Language, Gender and Power: The Discursive Construction of The Kenya National Assembly Politicians (2013 – 2017)
Atambo, Norah B.
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This study undertook to critically examine, from a linguistic perspective, the gender disparities in the National Assembly of Kenya between 2013 and 2017. Through an idea of language as discourse, the study emphasizes the linguistic ideologies at play in producing and sustaining these disparities. The study uses Fairclough‟s (2001) and Van Dijk‟s (2001) approaches to Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) in order to understand the gendered discursive realm of politics in the National Assembly. The study objectives were: to identify and describe the linguistic items and expressions used by politicians and media opinion makers to describe the 2013-2017 National Assembly politicians in Kenya; to find out how the linguistic items and expressions construct the politicians; to point out the common ideologies held by the electorate about the politicians; and to establish how the use of the linguistic items and expressions affects the participation of National Assembly politicians in Kenya. The study, through a cross-sectional research design and a purposively selected sample, collected data through one-on-one unstructured interviews with ten Kenya National Assembly politicians,reviewed newspaper and television documents from four newspaper groups and four television channels, and administered semi-closed questionnaires to eighty members of the electorate. Data were recorded by the use of a digital audio recorder,flash disc, field notes, print outs and photocopies. Data consisted of verbal (written and spoken) and nonverbal gendered discourses, and gendered beliefs. Data were analysed qualitatively, through thematic analysis and simple descriptive statistics, and presented in written descriptions and tables. The study found out that there are gendered ideologies about the Kenya National Assembly politicians among the politicians themselves, the media and the electorate, which to a large extent portray men politicians positively and to a large extent portray women politicians in undesirable ways. These gendered ideologies, to a large extent favour men contestants, and to a large extent work against prospective and first-time women contestants. The study also found out that women politicians arenot passive recipients of the distorted constructions and gendered ideologies, but they contest the distortions and ideologies, and encourage each other. The study concludes that, although the gendered ideologies have been naturalized through language, they are mere gimmicks meant to keep women out of politics and maintain the status quo. The study findings not only complement other studies in Critical Discourse Analysis, but also equip relevant stake-holders with a language-based analysis of the key issues which affect progress towards balanced representation, decision making and resource allocation, thus providing a uniquevantage point onto the questions of gender and development in Kenya.