Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Public Policy

First Advisor

Ann Bookman

Second Advisor

Amy Smith

Third Advisor

Michael Johnson


Kenya implemented a quota policy to increase women’s representation in political leadership in 2013. This increased women’s representation at the national assembly from 9 percent to 26 percent. Relatively little is known about the county assemblies, however, because they are new governmental institutions and women had never had the opportunity to be elected to county level offices until recently. This study investigates women’s leadership pathways at the county level analyzing the impact of political parties, Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs), and traditional gender norms that shape women’s roles in the family and in their communities.

While the quota policy has increased spaces for women in political leadership, Kenyan women have not yet reached the minimum constitutional requirement of 33 percent at the national and three of the counties are yet to meet the 33 percent even with the provision for nomination. Gain have been made in representation but resistance and complacency in many institutions have thwarted the promise of the constitutional mandate Examining the pathways that women navigate to become leaders, including the resources they must access and the barriers they face, is critical. By documenting these pathways, which may vary due to a variety of factors, we will obtain information needed to train and develop women to become leaders, as well as what new policies and practices can be adopted by political parties and NGOs to encourage more women to run for elective office.

Two theories will be used to examine the current status of women as political leaders; 1) historical institutionalism that acknowleges the impact of factors like colonialism, neo-colonialsim and the capitalist market economy and their differential impact; and 2) intersectional feminism that analyzes the subjectivity of women’s lives and systems that reproduce women’s subordination across class, ethnic boundaries and generations. Through these theoretical lenses, this research examines the research questions and uses interview data and secondary data from three counties as case studies.

This research contributes to the literature, policy and practice on women’s political leadership by highlighting the multiple, intersecting and complex voices of women in three distinct counties, while at the same time, deepening our understanding of feminism from a Kenyan perspective.


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