It’s worth acknowledging that Kenya made significant progress towards placing more women in the democratic space through the 2017 General Election which for the first time in history, the number of those elected increased from 145 in 2013 to 172 of the 1,883 elected seats. According to a report by National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA Kenya), the 27 additional women was encouraging but still falls short of reaching acceptable representation of women to elective positions. Women account for a mere 23 percent representation in the National Assembly and Senate. This means the road is still rough for women to meet the one-third women representation requirement.
This calls for active and continuous efforts to address causative factors that are blocking women from occupying the one third of the elective seats in order to achieve gender equality in politics. It is vital that the different players redouble efforts to investigate, discuss, address and help women overcome barriers that hinder their active and equal participation in democracy. As revealed in the 2018 NDI report on Gender Analysis of the 2017 Kenya General Elections, women in politics continue to bear the heavy brunt of physical and verbal violence, a vice that has shunned more women from participating in politics.
A preview into how the media reports on women in politics further exhibits the extent of challenges women in the democratic space face. Women in politics are still stereotyped, undermined and misrepresented compared to their male counterparts. Women candidates also face challenges in packaging themselves and utilizing available media space.
The Woman’s Newsroom Foundation (WoN) through its program on Women, Democracy and Media, focuses on empowering women candidates on how they can actively engage with legacy media and utilize opportunities offered by social media platforms. The programme will also assist women to package themselves in order to grab the attention of the media.
The programme incorporates training of journalists with the aim of giving them tips and skills that will increase coverage of women in politics objectively, fight stereotypes and highlight issues that hamper their participation in democracy. It will be an opportunity further highlight to the media challenges such as violence and hate speech against women which have been commonly used to fight women whenever they announce their participation in elections where male candidates are their competitors.