Give women equal chance on merit in poll

Friday March 3 2017

Kisumu Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga

Kisumu Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga. She has been given 30 days to pay up. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP. 

In the 2013 General Election, a notable outcome was that voters decided not to elect any woman to the position of governor in all the 47 counties.

The number of female candidates for all the positions was, in fact, lower than males due to fewer of them offering to run, but also because of corrupt and violent nominations that put off prospective candidates.

According to Prof Maria Nzomo’s previous writings, women’s participation in Kenyan electoral politics, has been severely hampered by social resistance to their role in political leadership; electoral violence that tends to be harsher towards them than the male candidates; and feminisation of poverty that leaves women more financially constrained to manage a campaign than men.

She also argues that women’s lack of adequate political socialisation for leadership that manifests itself in exclusion from access to strategic political information and that marginalisation from mainstream political party hierarchy hampers their ability to change rules of engagement that favour men in elections.

This is borne out by the fact that in the 1997 elections, with Charity Ngilu and Prof Wangari Maathai offering themselves as the first women to run for president in Kenya, some of their most vociferous opponents were fellow women, with the Maendeleo ya Wanawake, the largest women’s organisation then led by Ms Zipporah Kittony alleging that time for a woman to lead Kenya had not come and women should seek lower positions and wait for their time.

It will be atrocious if in the August 8 elections no woman is elected governor.

In fact, there are women who can make excellent leaders for all positions, including the presidency.

There are many women who have served in positions of responsibility in the government, the private sector, or non-governmental organisations with exemplary results; and are not scarred by criminal and corruption scandals.

We have 47 male governors and there is no question that, whereas some have performed well, many others have done little to make the lives of the people in their counties better despite receiving substantial resources to deliver services. 

VOTE FOR PROGRESS

We still have some counties with most towns littered with garbage, roads full of potholes; farming that does not put much money in the pockets of the toiling farmers; hospitals with inadequate equipment; and doctors and other medical personnel constantly wrangling with the authorities and going on strike.

Women with adequate qualifications, experience in public service or the private sector can do as well, or even exceed the performance of male governors, and should be given a chance to lead.  

Of course, women will not get elective seats on silver platters as our democracy demands competition, and women should campaign vigorously and let the voters decide on merit who should hold such posts.

However, all candidates and institutions should send out the message that women are not lesser candidates and voters should look at the policies of all candidates and elect the ones who espouse the best policies to match their aspirations.

The political parties and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission should ensure a level playing field for all the candidates and protect the women from violence, abuse, manipulation and rigging that disadvantage them in the elections.

Let the voters elect people on merit based on their abilities and articulation of issues.

This is the best way to ensure they have leaders that improve their lives.

 Mr Sisule works as a United Nations official in Sierra Leone. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not represent the position of the UN. [email protected]