The majority of Kenyans see the country as moving in the right direction on gender equality.
However, a recent survey on gender equality and empowerment shows that there is still public concern over women’s continued discrimination in critical areas such as land ownership and inheritance, as well as election to political office.
Eminent among the issues that have dogged women in Kenyan society is the apathetic political and civic participation, according to the latest Afrobarometer report Kenyans see gains in gender equality, but support for women’s empowerment still uneven, released on November 8.
Kenya is yet to meet the constitutionally accepted political membership threshold by both gender, especially in the National Assembly.
Although Kenyan women performed better in the 2017 elections, compared to those of 2013, the numbers still fall short of the constitutional two-thirds gender requirement.
The Constitution provides that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective and appointive bodies should be of the same gender.
At least 23 women were elected to the National Assembly, up from the 16 in 2013.
This, added to the 47 women-only seats and half of the 12 nominees by political parties, will bring the number of women in the National Assembly to 76, still short by 41 to make 117 or one-third of the 349 MPs — 290 elected, 47 woman representatives and 12 nominated members.
According to the findings of the survey, there is reluctance to implement the gender equity rule, as male leaders refuse to give up their privilege.
According to the report, while 73 per cent of Kenyans say women should have the same chance as men of being elected to office, when it gets down to the ballot the country falls flat.
This is the case in spite of most Kenyans saying gender equality already exists due to a level education ground.
At least 92 per cent and 90 percent of respondents say girls and boys have an equal chance in primary education and secondary education respectively. About eight in 10 affirm that women have the same chance as men to earn an income.
Generally, the Afrobarometer Kenya findings reveal that 56 per cent of Kenyans feel that women’s equality has improved in recent years.
About one in four respondents say the situation has remained the same while 14 per cent say things have become worse or much worse.
Fifteen per cent of women say they personally suffered discrimination and harassment based on their gender at least once during the year preceding the survey.
“Although there are gains in gender equality in Kenya, the support for women’s empowerment is still uneven and this undermines many programmes aimed at integrating the principle of gender inclusion in development agendas and policy dialogues,” says Prof Winnie Mitullah, associate research professor and director at the Institute for Development Studies, University of Nairobi.