KENYA 2022 ELECTIONS: FINDING THE GENDER BALANCE

We are effectively into the election year. Kenya’s general election are due to be held in August 2022. In the last few weeks there’s been a heightening of political activities across the country. As with every electoral cycle, the issue of participation and representation of women will come into sharp focus. The constitution requires that not more than two thirds of the members of any elective body consist of one gender. 11 years after the constitution was passed, this threshold is far from being realized. Following the 2017 election, women made up 7.9% of elected MPs (from the 290 constituencies), 6.4% of Governors and Senators and 6.6% of elected MCAs. Regionally (East Africa) Kenya lags behind in the representation of women.

A variety of reasons account for the low representation of Kenyan women in political leadership. Top of the pile is the impact of age old social-cultural norms that define gender roles in our communities.  This has proved a major hindrance to women achieving political leadership. Political campaigns tend to be quite expensive. A study estimated the cost of running for an MP seat in 2017 to range between 20-35 million Kenya shillings. Due to socio-cultural norms that govern ownership and access to property and capital, women are greatly disadvantaged when it comes to raising resources for campaigning.

High media visibility of political candidates contributes to likelihood of success, but women candidates are less visible in the media. A 2019 global study commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, found that men remain the vast majority of quoted experts and sources in political news coverage and that the share of voice by men is 7 times that of women. The male dominance of political leadership spaces means that male candidates in competition with female candidates benefit from the unconscious bias of the voters i.e. voters unconsciously equate political leadership with men. The dominance also means that male candidates have abundance of role models to learn and get inspiration from. Female candidates competing with male candidates for the same seat and with similar qualifications and experience must work at least twice as hard to compete favorably.

As we head towards the August 2022 election, the need to increase the number of elected women representatives across the board has never been more apparent. In order for this to happen, female candidates for election require a lot of support. Strategic election planning training can make a significant contribution towards the success of female candidates in election. This refers to the capacity to approach electoral campaigning strategically. It involves analysis and use of data on demographics, past elections and voter trends to inform a candidate’s campaign plan. Strategic election planning allows a candidate to efficiently and effectively utilize limited resources and time during campaigns while greatly increasing the chances of success. Female candidates for election can also greatly benefit from increased visibility as a result of effective branding and messaging using digital/social media platforms. Digital/social media can be a useful alternative platform for visibility for female candidates during the campaigns. Proper branding on these platforms can also lead to getting noticed and profiled on traditional media which ultimately leads to getting known by more electorates. Learning from, inspiration and motivation by senior elected female colleagues can also add great value to female candidates running for election, particularly for those running for the first time.

With funding from the Canada High Commission’s Fund for Local Initiative, Media Focus on Africa (MFA) is embarking on a project to support 20 women aspirants for various elective seats from the counties of Narok, Nyandarua, West Pokot and Kajiado. The goal of the project is “Strengthening the democratic participation of women in Kenya”.   These 4 counties were chosen because they are among those counties in Kenya that have some of the least numbers of elected women throughout Kenya’s history. The support in form of training will expose the women to Strategic election planning and digital media skills for campaigning. In addition the women shall receive motivation and inspiration from elected female colleagues. The project will run for the next 4-6 months.

This project is in line with MFA‘s priority focus area of gender equality. Over the last 5 years, MFA has implemented a number of exciting and successful projects on gender equality including the recently aired popular TV series ‘Ms President’. Gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls is at the core of the government of Canada International Policy- the Feminist International Assistance Policy.

Image courtesy of UN.

BARRIERS WOMEN FACE WHEN RUNNING FOR POLITICAL OFFICES

On July 29, 2021, The Canadian High Commission and Media Focus on Africa engaged in discussions with Ms President participants who will be vying for elective seats in the 2022 elections in Kenya. These discussions are part of Canada’s and MFA’s objective to promote and support women’s political participation. These discussions are going to take place over a period of months in the lead up to the elections.

In the discussions held at the High Commissioners Residence, the commission and MFA sought to understand the individual journey of the women, their experiences in their quest for leadership, the strategies they were putting in place and the barriers women face when they run for office.

Some of the conversations are captured in short video. Watch HERE

MS PRESIDENT FINALISTS IN BRUSSELS

On 18-21 November 2019, Media Focus on Africa (MFA) and the five finalists of Ms President are invited to Brussels to attend a series of meetings with high representatives of the European Union. Ms President is a 26-episode TV reality show that aims to raise awareness on the role of women leadership in effective peace building and in countering violent extremism. The show featured a diverse group of 71 women who competed to become the first female President of Kenya.

