Friday, April 2, 2010

Terrorism vs female representation in elective positions

Matters war and defence have traditionally been a preserve for the male members of the society.Any threat to a community's survival is invariably met by calls for men of valour to take up arms and defend the society. This is one atavism that has remained, and been brought to bear in the modern political environment.

Indeed, there exists a causative relationship between a) the level of threat- real or perceived- during the electioneering period and b) the percentage of women representation in elective positions in a society..

The US of A leads the pack of those societies ruled through terror, followed closely by India. These two countries happen to have the lowest percentages as far as women representation in elective positions is concerned.

In Kenya there are two contrasting case studies that exemplify the same. First case study involves the Kikuyu community, also fondly referred to as “the Mount Kenya Mafia” in order to encompass the neighboring communities who invariably vote as a block. In 2007 general elections they were perceived to be PNU members in the 2007 general election, and were pitted against almost all the other communities who were rooting for ODM. The politicians harped on this perceived external threat urging the voters to vote ‘wisely’. Faced with this “external threat”, voters gravitated towards male candidates, pretty much like “calling on the men of valor to defend the society”. This contributed to the paucity of female MPs from this region..

The second case study involves the kalenjin of the rift valley. They were the driving engine behind the ODM party in terms of numbers. They were not under any external threat perceived or otherwise. It would not take rocket science to figure out that this kind of environment produced the surprising number of female MPs from a region not known for having female Mps.

Incidentally, terror or perceived threats of violence tends to have a more profound impact on the mind of the victim than violence itself. A society where threat of violence hangs over like cloud lives more scared lives compared to a society where extensive violence has been meted out on it. This might explain the case of Rwanda, which has a 56% percentage representation of women in parliament. After going through the genocide of the 90’s, threats of violence or terror would basically look like a walk in the park.

However, after 15 years of relative peace, threats to violence or terror tactics might just work. The coordinated bombing incidences in the capital Kigali in recent weeks, just a few months from an election slated for later in the year, doesn’t bode well for lady MPs and those aspiring for the same. The bombing incidences might be directed towards some other agenda but they coming hot on the heels of a certain lady declaring her presidential candidature in the coming polls, they are qute suspect.

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