Political springs, as in social movements that topple and/or transform political regimes, occur when the youth of a nation get on the move. And that may be what happened in Nairobi this past Monday. A harbinger of spring.
Four hundred or so young women marched, shouted, hooted, danced, chanted, filled the streets of Nairobi. They carried a banner that read, “50% of all positions allocated to women should be reserved for women under 35 years. Give women an opportunity for fair representation through nomination rules of political parties.”
The women wore purple to symbolize their demands for fair and balanced appointments. They were a rolling democratic action. They were … a purple zebra. As Youth Agenda has explained, “Young women (Purple) in appointive and elective positions in political parties should appear as many times as the white on a zebra…#purplezebra”.
The #purplezebra emerges from many sources. The new, improved Constitution of Kenya (pdf) provides more rights and protections to women, children and youth, both defined as vulnerable citizens. In particular, the Bill of Rights of Kenya’s recently passed Constitution specifies the State’s responsibilities to women, children, youth, minorities and marginalized groups, and elders. The Constitution also mandates that no gender will have more than 2/3 of elected or appointed positions. This does not limit women to 1/3 but rather ensures that at least 1/3 of elected and appointed positions will be women. It’s a definite step forward, which of course relies on implementation.
The young women of Kenya have looked at the results thus far, and kept their eyes on the prize. In a country in which 70 percent of the population is 35 years or younger, age matters. Or at least it should. And Kenya is that country right now, and all predictions and projections suggest that it will continue to become younger and younger again.
This means, for women like Susan Kariuki, Chief Executive Officer of Youth Agenda, the group that brought the women who came from all political parties and structures together, the women in office must be from the 70%, the 35-and-under super majority. This means that restrictions, such as fees, must take into account the high levels of unemployment and underemployment of young women and address them accordingly. This means that the Parliamentarians as well as the appointed officials are on notice: don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall, there’s a purple zebra coming to do more than rattle your walls.