Five finalists were selected for the final episodes which included a field campaign, a private meeting with the President of the Republic of Kenya, H.E Uhuru Kenyatta, a presidential live debate and a grand finale where the winner was announced. Kenyans were invited to vote for their preferred candidate through a free SMS platform. The 26 episodes aired on KTN and attracted more than 3.5 million viewers every week. Nereah Amondi Oketch was crowned first ‘’Ms President of Kenya’’. The impact of the project is already observed. Contestants have expressed an increase in their self-confidence, their power of influence at home, in their communities and on political level. It has given them a tremendous opportunity to network and promote the interest of women and girls in Kenya. Many of them have already expressed their intention to vie at the 2022 election.

The project also included capacity-building for women contestants, media practitioners and local civil-society organisations. Finally MFA and its project partner, Muslims for Human Rights (MUHURI), are currently organising 55 community dialogues in three violence-prone counties: Mombasa, Kilifi and Kwale. These dialogues will be attended by community, religious, youth and women leaders. The aim is to specifically counter violent extremism through the promotion of women leadership.

Thanks to the European Delegation to Kenya and the EU representatives in Brussels, a 4-day meeting was organised between MFA, the five finalists and EU representatives. During that week, MFA and the finalists will be engaging with Ms Hautala, Ms McGuinness, M. Fabio Massimo Castaldo – Vice-Presidents of the European Parliament, Ms. Sonya Reines-Djivanides – Executive Director of the European Peacebuilding Liaison Office, Sandra Kramer – Director DEVCO, EU relations, West and East Africa, members of the European Peace Building Office.

Finally MFA and the finalists will be meeting the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the European Commission, Ms Federica Mogherini. Through these meaningful meetings, MFA hopes to strengthen its current relationship with the European Union and to raise the voice of Kenyan women internationally.

EU head of Delegation in Kenya sent off the team to Brussels after a lengthy discussion on a way forward for increasing Women’s participation in high level decision making in government and corporations.

MFA wishes to thank its funding partners: the European Delegation to Kenya, Global Affairs Canada and Hivos.

NEREAH OKETCH BECOMES KENYA’S FIRST MS PRESIDENT

Over 1000 contestants and 26 episodes later, Hon. Nereah Amondi Oketch, a nominated Member of County Assembly from Homa Bay County, was announced Kenya’s first female TV during Ms President Reality TV Show grand finale on 31st July 2019 at the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.

“I dedicate this to Kenyan voices. I carry in me their hopes and aspirations. Ms President nurtured and allowed me to carry those aspirations,” she said amidst tears of excitement.

She was trailed closely by Umulkheir Mohamed from Garissa County who was the first runners up, Hon. Irene Mayaka from Nyamira County, Betty Adera (Nairobi County) and Waruguru Kiai(Nyeri County), respectively.

A project funded by the European Union with additional support from the High Commission of Canada and Hivos East Africa, the show aimed at challenging stereotypes and growing support for women vying for leadership positions by changing the perceptions of women in leadership.

Through training and challenges, the top 5 candidates were able to continuously prove their capacity and ability to be leaders while competing for the prize of becoming Kenya’s first female president.

Media Focus on Africa’s Ms President has empowered women to become key players in preventing the spread of violent extremism and radicalization. It continues to strengthen the institutional and operational capacity of civil society actors and media practitioners to prevent violence against women and protect human rights.

    Umulkheir Mohamed, Ms President Reality TVShow second runner up

MS PRESIDENT FINALISTS DEBATE ON NATIONAL ISSUES

Yesterday, the five Ms President finalists made their final bids to woo viewers during the presidential debate, and demonstrated confidence, eloquence and wit.

They impressed judges and viewers with their grip of various social issues, including leadership, cultural diversity, involvement of women in violent extremism, labour rights, food security, technology and health.

The European Union (EU), which is the main sponsor of the show, said the programme demonstrated that women had huge potential in leadership.

According to Josephine Kalinauckas, the EU’s Head of Section in Delegation Foreign Policy Instruments in East and Southern Africa, all the contestants, including hundreds of those who did not make it to the final stages, had demonstrated that women had what it takes to articulate societal issues.

