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Spotlight: Kenya's elections: How did women fare?

Hi - I thought this posting was relevant to the question of how women are gaining electoral power in Kenya, even as they bear the brunt of the recent attacks and sexual assaults linked to post-electoral violence. I spoke yesterday to Ann Njogu, who ran for one of these seats, but lost in a race she says was flawed, and therefore must be redone. It is unlikely this will happen, but she says she learned important things from the effort to become an MP. She remains one of Kenya's bright women's voices, a lawyer, human rights advocate and leader who is using her voice to speak out strongly in support of Kenya's Constitution and democratic traditions. Njogu helped draft the Sexual Offences Act, a law she things must now be put to the test in Kenya, and used to help bring justice to the many cases of women and children who have suffered from rapes in the civil conflict, much at the hands of police, say witnesses. -- Anne-christine

From AWID: Kenya's elections: How did women fare?

Friday January 11, 2008

1) Kenya's elections: How did women fare?

On December 27, 2007 Kenya held civic, parliamentary and presidential

elections. In today's Friday File we interview Wangari Kinoti of the

Education Centre for Women in Democracy about how women fared in the

elections.

By Kathambi Kinoti

2) Truth, Justice and Peace: A Personal Reflection

Zawadi Nyongo is the Coordinator of AWID's Where is the Money for Women's

Rights Strategic Initiative. In this piece, she gives her personal

perspective on the post-election crisis currently facing Kenya.

By Zawadi Nyong'o

_______________________________________________________________________

1) Kenya's elections: How did women fare?

On December 27, 2007 Kenya held civic, parliamentary and presidential

elections. In today's Friday File we interview Wangari Kinoti of the

Education Centre for Women in Democracy about how women fared in the

elections.

By Kathambi Kinoti

AWID: How did women candidates perform in the recently concluded

parliamentary elections?

WANGARI KINOTI: The recent elections produced the highest number of women

legislators in Kenya's history. Fourteen women were elected to Parliament.

The previous Parliament had nine elected women members and therefore there

has been a slight increase in the number of elected representatives. Out

of the fourteen, eight are newcomers to Parliament, and one was previously

a nominated member. Only four retained their seats.

AWID: Kenya's legislature consists of elected members as well as members

nominated by political parties. Is the number of women members of

Parliament (MPs) not likely to rise after the parties nominate some

members?

WK: We are likely to see some women nominated, but perhaps not as many as

the seventy five per cent that we saw in the previous Parliament after the

2002 elections. There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, in the

pre-2002 struggle for what is referred to as Kenya's 'second liberation' a

number of the strong political players were women. These women were able

to bring significant pressure to bear on the different political parties to

fill their allocated slots for nominated MPs with women. Secondly, there are

several key political players who lost the recently concluded elections in

their constituencies, but whom their parties are likely to nominate into

Parliament. Since most of these are male, and there are limited seats for

nominated MPs, we are likely to see them being selected over women who did

not vie for election. Thirdly, the stakes are much higher now than ever

before and there will be more jostling for seats in the legislature. Women

could lose out in the jostling.

The majority of nominated MPs in the previous Parliament were women, but

this does not mean that there has been a sudden clamour from political

actors for women's representation in Parliament. Indeed, the majority of

the male MPs in the previous Parliament voted against an Affirmative Action

Bill that would have ensured that at least one third of the legislature's

seats were allocated to women. This lack of political commitment to women's

leadership may affect the nomination process.

AWID: To what would you attribute the increase in the number of women

recently elected to Parliament?

WK: Most of the new women MPs have been in politics for some time or have

been prominent public figures in different capacities. Therefore, while

this may be the first time that they are going to sit in Parliament, they

are not actually new to the populace. Most of the newly elected women have

good political connections and have learned how to work within the

political party structures in order to ensure that they are able to stand

for election on their parties' tickets. The majority of them were elected

due to the fact that their political parties were the strongest in their

particular localities. This is especially true of some areas considered

very conservative.

The increase can also be attributed to concerted efforts on the part of

civil society and development partners who have given prominence to the

need for women's participation in leadership. The recent elections were the

most highly contested in the country's history. There were many candidates

and the large number of candidates translates into a large number of women

candidates. In the previous Parliament, there were a number of strong and

prominent women members. It is therefore possible that Kenyans are getting

used to seeing women in positions of leadership and that this influenced

voting choices.

On the other hand despite the increase in the number of women MPs, the

numbers are still dismal; 14 women out of 210 MPs is not impressive.

Societal perceptions have a major role to play; the society as a whole has

not yet acknowledged women's leadership rights or abilities. The lack of

financial resources is another major constraint that works against women.

