Kenya: Preparing women for leadership

Women participate in a civic education forum in Kwale, Coast Province of Kenya. (Photo credit: UNDP Amkeni Wakenya)
Women participate in a civic education forum in Kwale, Coast Province of Kenya. (Photo credit: UNDP Amkeni Wakenya)

As Kenya prepares for the general election in March 2013, UNDP is equipping women with critical skills to help them run for office.

Women remain underrepresented in political leadership positions in Kenya despite Constitutional quotas, with women’s political representation standing at 9.8 percent versus Rwanda’s 56 percent, South Africa’s 42 percent, Tanzania’s 36 percent and Uganda’s 35 percent.

A UNDP-managed civil society organization called Amkeni Wakenya has established – in partnership with a group called the Women’s Empowerment Link – the Women Leadership Academy, which aims to increase women’s participation in governance in Kenya. It is accomplishing these both by advocating for women-friendly policies and by helping women become more skilled at participating in governance processes.

Highlights

  • Women’s political representation in Kenya stands at 9.8 percent versus Rwanda’s 56 percent, South Africa’s 42 percent, Tanzania’s 36 percent and Uganda’s 35 percent.
  • The UNDP-supported Women Leadership Academy aims to increase women’s participation in governance.
  • Of the 350 women trained so far, 70 have already begun campaigning ahead of March 2013 elections.

So far, more than 350 women from seven rural regions of Kenya have been trained on leadership skills as a result of this initiative. This critical training will prepare them for elective positions at national and county levels. Women receive information on their rights under the new Constitution and take classes on leadership skills, campaigning and fundraising and communication skills. They also learn about Kenya’s new governance structure and election rules and how to be involved in political parties.

“The training opened my mind on the various laws governing elections in Kenya, which I did not know about,” said Eunice, who participated in the training. “As a result, I’m now more knowledgeable, ensuring I do not do anything that will jeopardize my candidacy.”

Of the 350 women trained, 70 have already begun campaigning for various positions to be contested in the upcoming elections. The project also works with a civil society organization called the Women’s Think Tank, which analyzes draft legislation. The Women’s Academy and Women’s Think Tank have analyzed five bills and ensured that feedback provided by women constituents is incorporated in the final drafts.  

“Kenya is going through a fluid political process, where parties are forming alliances to compete in the general election in 2013,” said Prof. Maria Nzomo, from the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies at the University of Nairobi. As a result, women in Kenya have a real opportunity to position themselves strategically within the alliances and influence party decisions.