As the August deadline draws nearer for the Two-Thirds Gender Principle to be implemented by The House, women parliamentarians are putting up spirited efforts to speed up the process and make the timelines.
A new working group has been formed to select the final bill which will be tabled in parliament towards implementation of the Two-Thirds Gender Principle.
The working group was launched at a stakeholders’ consultative forum convened by Kenya Women Parliamentarians (KEWOPA), the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) and The United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).
The forum, which brought together organizations in the public and private sector, was convened to deliberate on the two thirds gender principle in all elective positions and specifically to debate between The Constitution Amendment Bill Number 4, 2015 (Duale Bill 1) and The Constitution Amendment Bill Number 6, 2015 (Duale Bill 2).
While presiding over the forum, Hon. Cecile Mbarire, the chairperson of KEWOPA noted that the gender rule was successfully being implemented in the public sector but not in the political arena. “In the legislature where key decisions are made, the two thirds principle is far from being observed,” she said.
Mbarire also emphasized on the timelines noting that the bill needs at least two months to be deliberated in parliament, two additional months to be forwarded to the senate as well as one month for mediation in case the senate and the national assembly disagree; all which should be done before August.
Besides the imminent August deadline, there is a pending ruling by the Speaker on whether the final bill will need to go through a national referendum to be adopted. Should the speaker rule on a referendum, it will be a major drawback on all the bills.
The working group will also have to deal with the challenge of negative myths surrounding implementation of the bill. Hon. Millie Odhiambo noted that the Sunset Clause is a threat to male members who think women parliamentarians will use it as a grounds to be re-nominated to parliament.
She noted that there is a lack of champions for the bill as many women parliamentarians have already
declared their political intentions for next year’s general elections and this will be negatively affected by their support of the gender principle.
Besides selecting the bill, the working group is also tasked with researching advocacy strategies for promoting the bill, reviewing the Supreme Court’s advisory on the gender principle and working towards popular initiative. It will also find resolution on the Sijeny and Chepkonga Bills which face withdrawal if the Duale Bill 2 is passed.
Although KEWOPA supports implementation of the Duale Bill 2 due to additional numbers of female representation, the timelines may not be viable. Consequently, most members have lobbied for adoption of the Duale 1 Bill which has been supported by the Committee for Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) as well as the Attorney General.
The Duale 1 Bill has also gone through the maturity period and after wide stakeholder involvement, it has been approved by most stakeholders. Martha Karua, who will provide technical support to the working group noted that parliament has a constitutional obligation to implement the bill.
“I have no qualms supporting the bill because the journey in the constitution is the journey to gender equality, not a journey to fractions,” she said.
“We must rely on political goodwill generated from outside and also generated from within our parties, but if we don’t do that then we are losing,”Hon. Karua also noted.
The gender bill has already received support from parliament and the senate as the speakers and the Chief Justice are working together to implement and safeguard affirmative action in their strategic plan.