The 2017 General Elections recorded unprecedented strides in women’s political representation with a rising number of women elected to political positions. While the numbers remain below the minimum constitutional threshold of gender parity, these success stories mark an important journey towards achieving equal representation in Kenya politics.
UN Women has been promoting gender equality in the electoral cycle in Kenya, as part of its strategy to promote women’s leadership and participation in politics. To this end, there is a need for aspiring women leaders to learn from and share experiences with women role models and those who are also walking the journey of political participation and leadership.
In this regard, UN Women in partnership with African Women and Child Feature Services (AWCFS), embarked upon an extensive project to document stories and testimonies from women who have engaged in political leadership in Kenya.
As a means of inspiring a new generation of women leaders, this book profiles 50 women who represent various levels of political leadership, and highlights the determination and resilience shown by these women in their pursuit for political leadership. In this book (and in three accompanying videos), they share their experiences, challenges, and lessons learned so that everyone, regardless of gender and their level of political awareness and engagement, can draw inspiration from these unique stories. These women have challenged and overcome barriers such as discrimination, victimization and harassment as they gained respect and equal footing with their male colleagues in a political society that has historically been male dominant.
The launch of this book 50 Journeys: A book documenting stories of courage and transformation from women political leaders in Kenya was officiated by Professor Margaret Kobia, the Cabinet Secretary, Ministry of Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs and attended by both current and former women political leaders.
With the current political discourse in the country heavy on the debate around the two- thirds gender rule (that calls for no more than two thirds of either gender in political leadership), Professor Margaret Kobia pointed out that increasing women political leadership remains a key to achieving gender equality in Kenya. As such, documenting successes, challenges and lessons learned in promoting women’s political leadership is a critical building block that will not only inspire women to seek out leadership positions but will also support them in their political journeys.
Veteran women leader and former Member of Parliament Ms. Marere Wa Mwachai called for a shift in perception towards the proposed gender bill: “The two- thirds Gender Bill is not a women’s bill, it is a development bill to move forward as a country, fight corruption and do whatever is necessary to mend this nation.”
For the first time in Kenyan history, three women governors and three women senators were elected to office. While the glass ceiling remains a barrier to the proportional representation of women and men in elected office, these successes demonstrate significant progress towards the equal participation women in political leadership.
This book was commissioned by the UN Women Kenya Country Office and funded by UNDP through the