Kenya’s parliament has rejected a bill that would add more seats for women. Kenya has one of the lowest numbers of women in parliament in Africa. The failed bill would have created 50 additional seats for women. Members say the effort was stymied when members of parliament failed to back a constitutional amendment bill that would have created 40 new constituencies ahead of elections in December.
Pamela Mburia in Nairobi is with the media group “AMWIK” (Association of Media Women in Kenya.) She told Voice of America English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard she's considering a run for parliament, but calls the legislature’s rejection of the bill “a disaster” for women in Kenya. She said the bill primarily didn’t pass because “the men in parliament just seem to think that the bills that pass are for themselves, without realizing that maybe next year they are not going to be in parliament.”
WHAT ARE THE ODDS?
Mburia said women are at an exceptional disadvantage in competing for equal numbers with men in parliament. She said issues involving women are not given the recognition they deserve “It’s a pity that our parliament is male-dominated. When you have a parliament that has 222 members and only 18 women…the voices of women are drowned in debate.” She said it’s not that women are interested only in women’s issues, they bring another perspective to debate.
Mburia said the bill’s rejection won’t influence her eventual decision on whether or not she’ll run for the legislature. She said the rejection means women will continue to be underrepresented in parliament.
She listed the difficulties facing women. They include difficulty in raising campaign funds and family obligations especially raising children. She said women have to care for sick children whereas men “can leave the house and go out on the campaign trail the whole day.” Mburia said these kinds of constraints justify the need for more seats set aside for women. The would be parliamentarian said that’s the only way women can legitimately “be where the action is.”
A STRONG MESSAGE
On hearing the news of the bill’s rejection, Mburia said women’s groups met to discuss their next strategy. She said “we are sending out a very strong message to voters [to] watch out, watch these men because these men have little regard for women, these men don’t care about women’s issues.” She said women must use their “muscle” at the polls at the end of the year.
Mburia added women are also calling upon men of goodwill to support the cause of women. Mburia said the effort to ensure fair representation of women in parliament will continue to face hurdles. She added the re-introduction of this bill “can help bring in more women to parliament, and that’s what we need in Kenya at the moment.”