Women can win just like men if more of them run


Women can win just like men if more of them run

Some women beat the odds of running on small party tickets to win

Contrary to the belief that Kenyan women do not perform well in political elections, the reality is they stand as good a chance as men of being elected to political leadership positions of they make it through the primaries, a review of election data for last two general elections shows.

The Nation Newsplex analysis also finds that a good number of the women who vied in the 2017 election made their entry into the public sphere as nominees to the Senate or national and county legislatures, or government appointments.

In the just concluded election seven women (three per cent) vied for county governor, compared to 203 men (97 per cent). Three of those women were elected, compared to 44 men.

This means 43 per cent, or two in five of women who contested for the governor’s seat were elected, compared to 21 per cent, or one in five men who vied for the post. In other words, the few female candidates who were presented were twice as likely to be elected governor as their male counterparts.

Newsplex finds that one in six women who contested for the MP’s seat won, compared to one in seven men who participated in the same race.

The three women who made history by becoming the first women in Kenya to be elected governor include Anne Waiguru in Kirinyaga (Jubilee Party) and Charity Ngilu in Kitui (Narc), who are former cabinet secretaries.

Even though she run on the ticket of a party that was not dominant in her county, Ngilu beat two Ukambani heavy weights, former governor Dr Julius Malombe and former Senator David Musila.

Joyce Cherono Laboso (Jubilee Party), a former MP for Sotik Constituency and Deputy Speaker of the national assembly, also won the Bomet seat. In 2013 no woman was elected governor even though six female candidates contested.

Other female candidates for governor who vied unsuccessfully were Martha Karua (Kirinyaga), Jacinta Mwatela, Mabel Muruli (Kakamega), Wavinya Ndeti (Machakos) and Christine Otieno (Kisumu).

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION

During party nominations earlier in 2017 in which nine parties major parties participated, only seven aspirants (five per cent) were women, while 138 (95 per cent) were men.

Apart from Ms Waiguru, Ms Ndeti and Ms Laboso, they included Cecily Mbarire, Bishop Margaret Wanjiru Kariuki, Dr Yulita Chebotip Cheruiyot, and Anne Omodho Anyanga.

According to Ms Wambui Kanyi, a gender specialist with the African Women Studies Centre at the University of Nairobi the successful candidates are not new to leadership. “Most of the women who were elected for the various posts did not come from nowhere. They have been in leadership and the voters know what they are capable of doing. The voters therefore viewed them not as women but as leaders,” says Kanyi.

She says the successes of women in the election is a sign that affirmative action is working and voters are changing their mindset. Affirmative action is being used to make women leaders visible enabling them to reach for greater heights in future.

Re-elected Suba North MP Millie Odhiambo agrees that women leaders have been demystified. “Voters are no longer amazed to see a woman take to the podium because it has become normal and not unique. My experience is that voters have more faith in women and view them as less corrupt, more concerned about socio-economic issues and they see women as playing a motherly role to the community,” says the MP, who first made it to parliament in 2008 when ODM nominated her.

Chances of women senate candidates being elected in the recent election were also good this year. Of the 19 women candidates who were in the senate race, three won compared to the 44 men who won out of 237 men candidates.

This means that 16 per cent, or one in six of the women who vied for a senatorial seat in the 2017 election won, compared to 19 per cent or one in five of the men who contested the race.

The new women senators include former nominated Senator Fatuma Adan Dullo, who was elected Senator in the conservative pastoral county Isiolo, former MP and Minister for Higher Education Margaret Jepkoech Kamar and former Nakuru County Assembly Speaker Susan Kihika.

Because of the performance of women in the race, the Senate has just fallen short of the two-thirds gender rule for elective posts because there will be 21 women in the Senate. Only one woman will need to be nominated.

Article 98 of the Constitution establishes that the Senate shall consist of 47 elected members, 16 women nominated by political parties according to their proportion of elected members, a man and woman representing the youth, a man and a woman representing persons with disabilities for a total of 67 people, not including the Speaker, who shall be an ex officio member.

Twenty two (eight per cent) of the 289 elected MPs are women up from 16 in 2013. The MP election was postponed in Kitutu Chache South constituency after the Jubilee candidate died in a road accident before the election.

Only 133 (seven per cent) out of 1,885 candidates who contested in the Member of the National Assembly race were women, meaning that the proportion of women elected was one per cent higher than the share of women candidates for the post.

Newsplex finds that one in six women who contested for the MP’s seat won, compared to one in seven men who participated in the same race.

