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What Hinders Women from Participating in Leadership?

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MP Rachel Shabesh & Amina Mohammed with President Kenyatta at South Africa MP Rachel Shabesh & Amina Mohammed with President Kenyatta at South Africa

Historically, leadership has carried the notion of masculinity and the belief that men make better leaders than women is still common today. Although the number of female leaders has increased, they are often named as an afterthought. Despite women’s education and entry into the job market, the woman’s role is typically one of homemaker.

Very few women in Kenya actively participate in politics, a wide belief being that politics is a game of men and women cannot survive it.  Many reasons have been given why women should not vie for leadership positions many of which are not true.

Negative socio-cultural practices and beliefs have over time been hanging over women’s heads, translating to barriers that block aspiring women politicians to enter into politics. These beliefs in many societies push women into the background of politics.  In the African setting, it is believed that men lead while women follow.  

The perception that women should not seek higher positions, has also been reinforced by local sayings such as “a woman must be seen but not be heard” which implied that when a man was present, a woman should not speak publicly and “if a woman owns anything, it should be in a man’s name”, are all sayings which limited the extent to which a woman could go.  Male leadership and leadership styles are more dominant in Africa and are regarded as the more acceptable forms of leadership.

Even women who are in politics do not fully participate in the formulation of government policies because there are few women in decision making positions and in government, to make any real impact. This situation hinders the achievement of women’s agenda which would probably push more women to get into power. This is not good for the development Kenya.   

The nature of politics is also too rough for a lot woman many of whom are humble and gentle to actively participate. This forces a lot of women to walk in the background and shadows of men if they are to be heard.  The resources to marshal a campaign are also too high for many women, many of whom still depend on men for survival.

Women over the last few decades have been fighting for gender equity for them to not only be seen but also be heard.  They have over time been saying that they can make good leaders just like their male counterparts.  Many African countries have problems accepting women as leaders, this makes it possible to overlook their positive leadership traits and view them as weaker leaders. In fact, stereotypes of how women lead have made it difficult for women to access or even stay in leadership positions

Some countries like South Africa have made much progress within a short space of time in their efforts toward a gender-neutral society, but for others the pace has been much slower.  Kenya has made strides to provide laws that include more women in leadership positions.

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