Why we need more women in the Kenyan parliament:

Today is a landmark day for Kenya because The National Assembly will be voting for the 2/3 Gender Bill that is in support of Article 81 (b) of the constitution, which states that “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender.”

As it currently stands, women make only 20% of Kenya’s National Assembly (Lower House) compared with Rwanda’s 64%, Tanzania’s 37%, Uganda’s 35%, and Burundi’s 36%, making Kenya the last in the East Africa pack. At 64%, Rwanda has the distinction of being the only country in the world with more female MPs than males ones. Rwanda has been so successful in implementing the quota gender that it might become unnecessary to have one, which indicates that there has been a significant cultural change in the country.

Three main reasons might explain why women representation in Kenyan politics remains low: Kenya’s patriarchal culture, media influence and finally, finances. The society as it stands still favors men when it comes to economic cultural and political capital. This is depicted (and propagated) by the images and stories depicted in media, where women politicians are accused of everything from incompetency to promiscuity. The lower socio-economic ranking of women in Kenya’s society also means that they do not have the finances required to win Kenya’s expensive elections.

To understand why it would be more beneficial to have more women in Kenya’s political system, let’s review an ongoing study by Sarah Anzia of Stanford and Christopher Berry of the University of Chicago. The study, based on the US legislature, has found that US districts served by women legislators are at a distinct advantage over those represented by men.

U.S. congresswomen bring home roughly 9 percent more discretionary spending than congressmen. As a result, districts that elect women to the House of Representatives receive, on average, about $49 million more each year. Additionally, when it comes to policy-making — congresswomen sponsor more bills and obtain more co-sponsorships for their legislation than their male colleagues do.

Why do these women legislators perform better? It’s simple. Due to the discriminatory bias against women, only the most talented and hardworking women succeed in the electoral process. To compound this even further, if women perceive there to be gender discrimination in the electoral process or if they underestimate their qualifications, then only the most talented and ambitious women will emerge as candidates.

These reasons not only explain the advantages of having women in politics but also in business. Hard data describes the overall success that women have when placed in high leadership positions. Women exhibit higher effectiveness, levels of nurturing, collaboration, initiative-taking and values such as integrity and honesty as compared to their male counterparts. To add to this, for functions that are considered predominantly male such as sales, legal, engineering, IT and R&D; women actually received higher effectiveness ratings than males. Therefore, many of our stereotypes are obviously incorrect.

With the hard data that women are more effective leaders, it is paramount that we increase the number of women in the most important systems in our societies such as the parliament, which makes laws that impact our daily lives significantly. I hope that today, the Kenyan National Assembly will pass the bill to better enable us to comply with the constitution but more importantly, enable us to have arguably more effective leaders in place.

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