By Mohamed Dakane
The Sunday nation columnist Sunny Bindra in his famous column, sunny Day, once said “ A single dissenting voice is enough to burst the bubbles of false consensus .In respect to the consensus reached as far as the roles of women representative is concerned, I would like to be that dissenting voice that would make us wake up to the stark reality of dysfunctional women representatives. Given the general complacency even from the elected women representatives on their roles and their value to the electorates, I think something is fundamentally amiss if what the constitution envisaged in order to address the problem of women marginalization is anything to go by. If the current women reps want to address this issue just by merely representing them physically in parliament without the financial and necessary wherewithal in place as it is the case now, then urgent demystification and critical look of their role and essence is of utmost importance.
As their name suggest, women Reps should represents women in their county. It is indubitable fact that women in Kenya were marginalized for quite too long and in fact pushed to the periphery in matters governance and decision making. Being a product patriarchal society, women in Kenya suffered the brunt of gender based violence and gender bias for decades. To reverse this unfortunate trend, the new constitution that was promulgated in 2010 specifically created the position of women reps so that women are politically integrated in decision making process so as to make them feel part and parcel in the running of the government business. This position came into being In order to empower them through increased participation in decision-making at all levels of leadership. To further bolster this noble commitment, Kenya, through the leadership of immediate former president Kibaki hosted the launch of Africa Women’s Decade at K.I.C.C in October 2010, whose objective was ‘to enhance the implementation of commitments related to gender equity and women’s empowerment’.
However, the realization of the spirit and the goal of this profound initiative of empowering women almost five years since it was launched and even with the full adoption of the new constitution that allowed the integration of women into the positions of leadership still remains to be a pipe dream. And am afraid this would continue to be the case if deliberate and radical changes are not initiated in the manner in which women needs to be represented in this country.
It is common knowledge that women reps have become stooges in parliament with no might and no material support at their disposal to effectively address the issue of women marginalization. Their Mp’s counterpart appears more relevant in regards to service delivery despite the former representing wider region than what the mps represents. Am saying so because Mp’s have funds such as the C.D.F and others to undertake their project but the same is not case for the women reps even with the latter having more ambitious manifestos to implement and even more serious women issues to address. It’s even interesting to hear that some electorates from marginalized regions call their women reps as Senators and Mps.
The Government needs to substantially explain to the people the roles of women reps. Are they representing the women in their respective counties as their name suggest or they are equal to the senators but only crippled by the financial and resources limitation? There should be a clear and definite understanding of their roles and functions in order to clear the air.. Women reps should also jolt from the political oblivion they are currently in and try to be more relevant in the current new dispensation if their role is to be felt and appreciated by agitating for more financial base to undertake their projects. A beggar cannot claim to provide an asylum to a vagabond when his own existence is on the edge. Women reps should go back to the drawing board to roll out plans to achieve the goals that the constitution envisioned. If the position is only for affirmative action as they deem, then that is not enough to address the grave issue of women marginalization especially where cultural beliefs of women inferiority still holds sway
Unless something is done to correct the current embarrassing state of affairs about the women empowerment and the women reps become alive to the glaring realities, am afraid the problems of women marginalization would continue to be the wound that would always be the pain in the neck. It high time women reps become pound wise and penny foolish to correct their irrelevance in this new dispensation when the society is in desperate need of them.
The writer is a Social and Political commentator, blogger and University of Nairobi student. He can be reached on Mdakane99@yahoo.com