It is important that politicians understand and challenge the mechanisms, practices and stereotypes that perpetuate inequalities between men and women in the political arena. In our experience, multiparty dialogue can contribute to this. Therefore, NIMD facilitates dialogue processes between parties and encourages them to cooperate on gender and diversity issues. The dialogue platform can be either formal or informal, but the main goal is to provide a safe environment where the political parties can get to know each other, build trust, and formulate viable policy alternatives to ensure the political participation of women and other marginalized groups.
Affirmative action in practice in Kenya
In 2003, NIMD set up the Centre for Multiparty Democracy in Kenya (CMD Kenya) to implement its programme. CMD Kenya is a political party dialogue platform. It operates as an independent membership organization for political parties. The activities of the platform range from advocacy for better democratic rules and regulations to facilitating dialogue and offering direct support to political parties in Kenya to strengthen their capacity.
One of the key themes of the NIMD programme within the platform has been the role women in Kenyan politics. The position of women in society and the public sector is very weak the country. The CMD platform has initiated several proposals to reduce formal barriers for women to participate in political life. The most notable process was the development of the new Constitution in 2010, where the NIMD programme lobbied for the inclusion of an affirmative action provision for women.
The lobby was successful: Kenya’s new Constitution includes a strong Bill of Rights, ensures the participation for ethnic minorities, and stipulates that no more than one third of appointed and elected positions can be filled by people of the same gender. The new Constitution was a major victory for the women of Kenya, especially for those aspiring to take up a political role.