Women leaders cannot afford to insult, demean each other

Friday November 15 2019

The most disgusting video I have watched this week is one of an unnamed woman, who, for three agonising minutes, goes ham on Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru.

It is too cringeworthy to repeat verbatim in a national family newspaper, so I will try to be as mild as possible. The woman is vilifying Ms Waiguru for supporting the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) and questioning Waiguru’s audacity to declare herself the Mount Kenya ‘spokewoman’ (sic). She doesn’t stop there.


She hammers Waiguru for ‘birthing BBI’ and questions the governor’s morality in what is a very bad example of below-the-belt politics. Over the weekend, Laikipia Woman Representative Catherine Waruguru also tried to push a similar narrative, imploring Ms Waiguru to focus on actual childbearing rather than delivering the BBI.

We have also seen women being used by male politicians to insult and disrespect other male politicians using similar below-the-belt tactics. It has been especially shocking to see young women, the likes of Catherine Waruguru, take on political heavyweights in a desperate bid to gain relevance. It has also been shocking to see young female politicians comment on the ‘below-the-belt’ matters of politicians old enough to be their parents. Truly, our politics knows no bounds when it comes to vulgarity and crudeness.

But today, this column is not about Governor Waiguru.



It is about how our politics has alarmingly become dirty, vulgar and uncouth, characterised by embarrassing behaviour engineered to shame fellow politicians. This is not new, neither is it specific to the Kenyan context. What is disturbing is that this kind of politics is now driven and perpetrated by our women leaders, who have taken it upon themselves to tear each other down, this time not behind closed doors, but in the full glare of the cameras. We have also heard of stories where female politicians have set each other up on the Internet, sponsoring dirty tricks designed to paint each other in bad light on social media among other things I am too posh to mention in public.


Before you suggest that male politicians do it too, allow me to hammer my point home. For a country in which women are so heavily underrepresented in our local politics, this kind of shenanigans is the last thing we expect from our female elected leaders. In a country where women who came before us – Wangari Mathaai, Martha Karua and the like – fought so hard to ensure women’s voices were heard and respected, it is not just insulting to us that female politicians are behaving so badly; it also entrenches the patriarchal thought that women are their own worst enemies. I have no problem with our women leaders disagreeing amongst themselves. It would be painfully naïve for me to imagine that they are one big, happy family that agrees on the same ideologies and principles.

What I am asking of these female leaders is to disagree with some decorum and spare us this drama. You are already outnumbered and possibly outsmarted by your male counterparts. The least you could do is stick together as women – disagreements aside – and do for this country what we elected you to do. Men already treat you so badly in Parliament; they insult you, send goons to attack you and even sideline you in national conversations. Why do you want to treat each other so unfairly while you could disagree with some restraint?


Female politicians should leave the below-the-belt politics to men. They do it better anyway. You are our mothers, for God’s sake. You are our big sisters, aunties and daughters and you ought to be different. You ought to make that seat you occupy count for something. Leadership has got to mean something for you, and this is an opportunity for you to show us what we have been missing so far. You are very few and you are in this together so you have no choice but to put your childish differences aside and work towards giving Kenyan women the representation they deserve.

Finally, female leaders cannot afford to buttress the toxic narrative that women are their own worst enemies. Men have been using it to sideline women out of key decision making. Women are not their own worst enemies. We are capable of supporting each other, lifting each other up and who knows, perhaps if we put all this nonsense behind us, we just might overwhelmingly elect the first female president!

Ms Chege is the director of the Innovation Centre at Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications; [email protected]