Beyond 2017: Celebrating women in leadership milestone

News - 2018-04-20
2017 has seen a remarkable improvement for women in electoral politics in Kenya.
Fatuma Dullo, greets President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Newly elected Isiolo Senator, Fatuma Dullo, greets President Uhuru Kenyatta at a function. Photo: Fatuma Dullo

With three women elected as Governors and Senators respectively, as wells as the number of women representatives elected to parliament increasing to twenty-three compared to the 2013 elections where no women were elected as Governor, Senator and only 16 women were elected to parliament. This improvement also extended to the counties with the number of women Member of County Assembly (MCAs) also increasing to ninety-seven compared to the 2013 General Elections where eighty-four women were elected.

Wajibu Wetu programme seeks to promote gender equality in Kenya and celebrates this remarkable milestone with some of its interventions directly contributing to this achievement.  Partners such as CREAW, Akili Dada, Isiolo Gender Watch, Playmakers Theatre Youth Group, Kisumu Progressive Youth, Echami A Ito and Wajir Community Radio have all been working for the promotion of women's political empowerment and leadership.

An infographic map showing counties where Wajibu Wetu supported women in political leadership

Isiolo Gender Watch, whose project saw them successfully engaging the Council of Elders to secure the inaugural endorsement of a woman Senatorial candidate, played a big part in the election of one of the three elected women Senators in Kenya, Fatuma Dullo, also subsequently elected as the deputy Senate speaker. Fatuma, first woman Senator-elect from northern Kenya, overcame many challenges to become the first woman to be elected senator in the conservative pastoral county, convincingly defeating mainstream candidates from Jubilee and Nasa coalitions. Hon Lucy Nyoroka Mworia, also from Isiolo, running for a Member of Parliament post emerged third, closely losing out after garnering 10,200 votes against the winner who had 11,500 votes.

Wajir Community Radio through the Xilkayna project produced and aired radio shows that discussed women’s leadership in all its aspects and provided free airtime to women candidates to engage with the electorate and sell their manifesto in the increasingly expensive political campaigns environment that has historically disadvantaged poor women. This saw the candidacy of eight women, with one vying for a parliamentary seat for the first time in Wajir Politics. 

Abdia Baraka, senatorial aspirant and the only woman candidate in the race emerged seventh with 7550 votes. Fatuma Ibrahim, the Tarbaj Constituency parliamentary candidate, emerged third out of four candidates with 1297 votes.  There were also six women MCA candidates, even though none of them won, it is still a remarkable improvement from a mere one candidate in 2003.

Centre for Rights Education and Awareness (CREAW) has been implementing Strengthening Women Leadership in Kenya project that seeks to promote accountable and gender-sensitive women in political and non-political decision-making spaces in Meru and Nyeri Counties. CREAW supported 80 women, in Meru and Nyeri, who expressed interested in leadership through training on leadership and governance. Twenty-three women decided to vie for political seats, with three vying for Member of Parliament and twenty for MCA positions. These final women candidates were further trained in leadership, mentored, coached and were provided with media visibility to sell their agenda. As a result, three women were elected as MCAs, two for Meru and one for Nyeri respectively.

A cross-section of women aspirants in a leadership training forum by CREAW.
A cross-section of women aspirants in a leadership training forum by CREAW.

In Turkana, Echami a ito implemented a project that sought to empower women and youths to actively participate in decision-making processes. Echami worked a great deal to mentor the women candidates, educate the community and demystifying negative narratives on women leadership. Consequently, 2017 elections saw the highest number of women, 31, registering interests for elective politics. One woman was eventually elected an MCA for Lake Zone Ward, Turkana North.

Akili Dada, through the Dadas Lead Project, has been conducting mentorship for young women in Kenya prepping them for political and non-political leadership. As a result, twenty-eight women expressed interesting for elective leadership with ten ended up vying. All the aspirants were under 35 years of age, highlighting the special calibre targeted by Akili Dada. Anne Omwega and Bati Vicky Chepkorir vied for Women County Member of Parliament Posts for Nyamira and Kericho Counties respectively. Justina Wangui vied for Member of Parliament for Mavoko Constituency emerging fifth out of six candidates with over 1200 votes. Six more women vied for MCA posts in Vihiga, Nairobi, Machakos and Meru Counties. Marcella Towett, one of the mentored young women from Longisa Ward, was nominated to the Bomet County Assembly. With the number of women venturing into political leadership increasingly young, this is indeed a great prospect for Kenya.

Playmakers Youth Group who has been implementing Kikwetu Unyasini project whose one of the specific objectives was to increase participation of women in leadership and electoral processes successfully campaigned for women candidates in Rongai Constituency, Nakuru County. One of the women candidates, Cecilia Nyambura Karanja emerged top with over 7,000 votes for Visoi ward. Playmakers had used theatre to educate and mobilize communities on the importance of electing women leaders.

Newly elected MCA for Visoi Ward, Nakuru County, Cecilia Nyambura Karanja
Newly elected MCA for Visoi Ward, Nakuru County, Cecilia Nyambura Karanja.

Kisumu Progressive Youth through their Pasha Information Project and the Youth Model Assembly initiative, a shadow County Assembly enabling the youth delegates from various wards to deliberate on issues affecting them, managed to inspire one youth delegate to vie. Roseline Adhiambo, a young woman from Nyakach fought against all odds to win the ODM party ticket for the North Nyakach ward. Even though she did not win, she is now a nominated MCA for to the Kisumu County Assembly.

The results for Isiolo, Turkana and Wajir Counties in particular, present a hopeful prospect for the Northern Kenya, a pastoralist community long influenced by patriarchal cultures and engaged in a negotiated democracy that further discriminated against women. Sophia Abi Noor of Party of Development Reforms became the first woman from North Eastern Kenyan to be elected to parliament in Ijara Constituency. Other notable women who came out against all odds and won in this region included Naisula Lesuuda, who also became the first woman MP for Samburu West, Sarah Paulata Korere of Laikipia North, Sophia Noor of Ijara, and Peris Tobiko of Kajiado East.

In total, forty-seven women candidates directly benefited from Wajibu Wetu Programme interventions in twelve counties, with two vying for Senator posts, six for Member of Parliament posts, three for Woman County MP and a further thirty-four for MCA posts. Of these, one was elected woman senator and five elected MCAs, with two nominated for MCA posts.

Although Kenya is yet to achieve the two-thirds gender rule constitutional requirement, that ensures not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies are of the same gender, 2017 General Elections provides optimism that Kenya could finally be headed in the right track to achieving gender equality in leadership.

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