Little to celebrate as male dominance rules

Sunday March 12 2017

Women delegates attending the 4th Devolution Conference

Women delegates attending the 4th Devolution Conference dance to celebrate the International Women's Day on March 8, 2017. Women are seeking leadership, but there seems to be little or no political goodwill to support their bids. PHOTO | SULEIMAN MBATIAH | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

By ANN MBIRURU
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The International Women’s Day, which has been marked globally since the early 1900s, seeks to celebrate women’s notable social, economical, cultural and political achievements.

The day is also meant to increase awareness and participation of women in leadership and also rally for the acceleration of gender parity.

On the international scene women seem to be a bit more successful in their pursuit of leadership but Kenya has a long way to go.

Though Hillary Clinton did not win the US presidency it was refreshing to see her represent a major political party for one of the most powerful and highly coveted positions in the world.

Then there’s Britain’s Theresa May, who took over from David Cameron, becoming the second woman after Margaret Thatcher to serve as the Prime Minister.

But here at home it is hard to put a finger on where the problem lies.

Out of the 47 elected governors, none is a woman and only nine of the deputy governors are women.

As if that isn’t telling enough, out of the 47 elected senators there’s no woman. This, however, is not for lack of efforts by the women folk to pursue these opportunities.

Women are seeking leadership, but there seems to be little or no political goodwill to support their bids.

A couple of weeks ago, the boycotting of a session by senators during the tabling of a Bill that aims to increase women’s representation sent a loud message to the female aspirants.

Confident of their political experience, connections and vast resources, the senators seemed to have dared women to fight it out for their positions.

ASSAULT AGAINST WOMEN

Regardless of the tyranny of numbers that women enjoy, the political class seems confident that their positions are safe.

Surprisingly, their confidence is not without logic.

Conspicuously missing in Parliament during the session were the female nominated senators who could have possibly changed the course of history that day.

Many times the argument has been made that women are their own worst enemies.

That census indicates that they do not need positions to be handed out to them and that if women wanted female leaders, there would be enough.

But it is also very true that women aspirants have certain limitations that tilt things in favour of men.

Cultural conditioning has led many to be suspicious of a woman in leadership.

We trust women with the most important responsibilities of raising families and influencing future generations, but not with public leadership.

Female aspirants, especially political newcomers, are vulnerable to assault and attacks on their reputations.

And yes, they may be the weaker sex in that they may be unable to adequately defend themselves, to fight for their right to participate in elections but that does not take away their ability to lead.

Why is equal gender representation important? That Kenyans have been complaining about service delivery is no secret.

MARGINALISED

Women are the most affected group when it comes to poor service delivery.

Half their domestic duties are paralysed due to water shortages. A woman, even the healthiest, will visit a hospital at least once in her life, for nothing else but to give life.

Who, then, is best placed to represent a community? Who would give a passionate account of the challenges marginalised communities?

It is, therefore, important for the political parties and their leaders to support women brave enough to come forward to offer service to their nation.

It is also important for the voters to back capable women in the coming elections and then maybe next year, the Kenyan women folk will have plenty to celebrate on International Women’s Day.

Ms Mbiruru is a development communication expert. [email protected]