Kenyan women still lag behind in political arena, new study shows

Despite gains made toward gender equality in the country, women still lag behind in political engagement with few men ready to support women in their quest for political leadership, a study has revealed.

The Afrobarometer survey revealed that three-fourths, 73 per cent, of Kenyans were of the view that women should have the same chance as men of being elected to political office but this figure reduced when only men were involved.

Only 66 per cent of men held the view that women should be given equal chance against 81 per cent among women.

Currently, Kenya’s women representation in Parliament – National Assembly and Senate – stands at 21 per cent with 86 women parliamentarians of which 16 were elected as Members of Parliament (MPs), 5 nominated as MPs, 18 nominated senators and 47 women representatives selected under the affirmative action.

The survey released on Wednesday during the International Women’s Day also revealed that fear of political violence and intimidation might be the factors that accounted for the few number of women engaging in politics in the country.

“More than half (54 per cent) of Kenyans say they fear political violence and intimidation. Women are significantly less likely than men to discuss politics, to contact political leaders, to join others to raise an issue, and to attend community meetings,” read part of the report.

The findings come at a time when the country is preparing for the General Election in August and the political arena has been characterized by tense political competition pitting female candidates against their male counterparts.

The release also comes at a time when the country is beginning to assess the effects of its new gender empowerment laws, including equal rights for men and women to inherit land and other property.

This is shown by the survey indicating that a majority, 56 percent, of Kenyans averring that women’s equality has improved in recent years with the best-educated women and men being twice as likely as their uneducated compatriots to see progress on gender equality.

“About two-thirds of Kenyan women (63 per cent) and men (68 per cent) say the government has performed well in promoting opportunities and equality for women while 57 percent say women currently have equal rights to own and inherit land, more (64 per cent) say they should have those rights,” read the report.

Afrobarometer research was led by the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Nairobi and interviewed 1,599 adult Kenyans in September-October 2016 through face-to-face interviews in the language of the respondent’s choice with nationally representative samples with the results having a margin of error of +/-3 per cent at a 95 per cent confidence level.

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