Implementing Inclusion: Gender Quotas, Inequality, and Backlash in Kenya

Authored by: Marie E. Berry, Yolande Bouka, and Marilyn Muthoni Kamuru

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Access to Justice and Rule of Law, Democratization and Political Participation
Country: Kenya
Region: Sub-Saharan Africa
Year: 2020
Citation: Berry, Marie E., Yolande Bouka, and Marilyn Muthoni Kamuru. “Implementing Inclusion: Gender Quotas, Inequality, and Backlash in Kenya.” Politics & Gender, 2020, 1–25.

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Extensive research has affirmed the potential of gender quotas to advance women’s political inclusion. When Kenya’s gender quota took effect after a new constitution was promulgated in 2010, women were elected to the highest number of seats in the country’s history. In this article, we investigate how the process of implementing the quota has shaped Kenyan women’s power more broadly. Drawing on more than 80 interviews and 24 focus groups with 140 participants, we affirm and refine the literature on quotas by making two conceptual contributions: (1) quota design can inadvertently create new inequalities among women in government, and (2) women’s entry into previously male-dominated spaces can be met with patriarchal backlash, amplifying gender oppression. Using the ongoing process of quota implementation in Kenya as a case to theoretically question inclusionary efforts to empower women more generally, our analysis highlights the challenges for implementing women’s rights laws and policies and the need for women’s rights activists to prioritize a parallel bottom-up process of transforming gendered power relations alongside top-down institutional efforts.