Friday, 29 November 2002 03:00

Women aspirants also count in the political realignment

Written by Rosemary Okello
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The stage is set for the next General Election. KANU has announced its presidential candidate and the oppositions are garnering to field one candidate, but one thing is constant – that women’s voices are lost in these scenarios.
Only last week, the women, full of vigour each announcing her candidature with confidence and how they were going to unseat the incumbent MPs were hopeful. The110 women plus who have shown interest in running for parliamentary seats are concerned about the events as they shape up in the political arena. “ At this rate we might be left behind as usual and it might take another five years to try and catch up,” said a concerned aspirant.

Women’s representation in the Parliament while important on the grounds of social justice and legitimacy of the political system is also important if many women can be nominated to go through the campaign process.

Concerns have been raised by many women aspirants both parliamentary and civic on the nomination process of various parties in Kenya. This also came up during a roundtable meeting organised by the League of Kenya Women Voters last week where many women who wants to vie for both parliamentary and civic seat were present.

“ There should be affirmative action as part of the nomination process to make sure that many women gets nominated", said Lucy Munene Kairo an aspirant of Kieni in Nyeri.

Kairo who was voicing the concerns many women said, “ If the party chairman at the grassroots level is your opponent, how can he clear you for the nominations.” This is in reference to a DP requirement reported earlier on this month that all nominations should pass through the local vetting procedures.

But Tabitha Sei the Executive Director of Education Centre for Women and Democracy (ECDW) and also parliamentary aspirants told women to be a ware of mergers and re-alignments, which were causing invisibility of women in those parties.

Rose Waruhiu, the legislator for East Africa General Assembly who said that currently women are worried and are wondering what is in store for them, told various parties that over the years women’s leadership have been raised and that now women are ready to work with gender sensitive parties.

Main arguments women are citing is that they have been the majority voters and also they turn up to vote even though this time round women registered less by 4,836,125 compared to men whose total registrations were 5,658,393.

Apart from making sure that they are elected in large numbers, they maintained that the overall agenda was to use Parliament to achieve change while simultaneously changing the institution itself.

Yet over the years other political parties have dismissed affirmative action of any kind as undemocratic and they have argued that quotas and simple reservation of seats can lead to tokenism and can be unhelpful in ensuring gendered perspective on policies from Parliament.

Currently only National Alliance of Kenya has allocated 30 per cent seats for women, but this might change with the realignment again taking place within the opposition circles. But Yvonne Khamadi the 21 years youngest aspirant for Makadara seat challenged the women that they should do something about their representations within party levels. “ We should not just sit with pretty faces expecting to be given, we must demand.” She said.

“ We are not fighting to have many women in parliament in order to change the face of parliamentary but we want to go there with issues and work together to change the gender gaps that is existing in the country.” Said Khamadi.
A word of advice also came from Hon. Ambassador Getrude Mongella of Tanzania who challenged the women to work together and make sure that they are in Parliament together. “ Insist on affirmative action because ones you are inside the house it will not matter which door you have entered with”, adding “ It is so shameful that the representation of women in Parliament in Kenya is just a mere 3 per cent while in Tanzania is over 65 per cent.”

Mongella who was a key speaker during the official launch of the Women’s Manifestos by the Women’s Political Caucus urged the aspirants to use the manifestos like their bible and understand the issues both within it and also those that affect their constituents. “ All the women of Kenya must work together and you should not let party or tribe divide you.”

She told the women that during the campaigns many women would hear that they only represent women, but Mongeella questioned the wisdom of representation of women based on their sex.

“ When a woman has been chosen as a candidate by her party and elected to carry through what her party represents, do we really want to take upon herself to say she ‘ speaks’ for women, that she has a privileged understanding of women’s special needs? In what sense other than being a woman, can a woman say they represent women’s views? Asked Mongella.

This time round as politicians are calling for change, one needs to talk about the engendered democracy. Such an approach will be considered as an intersection between class, race and gender and the need for a participatory democracy that resolves power relations across these divides.

As the late Bella Absug, the former Chairperson of Women Environment Development Organisation ones said, “ It is not about simply mainstreaming women. It’s not about joining the polluted stream. It’s about cleaning the stream, changing stagnant pools into fresh, flowing waters.”

This is exactly what the 110 plus women are hoping to achieve if elected into Parliament.


Read 1153 times Last modified on Tuesday, 06 August 2013 12:41

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