Leaders of Africa

Analysis Outreach with Dr. Beatrice Akala: Women in Kenyan Politics

Barriers exist for women getting involved in Kenyan politics. Dr. Akala emphasizes the role of cultural and structure factors, and she identifies how benchmarks are not fully being met.

Dr. Beatrice Akala is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Johannesburg. In May 2017, Akala wrote an article that appeared in The Conversation Africa about “sexism” in Kenyan politics, particularly apparent in the context of elections. The Leaders of Africa Project represented by Michael Conteh and Peter Penar recently spoke to Dr. Akala.

For Kenya, Akala suggests that the biggest barrier to women’s ability to pursue positions of political leadership is cultural. She speaks about how there are generational, as well as urban-rural perception differences on whether it is appropriate for women to seek leadership positions. For some Kenyans, there is a perception that women should focus on family matters rather than pursue public service.

Akala also mentions that there are structural barriers, with women often having less access to the financial resources necessary for election success. This is particularly important because the personal costs of running a campaign in Kenya are very high.

Despite these cultural and structural challenges for women candidates, Akala indicates that the 2010 Kenyan Constitution is progressive when it comes to gender policies. These policies include reserved seats in national parliament for women representatives. The major concern is whether these reserved seats leads to women not competing in non-reserve seat elections. Another observation Akala makes is that in the 2013 election women were absent at the governor level. This is also largely true for the 2017 election in which the presidential election principles of the opposing coalitions are almost all men. Based on this, Akala indicates that there is still much to do for gender equity in politics, including embedding gender equity in education curriculum.

Podcast version (also on Acast and your favorite podcast app):

Videocast version (also on YouTube):


  1. The Leaders of Africa Project is independent and non-partisan. The unedited views expressed in Leaders Voices are not those expressed by the Leaders of Africa Project. All opinions and experiences expressed are solely that of the thought leader.
  2. Use of any of the information gained from the video or this post must be cited: Leaders of Africa Project. “Analysis and Educational Outreach with Dr. Beatrice Akala.” Online video and audio clip. leadersofafrica.org. Leaders of Africa Project, 20 July 2017.

About Dr. Beatrice Akala

  • Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Johannesburg
  • Completed a PhD in Education at the University of Witwatersrand
  • Research interests in gender and affirmative action policies, human rights, and democracy in education
  • Kiswahili language specialist and educator

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