Women in Politics
Women are known to be dynamic leaders who inspire and motivate others to participate in civic and social issues. Their participation in democratic governance is also a fundamental component of their ability to make a difference. However, despite their various achievements, women still have a long way to go in attaining equal representation in power and leadership positions.
According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the aggregate findings of the most recent World Values Survey reveal only minor differences in voter turnout between men and women, which means that both men and women almost equally exercised their right to vote in their countries. For example, in Kenya’s 2017 national election, the total number of registered voters was 19 611 4234 (about 9.1 million female and 10.6 million male), and voter turnout was approximately 79 per cent, with roughly 15.2 million valid votes cast. However, although the turnout for female voters was high, women were still unable to gain the constitutionally mandated 33 per cent representation in elective office (NDI and FIDA, 2018).
Women play a paramount role when they vote. First, they promote genuine democracy by exercising their right to vote. One of the fundamental principles of democracy is citizen participation. Elections are free and fair when both men and women participate equally in the electoral process. Also, through civic education provided during the electoral process, women learn about their electoral and constitutional rights and how to advocate and fight for their rights.
Female voters significantly increase the number of women in leadership positions when they support their fellow women who vie for political positions. This increases women in power and leadership positions and ensures the realization of two-thirds gender rule in Kenya. For example, in Bomet county, during the 2017 national elections, women supported and voted for the Late Governor Joyce Laboso, who won the gubernatorial seat to become the first woman governor in Kenya.
Women’s political participation promotes gender equality by challenging the social and political structures that maintain a culture of subordination of women in both the private and public spheres. Involving women in politics has both political and economic benefits. Politically, it increases the number of women in parliament, reduces corruption, improves policy outcomes, and promotes minority group inclusion in public spheres. Economically, it views women as development actors, encourages women’s labor-force participation, and promotes economic and development growth (Asiedu et al. 2018.) For instance, significant policy and legislative changes in favor of women were made during this time and sponsored by female Members of Parliament (MPs) as the number of women in parliament increased, especially in the 9th and 10th Parliaments. These include laws addressing children’s rights, employment, sexual offences, and tax exemptions for diapers and sanitary towels. Not to be overlooked is the parental leave, which was extended to four months (Anyango et al. 2018).
Female voters create opportunities that allow them to engage in public decision-making. Women are not a homogenous group. Depending on their geographical location, age, social status, level of education, or marital status, they have very different life experiences that lead to different priorities and needs. During the electoral process, women receive civic education that creates awareness of the importance of electing credible leaders.
Their needs, interests, and wants are considered when they vote for credible leaders who articulate their issues. This, in turn, affects the level of development in the country.
Female voters create opportunities for women’s organizations to play a crucial role in empowering women in politics. For example, choosing qualified candidates, facilitating women’s nominations and elections, supporting younger women seeking to enter politics with capacity-building and training, encouraging collaboration between women from various social sectors both inside and outside of politics, raising resources and funds for campaigns, and developing networks (Asiedu et al. 2018). For instance, the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA) in Kenya, 2021, started a campaign to encourage the participation of women in political leadership at the county and national levels. The “#VoteADada” campaign, supported by the Kenyan Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA), Diakonia Kenya, the Swiss Embassy in Kenya, and Womankind Worldwide, aims to start a conversation about achieving the constitutionally required two-thirds majority in elective and appointed positions.
Women constitute half of the registered voters in Kenya and therefore play a crucial role in ensuring the increase of women’s participation in power and decision-making positions, that democracy is upheld, and that leaders who will steer the country into sustainable development are elected.
Anyango, B , Alupo, B & Opoku, M. (2018). Women in Politics in Kenya: an Analysis of Participation and Barriers. Multidisciplinary Journal of Gender Studies. 7. 1505-1530. 10.17583/generos.2018.3179.
Asiedu, E., Branstette, C., Gaekwad-Babulal, N., & Malokele, N. (2018, January). The effect of women’s representation in parliament and the passing of gender sensitive policies. In ASSA Annual Meeting (Philadelphia, 5-7 January). https://www.area web.Org/conference.
Abdurashid, S. (2016). Voter turnout trends around the world. Stockholm: International IDEA.
BRIEF, POLICY BRIEF POLICY. “Strengthen Girls’ and Women’s Political Participation and Decision-Making Power.” Deliver for Good.
The National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA Kenya), (2018) A Gender Analysis of the 2017 Kenya Elections.