What strategies are there to ensure that more women are elected to mayoral positions (president of the local council)? What are strategies for female mayors to be effective leaders?

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ursulasorebahati's picture

Women are conspicuously absent in local decision-making processes in Kenya. Out of Three Thousand Eight Hundred (3800) councilors’ in Kenya, only Three Hundred Fifty Four (354) are women. There are 175 local authorities in Kenya of which only Six (6) councils are headed by women. Specific policies to facilitate the involvement of women in decision-making are lacking both at the national and local level.

Effective participation of women in decision-making is critical to the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDG’s), not only on Gender Equality but a pre-requisite of all. Local authorities too as institutions of local governance have not been women friendly due to lack of gender sensitive policies and programmes. For a long time, the local authorities have been male dominated as evidenced by 90.7% male representation compared to 9.3% of women as indicated by the Kenya 2007 election results. The low prioritization of women’s participation in local government has resulted to inequalities in the representation and participation of women.

• Inadequate lobbying and advocacy skills among the women councilors is a major obstacle to ascending to higher office in local authorities irrespective of the low numbers or elected and nominated women councilors. The implications of this have been few women councilors (elected/nominated) shying away from contesting for council senior positions such as Mayors/ Council Chairpersons, Finance and Town planning chairpersons and opting for less prestigious committees (education and social services) resulting to resource allocation by councils without taking into consideration the needs and priorities of women, men, girls and boys.

• Lack of support for female councilors’ by male counterparts and clerks (mainly men) has been a major obstacle to their participation within the council. This has been facilitated by the fact that gender has not been understood or well taken by most men in Kenya. Every time there is mention of gender, they think about “women sitting on men”. This goes back to 1995 Beijing Conference and the reception given to the outcome of the meeting by our political leaders and the misconception has not been rectified or clarified and many people still think gender is women.

• Inadequate lobbying and advocacy skills have also been responsible for the minimum support that women have been receiving from their male counterparts, who are the majority in local authorities. The procedures of motion presentation have also been a problem to most women councillors. Women have reported that they do not know the procedure of presenting agenda to the council, how, when and where to do follow-up on notices of motion/agenda. This coupled with the low levels of representation of women in local councils make it difficult for them the effect policy making. This has been particularly difficult during debate in the councils for women have not been able to Marshall enough numbers to pass their motions due to their few women councilors. Women are a partly 9.3% of the councilors and therefore, for them to have an impact in the council budgeting process, they need special lobbying and skills.

• Women councilors’ have been reported of having inadequate capacity on issues of budgeting. Budgeting has always been viewed as a male domain. Understanding and interpreting budgets and statements have been real problems to women in local authorities. The local authority budgeting process starts from the departments, each preparing sector priorities and in consultation with the treasurer they are translated and combined into council draft budgets. Most of the departments have standing committees where the councilors are members. Once the draft council budgets are done, they are supposed to be discussed first by the Finance Committee and then taken to the Full council for approval.

Throughout this process, the councilors are expected to participate throughout the process. Once the full council approves the budget, it is taken for a further approval process at the provincial local government level. Here, the Mayor, Town Clerk and the treasurer are supposed to present the budget and defend it. Once, approved by Provincial Local Government Officer (PLGO), the budget is submitted to the Ministry of Local Government Headquarters for approval. This process ideally takes six months after which the council is expected to implement the budget. During the implementation of the council budgets is when women realize that their needs were not factored in the budget. This can also account for lack of women councilors’ interest in contesting for Finance and Planning Committees in local authorities because many claim that they have no experience in managing finances. The councils are expected by the law to hold budget days, whereby the residents are invited to participate in the budget process.

Ursula Sore - Bahati
United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)
Gender and Governance Programme (GGP)

iKNOW Politics's picture

(CROSS POSTED from FRENCH E-Discussion, click here to read original post).

The “cadre de concertation des femmes des partis politiques” of Mali CCFPP, is for sharing experience and exchange knowledge about women political participation. The main goal is to reinforce solidarity between women of political parties. I would like to share my experience, on communal election in 2009. For this election, the CCFPP signed a statement of political parties.
- Before this statement, we explain to political parties that democracy requires more women candidates in top of lists.
- We urge political parties to equity between men and women
- We affirm that more women in top of electoral lists will lead to more women mayor.

After elections, the CCFPP helped women mayor and communal advisors to work together in order to be elected in municipal council. We provide training to reinforce their capacity on public affairs.

Shaheen Attiqur Rahman's picture

Local Govts are the best choice for rural women , &, in countries like mine where accessibility is such an issue. In Pakistan we lobbied for special seats for women & had it approved. Though changes were not that great, the change of male attitudes have improved, some what.

Shaheen Attiq-ur-Rahman
Vice Chairperson
Bunyad Foundation

Ruth Penafiel's picture

(CROSS POSTED from SPANISH E-Discussion, click here to read original post).

It is very important to first empower women and strengthen their self-esteem. It is also necessary to establish an alliance with men in order to build a process of integration around the image of women as both an alternative and as deserving. Space must not only be gained but also built because this requires a lot of demand and meticulous observation of an entire history of women’s vision, mission and perspectives, as well as their ability to govern and willingness to assume and take decisions. On the other hand, it is also important to fight to bring all actors (men and women) from all sectors together and arrive at a consensus by maintaining permanent dialogue and knowing how to delegate and build actions and initiatives with others.

As an indigenous woman, I am very pleased to be able to share my political experience in this debate.

Ruth Peñafiel
Coordinator of the Leaders of Amazonian Nationalities Network (Coordinadora de la red de lideresas de las nacionalidades de la amazonia)

awakouyate's picture

(CROSS POSTED from FRENCH E-Discussion, click here to read original post).

The number of women mayor is very low in Mali. I would like to run for communal elections but I am so afraid and discouraged. Men are working in a close group and refuse to put women in the head of list. And many other women are afraid of participating to public life because of intimidation and the lack of support from men. I hope this forum can be useful and another interesting question to ask is: why women are not participating in Communal election?
Political parties have a key role they should engage more women in politics and treat them equal as men.