By Ndung’u Wainaina
International center for Policy and Conflict (ICPC) observes that devolved governance is introducing greater participation, accountability, and transparency in local governance and economic development, and providing an empowering voice to the historically large portion of marginalized population in Kenya.
We note that County governance is going to be the major driver of the Kenya political and economic development considering that crucial sectors of economy and social/public services are under the jurisdiction of the County government.
The key to effective political representation and meaningful participation, especially women, youth and other minority groups, in a democracy at work is to engage all citizens, so that they feel that they are part of the society and governance processes.
Gender equality is central to representation, participation, accountability, responsiveness and transparency in nascent devolved governance in Kenya. These in turn hold the key to better policies and services that will begin to normalize women, youth and other minority groups in equal participation in policy and decision making.
ICPC is calling upon all Governors and County Assemblies to ensure no gender occupies more than a third of all key top positions in both County Executive and County Assembly. We are further urging that young people and other minority groups be given priority in the County appointments.
ICPC is challenging the women, youth and other vulnerable groups in the Counties countrywide to rise up and hold public campaigns, processions and file petitions to the Governors and County Assembly Speakers to demand bigger role in top positions at the highest table of decision and policy making in the County.
Sustainable Development Goal 5 relates to many of the direct responsibilities of county governments and is an opportunity for them to build on existing international commitments and demonstrate their vital role in the achievement of gender equality.
Women, youth and other marginalized groups have greater chance to directly influence policy and decision making on critical socio-economic and governance issues that affected them daily at the County governance level. They have a greater sense of social issues and the well being and welfare of their communities. Their priorities are more likely to centre on housing, safety, clean water, sanitation, education, social implications of policies, health services, poverty alleviation and community development. Therefore, they have to be adequately represented and participate the highest policy and decision making level of the county.
ICPC notes that women and youth will focus on change, preferring a more democratic and transparent approach to governance in an effort to move away from the adversarial and, in some cases, corrupt image of politics. The trend shows that women and young people are likely to make a change through participation and their leadership styles, increasing transparency and less corruption.
It should be emphasized that the end goal is not merely increasing the number of women and youth in policy and decision-making positions, but rather enabling women and youth to meaningfully participate and bring to the discussion how to address issues affecting them directly and tackling inequalities and changing social norms, as well as effectively influence and contribute to government policy and decision-making towards the achievement of gender equality, inclusive growth and development.
Studies indicate that political participation, especially women, may lead to qualitative and substantive changes in the quality of governance at the local level significantly contributing to creation of an environment, which is more sensitive and responsive to people’s needs, ensuring better quality and inclusiveness of service delivery. Women leadership is viewed reliable, responsible and honest.
ICPC is therefore urging the County governments to:
1. Act as best model in labour practices. As major employers and service providers, County governments have a significant impact on women, youth and other minority groups’ lives by using fair employment practices and ensuring non-discriminatory service provision to local citizens
2. Be at frontline of tackling inequalities, discrimination and violence practices against women. County governments have an important role to play in identifying women and girls affected by violence and providing them with the appropriate support and services to escape it and rebuild their lives.
3. Take action immediately to improve women and youth representation and participation in all key administrative and policy making county institutions
4. Ensure equal access to economic and resources. County authorities must establish mechanisms to make it easier for women and youth to obtain basic legal documents, facilitate fairness in property and business rights, and guarantee women’s participation in land governance institutions, county planning and economic policy-making processes.