In the past when Africa was authentically itself, by this I mean, when it was untouched by the rest of the world in the vast and drastic way that it is now. Leadership in most communities was sacred. It was not something that just anyone would land on even people who had the advantage of royalty. Leaders were revered as they were believed to be specifically handpicked by the divine. They were either the strongest warriors, the wisest people or people believed to be closest to the deity. Behind all these great people, were other select believed to be wise, bold and level headed enough to advise the chosen leader.
In some communities they were known as the council of elders. Even as we look back, society then was mainly patriarchal; therefore most communities did not believe women were well suited for leadership. Society has evolved in so many ways since then, roles that were adhered to by all genders and age groups have also evolved in order to move with the times, a change that had to happen in order for the country as a whole to prosper and grow like others around it. As society changes, so do our norms and women have proven themselves reliable leaders and the hardest working demographic. Yet some still refuse to see their abilities and hold on to old societal notions that do not benefit us as a nation.
Before we talk about the benefit and importance of women in leadership positions, we need to understand that gender shouldn’t determine an individual’s leadership abilities. Instead, voters must assess leadership potential by keenly looking at individuals strengths and personality traits and what they have to offer. Let us hold people to task, regardless of who they are. However, often, women aren’t encouraged to assume leadership roles as much as their male counterparts, which contributes to the unbalanced power dynamics in the nation. Unlike men, women are also required to do more to prove themselves and are constantly scrutinized in ways that are invasive, irrelevant and bordering on abusive.
Why do we need to vote more women in leadership opportunities? Women are great leaders because they are able to balance their professional and personal skills, they are known to care more about the people they work with and for, than their male counterparts. They are also known to encourage free thinking and are less rigid to change, which is a great thing as we need flexible leaders who look to the future and what it brings with hope, instead of fear of where it will place them. Female leaders are known to be great multi taskers, they have the capability to decisively and quickly respond to simultaneous and different tasks or problems at a time which is a critical component to successful leadership. We need more women leaders also because of the unbalanced power dynamic we have in our nation where women’s rights are often ignored leading to exposure to various forms of abuse, their needs neglected and inadequate representatives to champion for them. Power needs to shift in a way where the minority has a say and a voice in the way the nation is being run, as the nation is for all.
We cannot speak about leadership without mentioning the constitution which is put in place especially for governance, in order to ensure that power is distributed and exercised fairly and the rights of the people are not being oppressed. The 2010 Constitution through its gender equality provisions provides a good framework for the promotion of women’s rights and the advancement of political representation. This symbolizes the gains on women’s rights and gender equality which builds up to the constitutional reform agenda for the Women Rights Movement that has been in existence since the 1990s.
This reform process saw a record number of women elected to the National Assembly and the Senate as a result of the implementation of the gender quota provision in the Constitution in 2017. However, the same statics show that the same institution of Parliament did not satisfy the two-third gender rule underpinned in Article 81(b) of the Constitution. This shows the failures by the institutional structures in electoral governance that were established to ensure the constitutional and international principles of gender equality. Efforts to raise the representation of women in elected posts in Kenya continue to be a challenge. For instance, the realization of the two-thirds (2/3rd) gender rule Parliament has faced a lot of obstacles. Four times the Bill to realize the 2/3rd gender rule has been put aside in parliament and each time the Bill has failed. This is in addition to the failure by the same Parliament to pass the legislation under Article 100 which had an implementation timeframe of 5 years upon the edict of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.
This is why it is now in our hands, as the citizens of the country and voters to ensure this coming election. Most women make it past the ballots and into governing seats. In order to ensure a country with equal social, political and economic opportunities for all genders.