The 2010 Constitution marked a major win for women on the gender equality fight, as it entrenched in law the two-thirds gender principle.
A decade later, however, the implementation of the gender rule remains a mirage. It has flopped three times in the National Assembly for lack of requisite numbers.
A group of women leaders now want the two major parties in the country - Jubilee Party and Orange Democratic Party (ODM) - to use their newfound cooperation in Parliament, brought about by the handshake, to pass the gender rule.
Kandara MP Alice Wahome says with combined effort, MPs from both parties can pass the rule.
Ms Wahome, who spoke during a webinar dubbed National Women’s Forum on Consolidating the Women Agenda in Kenya organised by Community Advocacy and Awareness (Crawn) Trust, said Parliament has no reason not to pass the gender rule since lawmakers across the political divide now speak in one voice.
NARC-Kenya Party leader Martha Karua said failure by Parliament to implement the gender rule had made it unconstitutional.
“As women, we are greatly prejudiced by the failure to allow the rule of law and constitutionalism. We should never tire of trying to secure the gains we have so far achieved,” said Ms Karua.
She added there has been rampant constitutional failure and disregard of court orders issued by the Judiciary as witnessed in several cases.
The former Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister said women got their constitutional gains not by begging, but by sitting as equal partners on the table of negations.
Nominated Senator Isaac Mwaura said it is good for women leaders to push for the implementation of the gender rule.
Mr Mwaura said even if the handshake has brought MPs from both political divides together, male lawmakers will find it difficult to support the gender Bill.
He said some women MPs have themselves, in the past, not shown serious commitment in supporting the Bill when it was brought to Parliament.
“Women MPs have not demonstrated why they should be supported on the gender Bill. The last time it was brought to Parliament, many women legislators were absent. It was a golden opportunity for the 47 women representatives, the 16 nominated female MPs and the elected ones, to show the support for the Bill and at the same time show their male counterparts why they need to be supported,” said Mr Mwaura.
The nominated senator said if women legislators want support from their male counterparts, they must first speak in one voice on the issue of the gender rule.
He attributed the lack of unity among women MPs to support the gender Bill to bad blood between the woman representatives, elected women and nominated MPs.
“Elected women MPs representing constituencies despise their women reps and nominated MPs. The elected MPs control a lot of money, the National Government-Constituency Development Fund (NG-CDF) compared to the Affirmative Fund allocated to the women representatives. Their nominated counterparts have no kitty at all,” he said.
The new push by women leaders comes after rights groups recently revived the debate on gender rule and accused Parliament of dragging its feet implementing the law.
Crawn Trust executive director Daisy Amdany accused Parliament of playing games and refusing to enact enabling legislation in keeping to Article 81 on the two-thirds gender rule and matters concerning People Living with Disabilities.
“We have the Constitution but lack the political will. Let us not chase other things when we have not got what is already provided for in the Constitution. Women should be given what the Constitution highlights and nothing short,” she said.
Ms Amdany added there is a need to galvanise more women around all issues affecting them, not just political issues.
“Consistency is key. We are mobilising more women to defend their constitutional gains. Women need to have agendas and avoid being carried away by other people’s agendas. We should not be chasing after other things when we have not got our portion from the Constitution 2010,” she said.
Common Women Agenda (COWA) a group under the leadership of Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Prof Margaret Kobia has been pushing for the full implementation of the two-thirds gender rule through the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI).
Its full implementation is among the key final recommendations COWA made to the BBI Taskforce.
Crispin Afifu a gender and governance expert observed that a lot of effort has been put to ensure the gender rule principle is applicable and becomes a practice in elective and appointive leadership since the promulgation of the Constitution.
He, however, noted that despite the Supreme Court Advisory Opinion number 2 of 2012, which opined that the gender principle be implemented during the 2013 General Election, nothing happened.
“The directive of the Supreme Court was not implemented and a glance at schedule 4 will show you that it’s only the gender rule that has not seen light of day through outright legislation,” said Mr Afifu.
He said Kenyan women should be in the frontline creating and safeguarding their political space, since the current regime has demonstrated it is not ready to accord women their right to equal political representation.
Mr Afifu said the handshake is the best chance for women to negotiate for the gender question.
“Women must now be strategic to have the gender rule implemented. They must use their numbers to ensure they are consulted, involved and included on the negotiation table. The BBI is an opportunity to make their demands known,” he said.
He said women must organise, mobilise and sign MoUs for what is rightfully theirs.
Gender and Development Expert Ms Eva Komba said the handshake could only help achieve the implementation of the gender rule if the two principles President Uhuru Kenyatta and Opposition leader Raila Odinga support it.
Ms Komba, however, blamed leaders for lacking a clear cut strategy on how to lobby.
“The women leaders are deeply divided along political inclinations, which has affected teamwork on the issue and given men room to manipulate them,” she said.
She noted that grassroots women, who are an important constituency and who the government and men listen to when they speak, should be roped into the conversation.
“If the elite women leaders continue to ignore the grassroots women, the Gender Bill will never see the light of the day,” she said.