Wednesday, July 27, 2005

One third of Seats Reserved for Women?

One-Third Seats Reserved for Women:

The clamor to increase women’s political participation in Kenya is an especially laudable one. According to statistics from the Electoral Commissions website, out of 1,035 parliamentary candidates in the 2002 election only 44 were women and of these only 9 were elected. It is very clear that we do indeed have very few women participating in the electoral process as candidates. There are probably many reasons why women do not participate in the electoral process, the balancing act between family and work, the expensive nature of campaigning, negative perceptions of women candidates and lack of experience in electioneering, and many others. The pertinent question is how do we tackle this issue. Some have argued, quite vociferously, for a strict quota, a third of all parliamentary seats be reserved for women. This strategy (quotas) has seen the number of women legislators rise in countries such as Rwanda, Uganda, and Burkina Faso.

However, there are a number of concerns about the quota system, apart from the obvious anti-democratic nature of the scheme, coupled with its arbitrary ceiling, one has to consider whether the root causes of the problem are tackled by reserving certain seats. This scheme would appear to be a band-aid measure considering that there are other measures that could be taken that would provide a lasting structural and systemic change to the electoral process.

In the United States and other Western nations, women’s groups have focused their attention on assisting women candidates participate in the electoral process on an equal footing with men. Organizations like EMILY’s List, the National Organization for Women, and the Susan B. Anthony list, are dedicated to the recruitment, funding and campaign organization of women candidates. They enable women to compete with men in an open and democratic process, where the best man/woman wins. This is where the focus of women’s groups should be, ensuring that Kenyan women can participate fully and effectively in the political process; politically expedient measures like quotas that do not necessarily tackle the root problem, should not be adopted.


Blogger Afromusing said...

I actually agree with you. Quotas just dont appear to be a good idea.

4:35 PM  
Blogger Wambui said...

well said

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with your argument. You state that quotas are undemocratic, yet is it more democratic to have a society in which the majority of the poulation is severely underrepresented? You're notion of democrary is clearly strictly defined by equaily of oppurtunity as opposed to equality of outcome. Moreover, though there is no doubt that Emily's List is a commendable orgnaization, to make the parallel between the wealthiest and most advanced democrary in the world and a developing nation is a stretch at best. Oh, and there is a clear distinction between a quota and reserved seats. For example, Kenya enacted reserved seats in 1997, earmarking six seats for women. A survey of the literature illustrates that these reserved seats are generally unsuccessul in furtering a gendered agenda. However, a quota (like that adopted by the ANC and Fremilo, or like the system legislated in Argentina, Mexico, etc) with proper placement rules and sanctions can be quite successful.

Oh, and if you're wondering why I'm commenting on your blog, I was actually searching for information regarding the 1997 reserved seats debate in Kenya, and my search terms led me here.

2:26 PM  

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