By Joyce Mulama
It is expected the August 8 General Elections, just four days away, will produce Kenya’s first female governor, breaking barriers in a highly patriarchal society.
It is the second time Kenya will go to elections under the 2010 Constitution that ushered new devolved units, or counties, which are led by governors.
In the 2013 elections, not a single woman stood for the gubernatorial post and only eight settled for the running mate position. But now there are four strong candidates and at least one of them will clinch the jackpot and make history as Kenya’s first female governor.
These four include veteran politician and former powerful minister Martha Karua, who ran for presidency in 2013 and Ann Waiguru who was Devolution Cabinet Secretary before she resigned over corruption allegations. The two are contesting the Kirinyaga County seat.
The other two are Deputy Speaker of the 11th National Assembly Joyce Laboso (Bomet County), and former Kathiani Member of Parliament, Wavinya Ndeti (Machakos County).
However, there are several factors between them and history.
According to a recent brief by UN Women, the popularity of their political parties in their respective areas, “and the candidate’s track record are usually strong indicators of the likelihood of them being elected.”
Fortunately, three of the contenders are supported by Kenya’s big parties, Jubilee and the Nasa coalition. Karua is running on a party she heads, NARC-Kenya.
The women are confident of winning.
“I will win the Machakos County seat; and I will bring the much needed development to the people of Machakos,” Ndeti has said repeatedly.
Women have often been called upon to participate in large numbers in the country’s politics, a largely male dominated field.
At a recent forum for women aspirants in the 2017 elections, Juliet Murimi, the Registrar Manager-Political Parties urged women to step out and vie for political positions.
She said: “Women, you must come out so that people can know you. Political parties will not give you space if you do not come out. Power is taken, it is not given.”
Political analysts argue that lack of finances and violence are two major issues that have discouraged many women from seeking political leadership.
Deputy Speaker Laboso shared her experience at the forum: “You are going to be abused, there is no name you will not be called. For me, I was even caricatured on cartoons and mocked that I should go and vie in Luoland, where my husband comes from.”
Bomet County is where she was born while she is married in Nyanza.
Besides the gubernatorial contenders, there are a number of women gunning for elective posts ranging from MPs, Senatorial, Member of County Assembly and Woman Representative.
The candidature of women in this year’s election stands at 16 per cent in the various levels, according to the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).
This percentage, though remarkable, is still below the expected figure that will tilt the political class in favour of women representation.
It has thus resuscitated calls on Parliament to pass the Two Thirds Gender Rule which guarantees special seats for women in all political offices.
The UN Women supports reservation of special seats for women.
Lending credence to the argument that, nominating women to affirmative action seats, can serve as strong training ground for them to later launch successful bids for competitive seats.
This is a trend that UN Women intends to trace, following the August 2017 [election] results.