“It is a message to Kenyans that they should not overlook the role of women while seeking solutions to challenges. Problems cannot be fully tackled without involving everyone,” she said.

Kalinauckas said the contestants, shortlisted from 1,000 women who joined the contest at its early stages, had demonstrated that given a platform, they could articulate issues the society faces.

“The major lesson is that the solutions have to be tailored to the local context. Local women’s voices need to be heard in this process so that solutions are not imposed,” she said.

Kalinauckas said EU would work closely with Kenya to ensure issues facing the country are addressed with more focus on empowering women and youth. She said President Uhuru Kenyatta had made a positive signal by meeting the five finalists.

“We are delighted the President took interest. It is a demonstration that we have a secured democracy. It will be interesting to know what they discussed,” she said.

Last week, the President met the five contestants and invited them to the podium during the commissioning of the Bidco Industrial Park in Ruiru, before hosting them at State House Nairobi on July 25.

The winner will be announced from viewers’ votes through a free Short Messaging Service code.

After the announcement, the EU representative said she was hopeful the Ms President would start advocating more women involvement and participation in the country’s political spectrum.

“We will work with Media Focus on Africa to look at possible follow-up ideas,” she said.

H.E. UHURU KENYATTA ENDORSES MS PRESIDENT

Ahead of the Ms President grand finale, the contestants made a visit to the State House where they had a chat on the state of the nation and passed down nuggets of wisdom on what it takes to be President.
The Constitution of Kenya 2010 establishes the principle of equality and non-discrimination as a core value. The national values and principles of governance include human dignity, equity, social justice, inclusiveness, equality, human rights, non-discrimination and protection of marginalized groups among others. Famously referred to as the “Second Republic”, the constitution brought the recognition of women’s rights as human rights.
Kenya has indeed made strides in realizing gender equality. However, a lot more needs to be done to make the constitution a reality. This is mostly because Kenyan women are still heavily underrepresented in decision-making processes at all levels. Women are still faced with fewer opportunities, lack of access to property which continues to limit their participation in public processes.
Ahead of the Ms President grand finale, the contestants made a visit to the State House where they had a chat on the state of the nation and passed down nuggets of wisdom on what it takes to be President.
“If we positively engage our women by creating opportunities and giving them chances, what we’re actually doing is not just empowering a woman, we’re actually empowering the nation.” said H.E Uhuru Kenyatta
He went ahead to acknowledge the role of women in public process and the importance of their engagement in political processes at all levels.
The meeting brought to the fore gains made in the areas of investments in gender equality and women’s economic empowerment. It brought forth an opportunity to forge strong partnerships with women leaders and to learn about best practices towards the realization of equality and the empowerment of women in Kenya.
This was followed by a field trip that found the contestants sharing the same platform with His Excellency for the voting campaigns. Watch the field trip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0OfMr7vxEBo
Ms President seeks to bring together governments, civil society and media practitioners. It showcases determination of Kenyan women to make progress on women’s rights and gender equality.
Alongside our partners, Media Focus on Africa works to promote women’s engagement in every aspect of Kenya’s development.

MS PRESIDENT: KENYA’S FIRST REALITY SHOW ON LEADERSHIP PREMIERES

The first ever of its kind reality series on leadership is set to begin showing on Kenyan screens this coming 30th January 2019. Ms President Reality TV show will see tens of women from across Kenya compete to win the ‘Presidency’.

Women with exemplary community projects and passionate about bringing social change applied to participate in the show after a call for participation was released in June 2018. After a thorough shortlisting based on the answers submitted in the application forms received from close to a 1000 women from all corners of the country, at least 375 were invited for auditions in five major towns in Kenya.

Ms President, a 26-episode reality television series, will captivate the national audience with 71 extraordinary women leaders going through a series of tasks and challenges designed to display their leadership capacity and ability.

The women representing the majority of counties across Kenya will have to survive through viewers’ votes and judges’ decisions, until the last one emerges as the “Ms President”. The winner and the 5 finalists will receive additional leadership mentorship opportunities.

Underrepresentation

During Kenya’s 2017 elections, of the 1450 Wards, women were only elected into 96. Of the 290 Constituencies in Kenya, women were elected in only 23 of those. Only 3 women were elected Senators from the 47 slots available, the same with Governors.

