The tokenism applied as Kenyan Women Vie for Political Leadership Positions

Rwanda holds the highest number of women in then national legislature in the world at 64 percent followed by Bolivia which has 53% in ther government. Cuba with 49%, Seychelles with 44%, and Sweden with 44% too are among the top 5 countries with the highest number of women in government.The United States,

The United States, though hailed as the epitome of democracy and human rights, stands at position 96 with only 19% of its women in political office.

In Kenya, women make up less than half of the government. It has been a tradition in the country for to take all political seats,  an issue which has led situations where women vying for leadership positions are intimidated by their male counterparts in a bid to make them drop their political ambitions.

Only a day after the inauguration of the 45th president of the United States, women all over the United States took to the street for peaceful protests which they dubbed ‘The Women’s March’ – a march that was aimed at protesting the Trump presidency. More than half a million women all over the United States marched for their rights. It brought together women from different walks of life, high-class celebrities, politicians to women and girls. The march was supported by women all over the world with some in other countries also taking it to their streets and it was attended by more people than the Presidents Inauguration.

In Kenya, it’s an unspoken law for women not to vie for political seats. Even in the new devolution government, where one expects to see a number of women in the Senate and House of Governors, there are none elected ones. There are only a few nominated senators who live under the shadow of men who gave their approval for them to be in those positions. Society or rather men have made it a tradition that women cannot vie and cannot win an election and the ones who do only win because their male counterparts have endorsed them.

The Women’s March in the streets of Washington D.C (image courtesy of PoliticusUSA

This is unlike other African countries that we have seen their economy grow and equality under the leadership of women. Take an example of Malawi that elected a female president Joyce Banda as their president and she was placed as the 47th most powerful woman in the world by Forbes Magazine, Senegal, despite having only having four women in their cabinet and 28 men elected Aminata Toure as their prime minister. In Liberia, the Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace managed to bring to and end a civil war that had lasted 14 years and also brought to power the first female president in the country, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf.

Despite all these efforts by women in other countries to place women in power and to change society, Kenya has refused to follow suit. In the past, we have seen women in power being intimidated by their male counterparts who accuse them of corruption and being incompetent only because they believe a country cannot be led by a woman. High ranking politicians have openly said that they cannot have a country that is led by a woman as the president.

We have seen a lot of affirmative action being taken against Women reps and MCA’s. They have no say in the parliament and even in their constituencies. This is only a sign of modern day oppression against women. In a world where everyone claims to be a feminist, very little or nothing has been done to support women get to parliament and this has led to male politician even having the mandate to reject a bill that could have allowed a commendable percentage of women to be in governance.

It is safe to assume that women like former Deputy Chief Justice Nancy Baraza, Gladys Boss Sholei and even former Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru are just victims of planned attacks from men who are intimidated by women holding powerful positions. Women like Milly Odhiambo who are not shy to speak their minds out when they believe things are not being done are often insulted by their male counterparts for being outspoken. More often than not, the attacks always focus on the woman’s sexuality. This never happens when a man’s integrity or leadership skills is called to question.

In the wake of August elections, it is about time that we bring change to our government. Not only by voting in large numbers but also by supporting fellow women who have political ambitions by not affiliating them to any popular political party, but we vote for them because of the change they would bring to our society.

We should support women in order to pave way for change. To pave way for justice to be done, for sanity to be returned to our nation and for growth of the nation and also for girl power. With women in power, young girls get motivated for they see role models in their leaders. In a country that has rocked by the worst corruption cases since its birth, this could be the change we have all been waiting for so desperately.

We should, however, steer away from tokenism or affirmative action. We should not just vote for women by virtue of them being women but for what they bring to their table as their agenda for their respective constituency or in changing of respective laws

If Kenyan women were to march today and if we were to fight for equality, democracy and for justice, what would you march for?

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