Another challenge is the lack of critical political connections. Kenyan

women leaders need to learn to work within political party structures to

ensure that they get the initial nominations to run for Parliament as

representatives of their particular political parties. Even if a

candidate's credentials or performance record are good, if she does not

represent a political party that is popular in her area, her chances of

success are compromised. Considering the importance of the party, women

need to ensure that they are entrenched within their parties, and that

their parties' rules stipulate that there be a certain minimum number of

women candidates vying for parliamentary seats.

It is important to note that even where women have not been elected or

nominated, there are opportunities for them to be appointed or elected to

other public offices, which is still a gain. Already we have seen one woman

contest the position of Speaker of Parliament which is significant for

women.

AWID: In the run-up to the elections there were several cases of violence

against female candidates for political office. Why was there an upsurge in

this form of violence?

WK: There was indeed an unprecedented upsurge in violence against women

aspirants. Several were attacked and subjected to brutal beatings, while

others received threats of physical and sexual violence. One candidate is

reported to have been shot dead. Investigations are not complete as to the

motives behind the killing, and we are therefore not able to say for sure

that this was a case of gender based violence. Nevertheless, the violence

against women candidates was unprecedented.

Kenya's political culture can be violent. Kenyans are passionate about

politics and sometimes that passion expresses itself in violence. The

situation is compounded for women; on the one hand there is the political

culture and on the other hand there are patriarchal views that women should

not occupy public office. These two elements combine and translate into

violent opposition to women's leadership. There is also the factor that

women have become a real threat to reckon with and therefore all means of

intimidation are used against them. The violence could also be a backlash

against women's gains particularly since the previous Parliament had a

number of strong women who pushed the women's rights agenda, for instance

legislation against sexual violence.

AWID: How did your organization respond to the increased cases of violence

against women political aspirants?

WK: With the support of UNIFEM, the Education Centre for Women in Democracy

set up a Gender Violence Rapid Response Unit to provide assistance to women

aspirants who were the targets of attacks based on their candidature.

Initially we had planned to establish a desk to record and follow up cases

of violence against women candidates, but the magnitude of the problem

necessitated the establishment of a whole unit. The Unit established a

hotline and other avenues to enable women candidates to report cases of

violence, and we followed up these cases with the police and the political

parties. A major challenge that we encountered is the lack of sensitivity

from the police in dealing with cases of gender based violence.

AWID: The outcome of the presidential elections was contested, and violent

opposition to the results announced erupted. How has this violence affected

women?

WK: In the post-election period, there has been death, physical injury,

sexual violence, displacement, as well as loss or destruction of property.

Women have borne the brunt of all these. There has been an increase in the

number of sexual violence cases reported, and presumably the bulk of cases

have gone unreported. A large number of women have been displaced and are

now refugees in their own country, seeking refuge in churches and police

stations. This has sparked off a humanitarian crisis and many are in need

of food, clothing, medicines and other basic supplies.

Women, like the rest of the community have responded by contributing to

humanitarian needs by gathering relief supplies for people affected by the

violence. It is not enough for us to respond to the immediate humanitarian

needs. Therefore we have also sought to be part of the mediation process to

ensure that there is peace and justice for all. We have reminded the

political leaders of their obligations under the African Union Solemn

Declaration on Gender Equality and United Nations Security Council

Resolution 1325. We are committed to ensure women's contribution to the

peaceful resolution of the crisis.

_______________________________________________________________________

2) Truth, Justice and Peace: A Personal Reflection

Zawadi Nyongo is the Coordinator of AWID's Where is the Money for Women's

Rights Strategic Initiative. In this piece, she gives her personal

perspective on the post-election crisis currently facing Kenya.

By Zawadi Nyong'o

If I hear one more cry for peace in Kenya, I think I will lose my mind.

How can we possibly have peace without truth and justice? This is what

hundreds of thousands of people are rebelling against right now – the

severe injustice and sheer robbery that we witnessed with Chairman Kivuitu,

of the Electoral Commission of Kenya shamelessly announced Mr. Kibaki as the

president elect on December 30th, 2007. Millions of Kenyans sat dumbfounded

as they watched the events unfold before their very eyes. All attempts had

been made to present credible evidence to the ECK of the blatant rigging

and "cooking" of results as the numbers that were reported by returning

officers and party agents at the constituency level were totally different

from those that were announced by the ECK at national level. Now we hear

Kibaki saying that the elections were "Free and Fair" and that the

competition was really tight. How is it then that ODM managed to get the

majority seats in parliament with 102 seats compared to PNU's 36 seats?

