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

  • Marie E. Berry (a1), Yolande Bouka (a2) and Marilyn Muthoni Kamuru (a3)


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.



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The authors would like to thank Lanoi Maloiy, Margaret Monyani, Mabel Rubadiri, and Kennedy Mwangi for their research assistance and the Rift Valley Institute for its administrative support. A special thanks to Natalie Moss for shepherding this project. The findings and reflections in this contribution draw on research made possible through the support of the United Kingdom Department for International Development's East Africa Research Fund. The authors are grateful to feedback they received on this article from the Gender & Power working group meeting at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2018, along with the reviewers and editors for their valued comments and feedback on this contribution.



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

  • Marie E. Berry (a1), Yolande Bouka (a2) and Marilyn Muthoni Kamuru (a3)


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