Remarks by USAID Kenya Mission Director Karen Freeman at women's political participation training launch

Friday, April 11, 2014

-As prepared-

I am delighted to join you at this launch of a new series of training that could propel some of you to political office.

One year ago, Kenyans embarked optimistically on a journey that has ushered in greater participation and inclusion of women in political life. The March 2013 elections represented a first-for-the-country in many regards – the first elections following the aftermath of the 2007 elections and the first under the current Constitution, which introduced devolved government and a revised electoral framework. It also marked an important milestone for women and other traditionally underrepresented groups.

USAID supports greater opportunity and gender equity for women as they claim their rights under the Kenyan Constitution.  Under the “not more than two thirds” principle of Article 81 of the Constitution prescribes that neither gender can have greater than two/thirds representation for elected and appointed positions.  The Constitution requires parliament to enact legislation to promote the representation of marginalized groups, including women. Despite progressive legislation, Kenya has not yet achieved equality for women in politics.  

According to a USAID-supported post-election gender audit carried out by the Federation of Kenyan Women Lawyers, historic barriers still undermine women inclusion and participation in leadership.  Kenya has yet to acknowledge and appreciate the value of women’s leadership rights or abilities. Women seeking political office still lack critical political connections that would enable them to secure the initial nomination from their respective political parties. This coupled with inadequate financial resources and irregularities in political party primaries lock women out.

USAID is starting early to support sustainable initiatives aimed at addressing some of these barriers. USAID is already supporting the National Democratic Institute and the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association to rollout a women leadership training and mentorship program. This program helps women build their leadership and campaigning skills and expand their political networks.  It will also help women strategically engage in their parties and communities to raise their profiles and draw support from male-dominated party leadership.

USAID support to the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association will assist in the building of important networks between elected women representatives at the national and county level and across party lines, thus providing them with an opportunity to share experiences and ideas while joining efforts to challenge some of the barriers to their political participation. Further, the training of nominated women leaders will equip them to effectively perform their roles as leaders and to showcase their abilities in those leadership roles.

USAID is proud of its 50-year partnership with the Kenyan people and of the many development goals that we have achieved together. In continued partnership with the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association, we will work to inspire, mentor and train the next generation of women political leaders. Together, we can empower women to seek positions within their political parties and to run for public office. Soon more women will be part of the Kenyan political process and integral to the decision making of this country.

Thank you.

Imperial Hotel, Kisumu

Last updated: November 07, 2016

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