Women: Essential voices in devolution

Thursday, June 30, 2016
Member of County Assembly Fridah Matati at her office in Kakamega County
Irene Angenywi/USAID

“Voters need to realize that investing in women is the greatest single investment that devolved institutions can do to improve legislation," Fridah Matati said.  She was one of four women elected to the Kakamega County Assembly in 2013, by winning more than 5,000 out of 8,000 votes in the Butsotso East ward.

An additional 24 women were nominated to fulfill the constitutional requirement that no more than two thirds of one gender should comprise any elected or appointed public office.

"Seeking an elected office for a woman is much harder because society's socialization favors men in leadership roles and offers limited opportunities for women," Mutati said. "I knew many ward residents backed me and they were counting on me to help make their lives better. When election day came, they came out in large numbers and voted for me.”

Since being elected in 2013, she has attended several USAID-supported trainings focused on making and overseeing budgets  and legislative procedures. She was one of 160 local officials who attended a training to resolve disagreements between elected officials and ward administrators that interfered with the progress of development projects and the delivery of public services in the county.

Her office buzzes with activity.  Multiple mobile phones ring nonstop and citizens who seek her help or advice visit often.

"My door is always open. One of the ways to have easy flow of information between leaders and their ward residents is through unrestricted channels and access to information," Mutati said. “Ï have an open door policy. My job is to represent my residents. I am able to do that effectively through this regular interaction."

Through training and mentorship, USAID is improving the effectiveness of both male and female public officials. In Kenya, women continue to be under-represented as political leaders and elected officials at both the national and county levels. Ahead of the 2017 elections, USAID is also giving women the confidence and space to run for office by helping them gain the tools necessary to campaign competitively.

The USAID Agile Harmonized Assistance for Devolved Institutions (AHADI) activity is working with Kakamega County assembly and other assemblies to support Kenya’s vision of devolution. Working with national and county governments, AHADI promotes governance systems that are transparent, accountable and effective in service delivery, and responsive to empowered citizens.

Last updated: January 13, 2017

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