Women politicians from Nakuru County. From the Top: Governor Susan Kihika, Gilgil MP Martha Wangare, Jane Kihara and Senator Tabitha Karanja. [PHOTO: COURTESY]

Women’s leadership in Kenya has roots in pivotal events such as the Beijing Conference and the Pan African Women’s Organization. These movements laid a solid foundation for women’s leadership, bearing fruit today. 

Article 9 of The Maputo Protocol outlines the Right to Participation in the Political and Decision-Making Process. Although Kenya has made a commitment toward the protocol, it is in Nakuru County where noteworthy progress has been made, particularly in the 2022 elections. 

Furthermore, the Maputo Protocol has emphasized women’s rights and leadership in Kenya by holding the country accountable for promoting women’s participation in political and decision-making processes. The protocol advocates for affirmative action and increased representation of women in these spaces. As a result, women have dominated top leadership positions in Nakuru County. Notable female leaders who contested and won various seats in the county include Susan Kihika (Governor), Tabitha Karanja (Senator), Liza Chelule (Woman Representative), Charity Kathambi (MP Njoro), Martha Wangari (MP Gilgil), Irene Njoki (MP Bahati), Grace Mwathi (MCA Bahati), and Jane Kihara (Naivasha MP).

Women have long been marginalized in politics in Kenya, with the Kenyan Parliament historically dominated by men since independence. However, the enactment of laws to enforce Article 81(b) and Article 100 of the Constitution has facilitated the realization of gender equality in political representation.

Nakuru County, the inspiring example

The impact of the Maputo Protocol on gender representation is evident in various areas across Kenya. The country’s constitution is committed to promoting the political rights of women, ensuring increased opportunities for their representation in elected bodies. Nakuru County serves as an inspiring example of this commitment, showcasing the positive changes that have transpired since the adoption of the protocol.

To safeguard women’s rights, including those aspiring for political office, there is a pressing need to enhance protection measures. The recent Maputo@20 Conference stands as a significant milestone, reminding African women of the progress Kenya has made and the steps the country continues to take in implementing the protocol. The Maputo Protocol has not only broken barriers but has also fueled the cause of gender equality, as witnessed in the remarkable shift in women’s political representation in Nakuru County.

The Maputo Protocol, a pivotal instrument in the advancement of women’s human rights in Africa, has had a transformative impact on Nakuru County. This protocol exemplifies the African Union Member states’ unwavering commitment to investing in the development and empowerment of women, who comprise the majority of the population in many African nations. 

Irene Ronoh-Kosgei  is a History Ph.D. student at Laikipia University