In leadership, as it is in many spheres of life, gender issues are very emotive. Though most people, by and large, perceive gender issues as touching more on women than on men, the core of the matter is that gender agenda is about men and women vis- a- vis basic rights as pertains to them.
Therefore, gender discrimination in any form- just like discrimination of persons on racial, tribal or religious grounds- is considered a blow on the face of human rights and entitlement.
It is on this score that the new constitution, in a bid to address gender imbalance in various aspects of Kenyan lives, underscored the one third gender rule affirmative action, where that fraction has to go to the gender in which leadership position scales tilt against.
It’s through this prism that the recent standoff between male MCAs and their female counterparts in the Taita –Taveta county assembly should be viewed.
It might also be true that women have been marginalized, or perceived to be marginalized, on various issues, ranging from politics to education and upward mobility in the workplaces.
As such, thanks to the new constitution, the county assembly got about 11 nomination slots for women MCAs, to meet the one third gender balance, given that no single woman was elected MCA in the whole county.
However, matters reached a head when, according to the women MCAs, the speaker of the assembly and some male counterparts allegedly went against the grain and contrary to the legal requirements, went ahead to approve the list of committee chairpersons all led by male MCAs.
In Barack Obama’s book “The audacity of hope,” Obama underscores the importance of empathy and inclusiveness in politics.
These are values our MCAs should have embraced. After all, the county assembly is basically a law making organ and it behoves the house to abide by the laws that they make.
It is therefore understandable for the women MCAs to reject the positions of vice chairpersons as mere tokenism.
Speaking yesterday at a Voi hotel, the women MCAs, led by deputy majority leader Hope Sanguli vowed that they would seek legal redress to have the gender imbalance in the house committees addressed.
It might sound a tough decision to make, but both Sanguli and her counterpart Rachel Dawai, the deputy minority leader at the county assembly, vowed to tender their resignations from those positions in protest, saying accepting the deputy chairpersons positions would be akin to endorsing an illegality.
As Obama says in “audacity of hope,” were our male MCAs empathetic enough towards our hardworking nominated women MCAs as to deny them even a single chair in the committees?
If they make good their threat to boycott all committee sittings, this might deal a major blow to the house business. This is where sobriety and diplomacy must come in. Emotive as it is, the gender imbalance in the committees need immediate redress.
As Obama pointed out in his recent visit to the country, putting women on the periphery of leadership would have far reaching ramifications in the future. The time to act is now.