Kenya Electoral System Support

Location: Kenya
Program Name: Kenya Electoral System Support (KESS)
Period of Performance: April 7, 2014 – December 31, 2018
Funding Partner: Global Affairs Canada (GAC)

From 2014 to 2018, the Kenya Electoral System Support (KESS) program supported Kenyans and government institutions in pursuing the inclusive vision of democracy put forth by the constitution of Kenya (2010) where all voters are fully enfranchised. IFES worked with a network of local partners, such as the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), other government institutions and several civil society organizations (CSOs) to increase the participation and representation of Kenyan voters, especially women, youth and those with disabilities, in the electoral process.

Key Outcomes

  • Increased participation of women, people with disabilities and young people. IFES' evidenced-based civic and voter education programming empowered more people, especially those traditionally marginalized, to effectively participate in their democracy, including the successful lobbying efforts of women living with disabilities.
  • Increased voter turnout. IFES conducted a post-election survey in 2015 following the 2013 election and another in 2018 following the 2017 election. The comparison of the survey data indicated 10 percent increase in voter turnout in the counties where IFES provided voter outreach.
  • Improved efficiency in voter registration. IFES worked with the IEBC to facilitate the voter registration process by exploring data sharing options with the National Registration Bureau (NRB) and other relevant government agencies. Data sharing and the integration of systems between the various agencies helped improve efficiency during the voter registration and verification processes.
  • Expanded civic education and engagement. IFES and IEBC partnered to pilot new, adaptive strategies to reach children in public schools, women and youth at institutions of higher learning and informal settlements, through peer-to-peer, door-to-door and social media campaigning.

In addition, campus-based initiatives under KESS (2014-2018) trained over 300 campus ambassadors across 60 universities, reaching over 300,000 youth through innovative avenues, including sport activities, concerts, university radio shows and social media campaigns.

Changamka Na Sanaa: Art and Voter Outreach in Informal Settlements

IFES also undertook an outreach campaign, Changamka Na Sanaa, in informal settlements in Nairobi, Kisumu, Nakuru and Mombasa which targeted women and youth through graffiti art installations. While graffiti had previously been used for social justice initiatives, this was the first time it was being used as a messaging tool around elections. IFES also piloted voter education initiatives targeting women from the informal settlements in Embakasi Central constituency (Kayole and Soweto). The area is characterized by some of the largest informal settlements in Nairobi county that often receive fewer interventions from other organizations. IFES trained a group of 78 Chama women (a self-help group) as voter educators. These women then mobilized their community to register and vote, reaching over 16,000 potential voters in churches, saloons, open air markets, and recreation centers. This was the first time that IEBC was able to engage with these communities in this way. Following the election, the Chama women, together with select male allies, underwent a training on county budget procedures and opportunities for continued engagement to influence county-level decision-making on an ongoing basis.

Women with Disabilities Advocate for Policy Change

Expanding the program’s reach to women with disabilities, KESS focused on the creation of the first consolidated set of priorities to advance lobbying efforts on national policies by women with disabilities. In collaboration with a local partner - Women Challenged to Challenge (WCC) - the policy platform document will sustain advocacy efforts for women with disabilities past the implementation period of KESS by outlining steps for engagement with government officials and local political structures. It has Kenya Electoral System Support Final Report been presented to 15 government officials with disabilities and widely distributed in accessible formats, including braille, embedded Alt-text6 and audio versions.

Alternative text or “alt text” are brief descriptions of the content of images, graphs and charts that is displayed when an image is not visible on the page. It provides persons using screen readers with text equivalent to the images, and they can also be able to hear the alt tag in place of the image.

Voter Passports for Women and Youth

The creation of easy-to-use materials that resonate with target audiences is a KESS strategy that has been applied across the program. For example, a Youth Voters Passport-Mwakenya Edition was designed by IFES in conjunction with University of Nairobi students and another version of the passport - the Voters Passport – Mabinti Edition was specifically designed for women. IFES’ Citizen Engagement Guidebook provided a simple and easy guide on how to engage with county government budgeting and development process. The Youth Congress, a local youth-based organization with national outreach to youth in informal settlements, has since adopted the guidebook for continued use past the implementation period of KESS.

Lessons Learned

The lessons learned from the KESS program implementation call for further commitment in long-term electoral assistance. For example, civic education to encourage participation in elections, but more importantly increase public education on the avenues for post-election engagement with elected individuals/bodies. The project gained appreciation for continuous data collection to inform tailored approaches and deal with a fluid electoral environment. With a population of approximately 80% below 35 years of age, civic and voter education programs should be forward looking with focus on promoting a stronger sense of patriotism amongst the electorate, and further provide citizens an opportunity to appreciate elections as a cycle and not as an event.

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