Women's Political Inclusion in Kenya's Devolved Political System

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Josef Korbel School of International Studies, International Studies


Women, Quotas, Inclusion, Violence, Decentralization, Elections, Rule of law, Kenya


Kenya’s 2010 constitutional reforms devolved the political system and included a quota designed to secure a minimum threshold of women in government. While the 2017 elections yielded the country’s highest proportion of women in government in history via both elected and appointed positions, many political entities still fell short of the new gender rule, leaving them in noncompliance with the constitution. The 2017 elections reveal a tension: while devolution raised the stakes of local elections and the quota has improved women’s political inclusion, these reforms have not fundamentally changed the power of political parties, the way campaigns are financed, cultural ideas about women’s leadership, and the pervasiveness of violence in Kenyan elections. Drawing on data from both the national and county levels, this article maps these persistent obstacles to women’s political inclusion and argues that increasing women’s political power will require both the full implementation of the constitution, as well as a broader consideration of how power operates and is consolidated.

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