Ms President hopes to empower Kenyan women to build sustainable capacity for effective leadership especially in the areas of conflict management, peace building and crisis preparedness.

“Concerted efforts especially those targeting to alter attitudes, perceptions and stereotypes regarding women and leadership are a necessity. Ms President is one such effort,” said Harrison Manga, Programmes Manager, Media Focus on Africa, the organization producing the show.

MS PRESIDENT

Ms President was an entertaining, educating and thought provoking Reality TV show that sough to portray to a national audience the capacity and ability of women to lead effectively. Through a series of tasks and challenges, contestants (all female) displayed their leadership capacity and ability on National TV. The series showcased intelligent and articulate women who are “Presidential” with the aim of increasing the chances of women in Kenya taking up leadership positions.

26 episodes of the Ms President TV show were produced and aired attracting average weekly viewership of 3.5 million. Episode 25 (the Presidential debate) attracted the highest viewership of 5,246,000 million and episode 26 (the finale) attracted the second highest viewership of 4,077, 000 million.

The President of Kenya H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta endorsed the programme. It also recorded commendation / endorsement from among other top government officials, Chief Administrative Secretary in the ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Hon Ababu Namwamba who participated in episode 22 of the show. Others were Supreme Court Judge Hon Justice Njoki Ndungu, Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Public Service and Gender Hon Racheal Shebesh, the then Principal Secretary in charge of Gender at the ministry of Public Service and Gender Hon Safina Kwekwe, various Governors including the Governors of Nairobi and Garissa and several Members of the National Assembly and Senate plus other stellar leaders in the country.

The Ms President TV show attracted wide media coverage locally and internationally. There are at least 122 articles, news stories, features and OPEDs on Ms President on newspaper, TV and online platforms of leading local and international news organizations. Most of the coverage was balanced, fair and objective and did not perpetuate gender stereotypes often characterizing media coverage of women. Some good examples can be read below;

TV show proves women’s desire to vie for Presidency- Joan Thatiah Saturday Nation 10th August 2019

Of Ms President and the demand for emancipation- Prof Austin Bukenya Saturday Nation 17th August 2019

African Women are redefining leadership- Stephen Ndegwa People Daily August 8th 2019

The Ms President TV show was nominated under the best TV documentary/TV show/TV reality category of the 9th Edition of the Kalasha International Film and TV awards 2019.

All episodes of the TV show can be watched here.

MS PRESIDENT REALITY LEADERSHIP TV SHOW LAUNCHED

Media Focus on Africa has opened the application process for a leadership TV reality show “‘Ms. President’” a series which will inspire women and girls to become key players in leadership in all spheres of life. The TV show will also aim to change the attitude of Kenyans towards women and leadership.

The applications opened on the 5th June 2018 and can be downloaded online via https://www.mediafocusonafrica.org/project/ms-president. The launch of applications was presided over by His Excellency Stefano Dejak the Head of the Delegation of the European Union to Kenya. The applications will close on July 27th 2018. Applicants can also express interest by accessing forms from the producing organization, Media Focus on Africa through mspresidentkenya@gmail.com.

In Kenya, as in most of Africa, women are usually not found in leadership positions. They are not generally perceived to have the skills, knowledge or social status needed to bring about meaningful change in post-conflict environments.

Kenya has the least representation of woman in the East Africa region despite the two thirds gender rule provision in the constitution of Kenya 2010.  Currently in the National Assembly female MPs make up only 22%, 31% in the Senate and only 6% of the Governors.  “Ms President” aims at building sustainable female leadership capacity in Kenya by showcasing articulate, intelligent, fair-minded women who are “presidential candidates”.The series will increase the possibility of women in Kenya being called upon to take on leadership positions.

“We are not looking for beauty queens we are looking for #women who are leaders. It’s not just putting women on TV but putting them though leadership training and mentorship” said Frenny Jowi, Project Office, Media Focus on Africa.

The inspiration to produce the “Ms President” reality series in Kenya originated from the Palestinian Ma’aan Television Network, highly popular program ‘The President’, which involved choosing a young Palestinian to be the next Palestinian President.

Kenya’s Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender representative was at launch.

“The women who make it into the programme must be the best version of us. We would like to work with all the women that will apply for the program as the Ministry of Gender” – Lydiah Mathia, advisor to CS Ministry of Gender Kenya.

The European Union that is funding the program by Media Focus on Africa was also present at the launch.