Among the women who were elected are former nominated MPs and senators, including former nominated senators Naisula Lesuuda, who has won the Samburu West seat to become the first woman elected MP from the Samburu community and Marth Wanjira who is the new MP for Gilgil Constituency, as well as former nominated MP Sarah Korere who clinched the Laikipia North seat.

GATEKEEPERS

“The interesting thing is that while patriarchy is diminishing at the local level it remains entrenched among the elite who are the gatekeepers. The leadership structures of most parties is male-heavy. It’s an old boys’ network where women are likely to face discrimination,” says Odhiambo.

“The crazy thing is that I was born in Mbita and he settled there from Nyakach, yet because he is a man he thinks he has more rights than me,” says MP Millie Odhiambo.

More than half of the women MP candidates ran on party tickets that were not Jubilee or the parties which constitute National Super Alliance (Nasa), the two dominant forces in the election.

While running on a major party ticket, especially in party strongholds, usually gives a party an advantage over the competition, some women still overcame the challenge of running on small parties or as independents and withstood party waves to win seats. Among them was Janet Jepkemboi Sitienei who withstood the Jubilee wave to win the Turbo seat as an independent.

Newsplex’s analysis suggests that if more women had the opportunity to vie for elective seats, especially through major parties, the outcome would be dramatically different and it would be possible for Kenya to meet the two-thirds gender rule in elective posts.

Millie Odhiambo believes voters are ahead of parties, but appreciates that they have taken small steps to include women. Her party, ODM, set up a gender desk to examine the special challenges women candidates face and it resulted in ODM eliminating party registration fees for women aspirants.

She says that even the small steps may have helped increase the number of women elected MPs on an ODM ticket from only her in 2013 to five this time. Two of those women, Eve Obara (Kabondo Kasipul) and Lilian Gogo (Rangwe) are from her county of Homa Bay.

Despite significant improvement by women in the races for the Senate, Governor and MP, at least 11 counties did not elect even one woman MCA. They include Kwale, Mandera, Samburu, Wajir and West Pokot. Others are Elgeyo Marakwet, Embu, Garissa, Isiolo, Kajiado and Kirinyaga.

Mombasa, Nandi, Tana River and Tharaka-Nthi have the largest proportion of female elected county assembly members with 20 per cent. Seven per cent (96 out of 1,450) women were elected to county assemblies, which was two percent higher than in the 2013 election.

In Kakamega County, newcomer Leylah Ichami Muhandale beat 17 challengers to win the Lumakanda Ward in Lugari Constituency as an independent. This was the highest number of opponents faced by any female MCA who won.

Twelve per cent or 1,146 out of 9, 890 of MCA aspirants in the party primaries were women.

While the voters’ attitude to women leaders appears to be improving as their visibility increases MP Millie Odhiambo and Governor Joyce Laboso say women still face gender and cultural stereotypes.

Odhiambo’s house was burnt down by a mob on the day she won the ODM nominations. “As the results were being announced my opponents caused drama and left in a huff to go to court. As I made my way to Nairobi they tried to waylay me on the road but the police protected me which made one of my opponents so angry he ordered some of his supporters to burn down my house,” she recalls.

Her opponent incited the youth by claiming that she does not have a right to own a house in the Lambwe Settlement Scheme because she belongs to her matrimonial home.

“The crazy thing is that I was born in Mbita and he settled there from Nyakach, yet because he is a man he thinks he has more rights than me,” she said.

In another incident, a group of armed youth attacked her entourage as they went to rescue a supporter who was hiding after he was beaten by the supporters of an opponent. She made it out safely but they run over her bodyguard killing him.

Even though she was twice elected MP for Sotik Constituency, Dr Laboso was not immune from harassment and gender stereotypes when she run for Governor. While she was speaking at a funeral in Silibwet in Bomet in September last year, youths chanted her husband’s name to disrupt her speech but she stood her ground and told the youth that everyone knew her husband’s name.

Some of her opponents and their supporters tried to use the fact that she was married to a Luo to stop her from ascending to the county leadership. During an interview with a local TV station after her win, she recalled an incident where an opponent has obtained blood from an abattoir and tried to give it to some women to splash it on her at a church function to embarrass her.

Her opponent had gone round saying that she cannot be a governor because there would be no one to man the office during her menstruation.

Other women are put off both party and national politics because of its aggressive nature. During the IEBC Code of Conduct hearing held on June 21, Kibwezi East MP Jessica Mbalu explained how supporters of her rivals stoned her car and explained amid tears how they had intended to rape her. She soldiered on and retained her seat.