Raila, Kalonzo endorse gender bill ahead of vote

Women legislators took the frontline and engaged in last-minute intense lobbying for the passage of the two-thirds gender rule bill ahead of the vote in the National Assembly today.

The lobbying for the bill, which has already received critical backing from President Uhuru Kenyatta and deputy William Ruto, was yesterday boosted with support from Opposition chief Raila Odinga, Wiper and Amani National Congress(ANC) leaders Kalonzo Musyoka and Musalia Mudavadi respectively.

The female legislators, operating under the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (Kewopa), have appealed to their male counterparts to pass the bill.

On Sunday, Raila in a statement to newsrooms urged all legislators to stand up for the Constitution and for women by voting for the bill when it comes up this week.

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader, who met the women legislators on Friday, said the bill being tabled today will help the country realise the right to equality and freedom from discrimination for women as stipulated in the 2010 Constitution.

And during a meeting with women MPs yesterday, Kalonzo and Mudavadi urged their troops in Parliament to vote for it.

Kalonzo, who met the MPs at his party offices said: “With the understanding of the foregoing, I wish to assure Kewopa and indeed the country that Wiper and its entire leadership fully supports this bill.”

National Assembly Leader of Majority Aden Duale sponsored the bill, which if passed will create 22 more slots for nominated MPs. Political parties will share the number pro-rata depending on their strength in the bicameral houses, with Jubilee and ODM likely to get a bigger pie.

But it remained uncertain whether the intense pressure would shift enough votes to allocated women more seats in the Senate and the National Assembly.

Some male legislators such as Kieni MP Kanini Kega vowed to skip the vote on two-thirds gender bill, saying it was unnecessary and if passed, the law would increase the wage bill, something the government is currently struggling to contain.

“Women in this country have the equal ability with men. We only to make the ground level for them by facilitating them a little bit more through funds provided in order to get elective seats,” he said.

This did not, however, dim the resolve of women MPs who late into the night engaged their male counterparts to pass the bill that is in the second reading on the day that it emerged that the country will be spending more than Sh500 million every year for 20 years starting 2022 once the bill is enacted in to law.

Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) chief executive Kwame Owino said implementing the law will cost less than one per cent of the total government expenditure.

“Out of the total cost PSC needs only an extra 1.5 per cent of its total budget to implement the bill,” he said.

He was speaking during a breakfast meeting convened by Kewopa and the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) aimed at taking stock of the cost implication of the implementation of the bill.

At the same time,  Kandara MP Alice Wahome clarified that this is a government bill and not a women’s bill and this is for both genders in the house.

Women have expressed optimism that MPs will pass legislation on the implementation of the two-thirds gender principle today. -Report by Seth Onyango, Mercy Mwai, Noven Owiti, Seth Mwaniki

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