‘No human society is fully developed without women taking the central place. Women need to prepare for power .’ – EU Ambassador Stefano Dejak.

LEARN WITHOUT FEAR

Violence against children in schools affects approximately one million children worldwide every day. Girls are especially vulnerable to rape, exploitation, coercion and discrimination. In October 2008, Plan International launched a global campaign to eliminate violence against children in schools, called Learn Without Fear. As of August 2010, the campaign was operating in 44 countries worldwide. MFA implemented Learn without Fear in cooperation with Plan Kenya

Key anti-violence campaign messages were created to reach millions of adults and children through radio and television shows, leaflets, training sessions and workshops. MFA helped in creating these messages including production of a short documentary film.

Children were involved in all aspects of the campaign. In working with schools, local communities and national governments across the world, the Learn Without Fear campaign demonstrated that stopping violence against children in schools – by engaging and educating those who are able to prevent violence from ever taking place – is possible.

Find the campaign progress report here, showing its successes and more.

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Yesterday, Kisumu MCA - Pamela Odhiambo worked with the women to develop ground strategies for local elections which included dealing with opposition and attacks based on gender.

#WomenConnect #ElectionsKE2022 #SheCanLead #EqualityMatters #CFLI #CanadaFund https://t.co/3J7aVUQB9N https://t.co/StHieCEfqa
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Media Focus on Africa @Media_Focus
We are in a forum helping women MCA aspirants prepare for 2022 elections. Rangwe MP - Dr Lilian Gogo is mentoring the women & sharing tips to help them navigate their way up. Thank you @K24Tv for highlighting the forum https://t.co/yctJ93A3Su

#SheCanLead #EqualityMatters #CFLI https://t.co/vvPBfPZNN8

We are in a forum helping women MCA aspirants prepare for 2022 elections. Rangwe MP - Dr Lilian Gogo is mentoring the women & sharing tips to help them navigate their way up. Thank you @K24Tv for highlighting the forum https://t.co/yctJ93A3Su

#SheCanLead #EqualityMatters #CFLI https://t.co/vvPBfPZNN8
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23 women including current governors, women MPs and professionals have declared interest in running for the governors sit in the 2022 Kenya elections. Learn more from @NationAfrica

#ElectionsKE2022 #SheCanLead #EqualityMatters #WomenConnect https://t.co/sFwFBEccwA

One vote matters, your vote matters! There are many elections that have been decided by only a few votes and yours can help propel the right candidate who believes and works for equality and development for all. Register to vote #ElectionsKE2022 #EqualityMatters #ECVR2021 #CFLI https://t.co/ANhHLd3VEK Media_Focus photo

A malaria vaccine has been sought for many years and finally one has now been approved by WHO. A big breakthrough in the fight against the killer disease. https://t.co/fIh4ANQBhx Media_Focus photo

Ongoing https://t.co/KerEuBnEWk
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ActionAid Kenya @ActionAid_Kenya
Register to engage with our guest speakers during our main event tomorrow beginning 5 pm EAT.

Theme: wo/men participation in political spaces amidst the current environment. #FOAA

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HIGHLIGHTS: #DYK Cartoons tell alot of stories sometimes even morethan words? At the #EASTFest21 was an exhibition
@jana https://t.co/EsisIMvtz7
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HIGHLIGHTS: Paraphrase: at the #EASTFest21
It is more natural to discuss topics you are passionate about. This is even more engaging! It's a point to note to journalists.
@janajwang @AbahoEdward5 @RuthNagudi @MusinguzOscar @nbstv @Iam_solomon_kis @WatumK https://t.co/20zFHPXrBv https://t.co/terOM59Kgy
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"Before you share a viral social media video, have you verified it? There is no way a media house can do away with "VERIFICATION" and think you are on a safe side."
- Mary. N. Kalundu at the #EASTFest2021 https://t.co/EBTawiYBol
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"Journalism is a discipline of verification. We can't air anything that are not verified." - Mary. N. Kalundu at the #EASTFest21 https://t.co/Ukd5hzpKn6 MFAUganda photo

The debate on skilling journalists- young people think there is ‘too much theory’ in university compared to the practical skills! Collaboration between the industry and training institutions is key! #EASTFest21 @mcimediahub @IMChallengeug @AKUMediaFutures https://t.co/C6kJHAfB2N MFAUganda photo