Monday, 11 February 2013 00:00

Aziza Abdalla: How gender discrimination saw bright girl lose out in education

Written by Diana Wanyonyi
Aziza Abdalla is locked out of the election for failing to meet the required educational threshold. She had planned to contest for the Mombasa County Women Rep seat. Aziza Abdalla is locked out of the election for failing to meet the required educational threshold. She had planned to contest for the Mombasa County Women Rep seat.

The cultural inclinations that conspired to deny a young girl education three decades ago have come back to haunt her bid for leadership.

 Aziza Abdalla sat for her Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) in 1977 at Mtongwe Primary and passed with 22 marks. The results, she says could have enabled her to join secondary school. However that never happened.

Now in her early 50s, Aziza’s bid to vie for the Mombasa County Women representative seat or even that of County Ward Representative cannot be realised after she was denied a party ticket because she could not meet the education requirements outlined in the Political Parties Act under the Constitution of Kenya 2010.

Discrimination

“I sat for my primary examination and was ranked among the best students with 19 points out of 36 points. My father was not proud of me. He kept reminding me that I am a woman and he will be a laughing stock in the community if he took me to secondary school,” Aziza recalls.

“To my surprise, he preferred to send my two elder brothers to Aga Khan Secondary School to advance their education. In 1978, I decided to repeat the same class as a way of giving him space to re-think his decision but he remained adamant,” she says.

Without the opportunity to continue with her education, Aziza found herself getting married at a time when her age mates were still in school.

Though she has potential to be a leader, the year that her father dimmed the bright light of her future still lingers in her mind. And the reality is more pronounced now that her political ambition is quickly  fading away.

“Even with my limited education I was not afraid. I entered the political arena in 2002 very confident that I would make it. I was the only woman among nine men contestants on KADDU ticket but I was defeated at the ballot box. I never gave up, I promised myself that I will try come 2013,” says Aziza.

She adds: “If it was not for conditions set for candidates, I would have dropped.”

Numbers

Aziza’s case represents the plight of many potential women in the Coast region whose ambitions to contest for political seats have been nipped in the bud. Scores of women have been locked out of the political platform despite their ability to lead.

Like Aziza, many women at the Coast region dropped out of school due to cultural and religious biases. Most have ended up in early and forced marriages that have curtailed their opportunities to better chances in life.

Being denied the chance to complete her education, did not make her to deny her children education. “The pain that I underwent after being denied a chance to advance my education motivated me to make sure that I educated my children up to secondary level. Already four of them have completed secondary education and the last one is in class seven,” she says.

Aziza would like to go back to school so that she can achieve her dream. Even though many people do not understand why a mother of five would like to further her education, Aziza knows that this is the only way she can realise her dream. That of leading her constituents from either the County or national assembly.

She is now pleading with well-wishers to support her bid of going back to school to advance her primary and secondary education. Even though the country has a free primary education programme, Aziza cannot join the normal primary school. She can only advance her schooling through adult education of which she must pay school fees because it is not free.

Her resolve is the determination that she has. This is that one day she will lead the people in her constituency.

{jb_quoteleft}“I had wanted to contest for the women representative seat but now with the requirement that individuals should possess post-secondary school education to qualify as candidates, I cannot vie for the seat” — Aziza Abdalla, a community leader and a peace champion{/jb_quoteleft}

Track record

Aziza is a community leader and a peace champion in the grassroots. She has worked hard at reconciling warring communities within the Coast and helped in demystifying the Mpwani and Mbaara culture that has been a main source of conflict in the region. She has also ensured and promoted peaceful-co existence.

Aziza was speaking in Mombasa during a media encounter organised by African Woman and Child Feature Service through the Peace Initiative Kenya Project that brought together grassroots women and journalists to discuss issue of electoral violence and gender based violence at the Coast.

Initiative

Peace Initiative in Kenya is funded by USAID to create a grassroots network that prevent and mitigate violence, including gender-based violence, in Kenya’s most conflict-affected communities. Genderbased violence has proven to be a defining feature of Kenyan General Elections since 1992 when the multi- party politics started in the country.

The project is being implemented by International Rescue Committee (IRC) as the lead partner, together with local partners: the Coalition on Violence against Women (COVAW), the Federation of Women Lawyers – Kenya (FIDA), PeaceNet, and the Rural Women’s Peace Link (RWPL), Sauti Ya Wanawake, Pwani, African Woman and Child and Well Told Story.

Peace

Peace Initiative Kenya (PIK) Project is working hard to ensure that violence against women is stopped and peace prevails in the forthcoming polls. We urge all actors to uphold the rule of law and promote  peace for the good of Kenya particularly women and girls.

Holding mature, peaceful elections under a new constitution will send the right message to the world that it is after all possible to go to the polls and emerge a united nation.

The project is also looking into issues of gender equality because it has been realized that gender based violence has often acted as a deterrent to many women who are aspiring for leadership positions within communities.

Women at the grassroots are especially susceptible to violence because they do not have anyone to turn to and do not know the channels which they can use to seek redress.

Experiences

The media encounter was held to allow communities and journalists engage to share their experiences and disseminate knowledge on the linkages between electoral processes, conflict mitigation and gender based violence.

The women will also be able to share with the journalists the challenges that they face in regards to electoral violence and gender based violence. The encounter was also held to build capacity of women’s groups to network to advocate for peace in their communities as well as identify peace champions who can be the focal points for early warning.

Peace Initiative Kenya would like to ensure that there is no repeat of the 2007-2008 violence. It has taken into consideration the fact that these are the first lections under the new Constitution and tensions are already building in various counties across the country.

The early warning on conflict can only be done by peace champions like Aziza who have, like Peace Initiative Kenya realized the sense of a Kenyan identity that overrides ethnic and gender schism that have been used before to mobilise conflict in pre and post-election periods.

That is why even though Aziza will not be vying this time around, she will be championing peace at the Coast region which has been marked as likely to be volatile in the forthcoming elections. This is especially because of the calls for secession by the Mombasa republican Council which has also said that people from the region are not going to vote.

Already there have been accusations of women being threatened merely for registering as voters. Aziza and other women from Sauti ya Wanawake Organisation are already carrying out door to door campaigns imploring men from the region to be peaceful and not bar area residents from political activities.

 


This article was orginally published in the Kenyan Woman Issue 34

 

 

 

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