After standing in line for over 6 hours, why would someone vote for their

presidential candidate and not their member of parliament? Or worse still,

why would someone vote for an ODM MP, but then proceed to vote for a PNU

presidential candidate? And even worse, how is it possible to have more

than 110% voter turnout in several polling stations – most of which were in

Central province? That this election was flawed and that the results were

rigged is blatantly evident and has been declared so by a number of

stakeholders, including Civil Society groups, the Law Society of Kenya, and

even a number of ECK Commissioners who have refused to remain silent about

what was going on behind the scenes.

The only way forward right now is for Kibaki to step down, for a

transitional arrangement to be made, and for the elections to be conducted

again within the next 3 months. Unfortunately, so much damage has already

been done and the tensions remain high as thousands of Kenyans are being

killed, dying from starvation, evicted from their homes and living in

displaced people's camps, being raped and forcefully circumcised, and being

shot by the military and police who have been given "shoot to kill orders"

in places like Nyanza province. The worst thing is we don't even know just

how many people have died as bodies are being secretly burnt and hidden,

hundreds are dying unregistered, and the media is being controlled. At the

same time, the international media is irresponsibly reporting the situation

as an ethnic rivalry between the Luo and Kikuyu. There are over 40 tribes

in Kenya and the violence has been witnessed in every province except

Central province which is mostly inhabited by the Kikuyu, Meru and Embu.

Yes, Raila is a Luo, but he got overwhelming support from all but Central

Province, unlike Kibaki that only had majority support from Central

Province. When people stood in line to vote it was because they believed

they had the right to choose their rightful leader. This basic right has

been stolen from us as Kenyans and the millions who live in poverty are now

saying, "Enough is enough!" This is why there is total mayhem in the

country right now. These people have nothing more to loose and they are

desperate for change. The middle and upper class, can however afford to

cry for peace and a return to normalcy, because their "normal" lives are

lives that they are able to enjoy.

As I write this, I have immediate family members that are stuck in the

village, unable to travel to Nairobi because the highways are being blocked

by militant youth. I have extended family members that are stuck in

Mathare slum with no access to food. I have a brother in the air force

that is deployed to different parts of the country every day to fight a

battle that he does not believe in. And most importantly, I have a father

that is the secretary general of ODM, who is going to fight this battle to

the very end, even if it means giving up his life for it. All my life I

have watched as he's sacrificed everything to fight for democracy,

constitutional reform, poverty alleviation, equity and justice. I remember

the times when he was in detention and we were not sure he would come home.

I remember the years when he was in political exile and my mother had to

raise us on her own. I remember hating him because I didn't understand why

the country's issues were more important than our time together as a family,

important school events, or even my own selfish desires to spend time with

him. All of this changed when I realized one day that his struggle for the

country was a struggle for every individual Kenyan, including me, my

children and their children. This is a personal struggle – something that

I am thinking about every second that I am awake. The only way this

country can move forward is if justice is restored. In the meantime, we

are doing everything we can to deal with the current crisis – collecting

truck loads of donations for displaced families, speaking out against what

is happening, attending overnight vigils to pray for our energies and those

of our leaders to be sustained, and demonstrating peacefully. I just pray

that the world does not sit back and watch while another crisis similar to

Rwanda, Sierra Leone, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia or Sudan

happens in yet another African country – my country, my people, my family.

Just yesterday my mother forwarded this message to me:

'Peace is normally a great good and normally it coincides with

righteousness, BUT IT'S RIGHTEOUSNESS and NOT peace which should bind the

conscience of a nation as it should bind the conscience of an individual.

When we shout peace but condone dishonesty, theft, lack of INTEGRITY, lack

of TRUST, TRUTH & RIGHTEOUSNESS in the nation's rulers THEN OUR NATION WILL

DIE! A cry for peace alone is to divert from & gloss over the real problem.

It is like the armed bank robber shouting to the police, "Don't shoot

because we need peace."'

I'm not even sure whether I'm coming or going half the time, and every day

I wake up with a heavier heart, but I also know that this is not the time

to give up hope. I must contribute whatever I can to the struggle and this

means being here with my family and my people. Please pray for Kenya in any

way you can. We need your support.

Truth, Justice & Peace in 2008.

Zawadi Nyong'o

To read the joint civil society statement from the group "Kenyans for

Peace, Truth, Justice," and also support fundraising efforts by Urgent

Action Fund-Africa and the Gender Violence Recovery Centre that has set up

rape crisis response centres in a number of slums and IDP camps, see

Shailja Patel's blog at

http://www.shailja.com/news/newsletterblog/index.html.

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