“When we invest in women, we invest in the people who invest in everyone else. So when we match their commitment with our own, great things are possible.” — Melinda Gates

American women fought for years to win their right to vote, a struggle that continues to echo to this day as Kenyan women battle for their right to be represented in government.

The recent inclusion of twenty four year old girl, Mercy Chebeni, in the list of nominated senators by opposition party Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) has shocked ardent supporters who viewed the post fit for older politicians. Chebeni, an accountant who hails from a minority community, the Sebei, was picked to represent the youth and women alongside other female appointees including the party’s secretary general Agnes Zani, former Kisumu county legislator and the party’s National Elections Board chairperson Rose Nyamunga among others. Rival Jubilee Party has nominated sixteen females for legislative and senate posts according to a list released by the country’s Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) last week, and six out of the twelve names handed in for senate positions are female. Three women, namely Joyce Laboso (Bomet), Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Charity Ngilu (Kitui) were elected governors in the just August 8th 2017 General Election. This is apart from 47 women elected as Women Representatives in all the counties as stipulated in the new constitution promulgated in 2010.

Several others have contested and won elective positions against their male counterparts.

It was resolved by the drafters of the 2010 constitution that setting aside legislative positions would further empower women who had for a long time been denied leadership opportunities that are believed to best articulate their issues. This brings Kenya close to neighboring Rwanda which has over 56 per cent female representation in its parliament vs Kenya’s 10 percent female representation.

While the country awaits the implementation of the 2010 constitution, the statistics summarized above are proof that a shift is finally taking place in the political world.

The imperative affirmative action compels all involved to at least try and encourage female candidates who for a long time have been victims of a hostile system that is characterized by violence and intimidation against female candidates. And if the goal is to create a positive change in Africa, we need to make sure that this same progress is replicated across all sectors.

Asante Africa Foundation
Image Source: Global Partnership for Education (Global Partnership)

Many organizations are each doing their part to contribute on the ground. Asante Africa’s own methods include Girls’ Advancement Program (Wezesha Vijana) which amplifies proven studies that girls’ education is a cost effective way to accelerate development and economic growth, and uplift women in the East African region. Its Leadership Entrepreneurship Incubator (LEI) program partners with schools, business professionals and community leaders to impart skills to disadvantaged youth to create job opportunities for themselves and their community members, helping close the loop of economic growth. Several of the program’s graduates have gone on to positively contribute in improving not only their lives but those of their communities too. What we discovered in our early years was that change needs to happen at grassroots, and parents, community members and boys need to partake in this. Boys should from the initial stages be encouraged to look at women as equals in their communities and shun traditional communal bigotry against girls and women.

East Africa is slowly but gradually encouraging women to take up leadership positions — electoral, corporate, and business. The result — women are now equally providing for their families and communities just like their male counterparts if not better.

We are campaigning for our youth to get the opportunities that will teach them skills to succeed outside the classroom. Click here to know how you can make a difference.

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