Kenyans don't forgive women who resign

Friday October 27 2017

By MUTHONI THANG'WA
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Kenya is a contradiction of the gender equation and women’s liberation in 2017.

The politics of gender intimidation and harassment also are alive and well.

A commissioner of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commissioners, Dr. Roselyn Akombe, has recently literally run for the hills. She left behind a job that was supposed to position her as an important change element in Kenya's uncertain political times.

In an interview with the BBC from her current location in the United States, Dr Akombe noted threats to her life and those of her immediate family.

She confessed that she had never felt as much fear as she did while in Kenya as a result of threats and due to hostilities and antagonisms associated with her work at the Independent Electoral boundaries Commission (IEBC).

Such situations or assertions from a woman who has lived that life can discourage women from taking up positions in public service and in the public limelight.

The political situation in Kenya right now is in itself intimidating and belligerent. When a woman is isolated or becomes the focus of such aggression, it becomes a symbol of the continued gender and power inequalities that are deep rooted in our society.

On the other hand, the opposite gender has been threatened and even lost lives, but did not run.

Does this mean that women are not able, or have not turned on their power so as to be able to support their own cause?

In the traditional meaning of power, especially in the context of gender and the workplace, it means that a woman should have the mental temerity to influence decisions and ensure that her own will and opinion carry the day in spite of resistance or disputes.

What women must realise is that when they get a opportunity to serve, should they blunder, either real or imagined, they will forever be quoted and set out as an example of reason for this continued imbalance.

POLITICS OF SEX

In addition, a woman must realise that just like her male counterpart in a similar position, she is a transient part of any institution and her exit may not cause as much thunder as her entry into the position caused in the first place.

Society is also very unforgiving to women. The last woman who ran for the hills, Martha Karua, an articulate, well-educated and promising politician, has never been forgiven.

Otherwise she would have been easily elected in her home country of Kirinyaga. She resigned from the position of Minister of Justice, Constitutional Affairs and National Cohesion in 2009.

She was a vocal and courageous politician often going against the grain in opinion, especially on judicial reforms at the time.

Meanwhile at the Nyeri County Assembly, Beth Nyawira, was thrown out of the House for wearing a short-sleeved dress, which allegedly went against the against rules issued by the Speaker of that country assembly.

Given, there is a need to obey work regulations, where they have not been crafted by a petty misogynist who clearly cannot think beyond the politics of sex and control, but in what context can a woman’s arms be described as indecent?.

Of all the challenges that are to be found in Nyeri County, it seems that women’s arms are one of the most pressing.

HARASS AND BULLY

In many formal environments a silent code of guardianship exists where older women will not let younger women dress inappropriately.

A male colleague pointing out a female colleague’s dress code in plenary is meant to intimidate, harass and bully this particular youthful representative and should be totally discouraged.

What is the point of ensuring that we get youth representation in government if the patriarchy is allowed to cannibalise them at the first given opportunity?

It is only a few weeks ago that another MCA and deputy county assembly speaker in Runyenjes said that the role of female colleagues is to keep their male counterparts warm or something to that effect.

Such a man should have been banned from attending sessions of the assembly for not only been indecently mentally dressed, but also for bringing sexual innuendo into the work place which surely constitutes misconduct.

But I guess we are still happily swimming in patriarchy. As Elbert Hubbard would say, every man is a damn fool for at least five minutes a day and wisdom consists of not exceeding the daily dose!

Twitter: @muthonithangwa