessed isolated protests and skirmishes following the announcement by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) of President Kenyatta’s win, and finally two days of waiting to hear from the opposition leader Rt Hon Raila Odinga on the decision he decided to take (7 August), to contest the presidential election in the Supreme Court. This has put the country at peace, tension is over, and Kenyans have gone back to their daily routines.

Women Scored Big

However, when all this was happening Kenyan women have been cerebrating great outcomes of the elections. For the first time since the inauguration of the new constitution in 2010, three women have been elected as Governors and three as Senators. This is no mean achievement given that no woman was elected in these senior and highly coveted positions at the last general elections. We have more women elected as Members of Parliament and County Assemblies than in the 2013 general elections. For the first time a woman with disability has been elected as Woman Representative among the Maasai community in Kajiado County; a first woman MP has been elected in the conservative and patriarchal Samburu pastoral community, and the list goes on. More young people have been elected in various constituencies, the youngest being 24 years ole – a student from a poor background in Meru County. This election has gone a notch higher towards inclusivity and ‘Leave No One Behind’.

Two-Thirds Gender Rule

Despite the positive gains, however, Kenya did not achieve the constitutional threshold of the Two-Thirds Gender Rule in this election. Our new constitution article 27(b) stipulates that not more than two thirds of the members of elective and appointive public positions shall be of the same gender. The elections last week fell short of this threshold despite the hard work, lobbying and sensitization by civil society and women’s rights organizations, and by the Side by Side faith movement for gender justice.

The rule wants 117 women elected /nominated to parliament. But so far we only have 76 who include those elected as MPs and Women Representatives, and 12 to be nominated by political parties, leading to a shortfall of 41. In the Senate women should make up 23 members but only three were elected and 16 will be nominated plus one youth, and one to represent persons with disabilities–leading to a shortfall of 2. At County assemblies level, only 96 women were elected to the county assemblies from the 1,450 wards (an improvement from 88 in the previous elections). Failure by voters to elect enough women to county assemblies means that 619 female members must be nominated to comply with the gender law.

While this is being portrayed as expensive with headline statements like “Taxpayers to fork out KES 2bn to support gender top-up MCAs” (Daily Nation 16 August)–gender justice must be attained at all cost. It is gratifying to note that the Two-Thirds Gender Rule has been applied effectively at County level. The problem lies at National level.

Our Partners’ Action

Christian Aid partner Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) and Side by Side partner Community Advocacy and Awareness (CRAWN) Trust have filed an urgent application to the High Court seeking, among other orders, a declaration that failure by the 12th parliament to enact laws that put into effect the Two-Thirds Gender principle violates women’s rights and the constitution. The two groups had moved to court earlier this year and parliament was directed by the High Court in April to enact the legislation on the Two-Thirds gender principle in 60 days. However parliament was dissolved before action was taken.

Lobbyists including civil society organisations, faith leaders and Side by Side were very active during the weeks preceding the elections to position themselves to lobby for the enactment of the law immediately after elections, and the move by CREAW and the CRAWN Trust is line with the actions and decisions taken by these actors. Observers will be keen to see how the new parliament responds to the demand.


Kenya is awakening to the possibilities of women’s leadership in the political arena, thanks to the Constitutional Two-Thirds Gender Rule that is promising to make this happen.  But we are still trailing behind Rwanda (56%), South Africa (42%), Tanzania (36%) and Uganda (35%). A lot is yet to be done, and the role of faith leaders, their participation and voice through Side by Side is making a difference. More education is required at local level to educate the electorate on the impact of electing women at ward level. Faith actors with grassroots structures in collaboration with civil society organisations will come in handy to transform and deconstruct social norms and cultural mind-sets that do not trust women as leaders.


Photo credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan



Posted by: Terrie Robinson | Monday, August 21st, 2017
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