Sang on Women and the Parliament of Kenya: Historical Reflections (1917-1974) @godfreysang

Godfrey Sang has published Women and the Parliament of Kenya: Historical Reflections (1917-1974). Here is the abstract.

Although few women were eventually elected (or even nominated) to the Kenya Legislative Council in its lifespan (August 1907 to December 1963), the pioneers go down in history as some of the earliest women to be enfranchised anywhere in the world. They took advantage of their right to vote to also to seek electoral office. Their counterparts in Britain and most of Europe and the United States were still not eligible to freely vote by 1920 when the women of Kenya voted for the first time. In Britain for instance, women could only vote if they were over the age of 30, were married, or held a university degree. That requirement did not apply in Kenya in 1920, and so the election of 1920 was the first step to electoral gender parity. The participation of women in electoral voting is still a cause of concern in Kenya today with many hurdles hindering their participance. Many barriers have been identified including culturally motivated perceptions against women’s leadership, lack of financing, and lower education levels among others. In the first five Parliaments of Independent Kenya, only 5 women were elected and just 3 were nominated. In all, less than 30 women were elected in the lifespan of the first ten Parliaments as compared to over 400 men in the period 1963 to 2013. The women in the early Parliaments overcame insurmountable challenges to get to where they got. This paper is a historical study of the enfranchisement of women in Kenya from 1920 onwards. It was only after the promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya (2010) that the minimum number of seats for women in Parliament was defined under the gender rule. But while women are now assured of at least a third of the seats in Parliament, the practical part of it has become a nightmare to implement, both politically and practically. Various efforts to find a solution in the 11th and 12th Parliaments proved futile. Those against it have argued that making it easier to increase the number of women in Parliament diminishes the value of the office altogether. Those against this position argue that despite having an equal right with the men to vote and to be voted in, there are many structural and other barriers that prevent women from fully and freely running for office. In all, this paper traces the journey the women of Kenya have followed in their quest to become legislators through the years since they were first able to vote in 1920 through to the first two parliaments of independent Kenya.

Download the article from SSRN at the link.