Journey to Mainstreaming Two-Third Gender Rule: Achievements and Challenges


Photo Credit: CREAW

The Constitution of Kenya recognizes ethnic minorities, persons with disabilities (PWDs), women and youth as special interest groups who deserve constitutional protection. The Constitution further recognizes the rights of women as being equal to those of men, which means both gender are entitled to equal political, social and economic opportunities.

However, the journey to attaining gender equity has been marred with challenges. Just before the August, 2017 elections, the issue of ensuring gender equity as required by the constitution of Kenya, 2010 took center stage after parliament failed to pass the two-third gender bill.


One of the main achievements that we have made as a country is getting a constitution that recognizes gender equity. In Articles 81(b) and 97(b), the constitution spells out specific measures that put our country on the path to gender equality with the aim of promoting political, economical and social inclusion.

Articles 81(b) states that “not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender”. Further, in Article 97(b), the constitution creates additional slots for women by providing for the election of 47 women representatives to the national assembly.

These affirmative actions have resulted in an increase in the number of women nominated or elected into decision making positions. For instance, the election of 47 women representatives to the national assembly has improved women representation from 9.8% in the 10th parliament to 19% in the 11th parliament.

The Challenge

Even with this progress, implementation of the two third gender constitutional requirement has remained elusive. Parliament is yet to pass a law that will help achieve gender equity in representation by ensuring that at least 30% of its membership are women as required by the constitution. The passage of the two third gender bill is overdue by more than a year today. Here are some challenges the country has faced on its journey to achieve gender equity:

  1. Legal Interpretation

The rain started beating parliament it sort legal applicability of the two-thirds gender rule law. It was not clear whether the two-third gender rule was a minimum requirement or an ideal measure that qualified elective bodies as constituted constitutionally. In December 2012, the Supreme Court of Kenya recommended progressive realization of the two-third gender rule with regard to the Senate and the National Assembly. In its judgement, the court advised that legal and legislative measures be taken to allow for realization of the gender rule by 27th August 2015. This lead to the formation of a Technical Working Group (TWG) to craft a formula for meeting the two-thirds gender rule.

  1. The Timeframe Debate

Even with the Supreme Court directive, the National Assembly engaged in discussions over the exact timeframe within which the two third gender rule should actually be realized. In April, 2015, a technical working group proposed by the committee on Justice and Legal Affairs (JLAC) proposed a bill that challenges the two third constitutional provision. The bill, famously known as the Chepkong’a bill stated that progressive realization and implementation of the two third gender rule cannot be achieved without providing a clear timeframe within which the rule should take effect. JLAC proposed a change of literature in the constitution to make it the timeframe more precise and to avoid further postponement.

  1. Challenge of crafting a formula

Besides the debate around the actual timeframe within which the two-third rule should take effect, finding an ideal formula to ensure proper constitution of elective offices has been a challenge. Various options have been put on the table including requiring parties to nominate more women, parties to allow women to vie for parliamentary seats in their strongholds and having rotational seats in order to meet the gender threshold. The technical working group convened by National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC) seems to encourage the nomination of women to meet the 30% gender threshold. The commission recommended the two-third provision in Article 177 that applies to county assemblies be imported to Articles 97 and 98 to make it applicable to the National Assembly and the Senate. This is particularly so because county assemblies that fail to meet the two third rule are required to nominate women.

  1. Debate around Cost of Implementation

According to the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), implementation of the two third gender through nominations will be a costly affair. In its publication, “Implementing the Constitutional Two-Thirds Gender Rule Principle: The Cost of Implementation,” IEA suggests that for every additional seat created in the National Assembly and Senate, taxpayers will have to part with Kshs. 21.1 million shillings and Kshs. 31.3 million shillings respectively each year. This will add up to Kshs. 2.5 billion shillings per year, including allowances.

  1. Laxity among Parliamentarians

There seems to be clear reluctance among male parliamentarians in implementing the two third gender equity. The reason for this low commitment is rather obvious, male leaders are keen to maintain their privileges. In this sense, strong patriarchy that has led to systemic discrimination of women comes to play. In 2016, both senate and national assembly failed to raise the necessary quorum to pass the gender bill.



  1. Shisia 12 October, 2017 at 15:36 Reply

    Despite the challenges, I think we have made strides in achieving this 2/3 gender rule. We will get there over time

  2. Sore 23 October, 2017 at 07:17 Reply

    I have never really gotten to look at the cost implication angle of this 2/3 gender rule. I wish we would have more women vying for elective posts and more Kenyans giving them the chance by voting them in. this would counter the challenge of cost

  3. Wanjira 11 November, 2017 at 12:40 Reply

    This piece is really enlightening, i thought we were home in terms of achieving the gender rule mostly because of the introduction of the county women representative. We still have some moves to make as a country, but we also appreciate how far we have come from. Kudos Kenya!

  4. Masitza 9 December, 2017 at 13:23 Reply

    I feel like the women currently holding leadership positions have no choice but to perform. Maybe then, voters will have more faith in women as leaders. If they don’t, the opposite will take place hence deterring the progress of this journey.

  5. Joe 15 December, 2017 at 06:05 Reply

    Last time I checked, women were more in terms of their population in Kenya. Does it mean that they are not voting for their fellow women when it comes to elections?

    • Florence Maina 20 December, 2017 at 09:01 Reply

      Seems like the case Joe. Women need to be more supportive of each other but that does not mean shouldn’t support them either.

  6. Sheerow 14 November, 2018 at 11:03 Reply

    Just following this ‘Duale Gender Bill’ story and as much as I feel like it will bridge the gap in achieving the 2/3 gender rule but it faces the challenge of formula crafting and results in a high cost of implementation in terms of an increased wage bill. Anyway, lets wait and see whether it passes

  7. Roba 19 November, 2018 at 17:50 Reply

    the author of the pending gender bill may have the right drive but we also have the implication of the increased wage bill to tax payers

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