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Are We Creating A Conducive Environment For Women To Become Political Leaders?

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In Kenyan, we are slowly putting behind the 2017 election period. We know who the winners are and from the statistics, women are still not well represented in electoral seats. This means that there is a long way to go in achieving the two-thirds gender rule. Figures show that for example, only three female governors were elected out of the possible 47 that is the total number of counties that we have in Kenya. What this translates to is that there are still deeply ingrained challenges at the level of both perception – which manifests in the voters’ reluctance to elect women leaders as well as at the level of women participation in the electoral process which manifests in the low number of women that turn out to take up various electoral positions.

Going forward, there is need for the society to amplify the measures that have already been put into place to ensure that there is an increased participation of women in politics and also ensure that come the next electioneering period, we will not have the same challenges to deal with.

  • Putting in place more stringent penalties for political violence

Women protection bodies should work even better with government agencies to ensure that women who want to get into politics have enough safety and that they are not worried about violent opponents or other politicians who do not want to compete on a clean slate. In other words, measures should be put in place to ensure that women who plan to get into politics in future do not have the added problem of worrying about their safety.

Political debates that take place in the our media should be more balanced and we should not have the problems where female debaters are attacked based on their sexuality. The moderators of these programmes must take a more active role in ensuring that these discussions follow course. And in cases where women are (unjustly) attacked based on their gender, there should be consequences.

By doing this, women who want to participate in politics will not be cowed by the possibility of nasty opponents. In my estimation, this will expand and encourage more women to get into political conversations and even political processes.

  • Developing structures that encourage women participation in decision making processes even at community level

National politics is a big leap. It helps if we can begin to develop structures, especially at the community level, that will open up the world of decision making for women early enough so that by the time it gets to the point of making a decision regarding whether or not to join politics at the national level, women are more aware and comfortable because taking positions of power is something that has become normal. For example, can national bodies representing women push further and work with institutions such as schools and universities in the leadership angle so that we can have more models for younger women who want to get into politics?

Opening up decision making processes at lower levels will also take care of the belief that ‘politics is a dirty and dangerous game’. Enabling women to be part of public decision making and creating an enabling environment for them to hold positions will demystify the issue of politics. It will create a catalyst for more women to begin to participate in the processes even at national level.

  • Providing extensive workshops and mentorship for women leaders or women who are interested in leadership positions

Confidence and leadership are not traits that are naturally inherent in everyone.  While some national organizations are already mentoring women, more needs to be done because the truth is, a two-week mentorship programme alone is not enough to instill all the confidence that one needs to actively pursue political positions and excel.

Teresa Briggs, vice chair and West region managing partner at Deloitte writing on “Why mentoring won’t create more female leaders” argues that, sponsorship pays more dividends than mentorship because sponsors actively pursue opportunities on behalf of an individual; they are professional champions and their role is not as passive as traditional mentorship – sponsors help position one to shine.

Playing this role more actively will be a good way of deepening roots and building esteem in women who want to take up leadership positions. And apart from attending conferences, future women leaders need more opportunities to experience hands-on training which will play an even greater role in pushing forward women who want to join leadership. When the leadership is inculcated at a deeper and practical level, it will play a more efficient role in further preparing women for the murky waters that are associated with politics.

  • Investing more in women who want to join political leadership

Judging by the number of women who got elected in the just concluded 2017 elections in Kenya, it is quite easy to note that women breaking into elective political positions is still a difficult task and therefore more goodwill and investment needs to be done to prepare them for future elections.

Finances continue to be one of the things that hold women back from politics. With this knowledge, people with goodwill should begin investing in women political aspirants who show the ability to actually move this country’s leadership so that come the next electioneering period, the aspirants will have a sustainable budget women will not have to struggle and be held back because they do not have finances to sustain a basic political campaign.

  • Political parties should play a more active role in pushing forward women leaders in their parties

I think that political parties should create room for women to take on more meaningful leadership positions within the parties so that more and more women can begin to see that taking up national leadership is not a big deal. When political parties bring more women on board (because by the way there are many women out there who are capable of this), there are more chances of women taking up leadership positions which is the aspiration. And when there are more women out there willing to ‘take the plunge’ and run for office, this will substantially increase women participation and women who get into elective post in the next general elections.

Featured image via thestateofwomen.com.

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