Kenya’s women leaders recall their long trek to high offices

Friday, March 6th, 2020 00:00 |
A section of the women legislators and invited guests pose for a photo with Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka and Senate Leader of Majority Kipchumba Murkomen after attending a breakfast meeting ahead of Sunday’s International Women’s Day yesterday at Parliament Buildings. Photo/PD/Samuel Kariuki

Mercy Mwai @wangumarci

Women leaders yesterday narrated the horrible experiences they are subjected to in the fight for political seats ahead of the commemoration of the International Women’s Day on Sunday.

The politicians and professionals recounted how some of them had been sexually harassed, their property destroyed, cars torched and their assistants killed, while in some instances they were denied party nomination certificates.

Speaking during a breakfast meeting ahead of the celebrations, the leaders - among them - Nakuru Senator and President of Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Susan Kihika, Supreme Jourt Judge Njoki Susana Ndung’u, Kirinyaga Woman Rep  and Kenya Women Parliamentary Association chairperson Purity Ngirichi, Suba North Millie Odhiambo-Mabona and Nominated senators Getrude Musuruve and Agnes Zani - regretted that in most of their campaigns they had been forced to endure violence from men.

Moi regime

Ndung’u recounted experiences of women leaders during the regime of the late President daniel arap Moi as he was a traditional man who could not warm up to women issues.

Ndung’u told women leaders how in 2003 she and nominated MP Cecile Mbarire were scratched by men when they shook their hands. 

“Mbarire and I really suffered from these scratching and oh yes they were plenty of them from men. I hope this has changed today,” she said.

Odhiambo on the other hand narrated how the individuals who torched her house and killed her body guard during the last General-Election are still threatening her to date that she will face the same ordeal in the next election.

Revealing she was writing a book on politics, Odhiambo regretted that during campaigns women leaders face violence from men so that they can give up and quit from vying for positions.

Level playing field

“We must make the ground equal for women to fight for positions in this country. Women are not violent but we know for sure that men are and we are asking our political parties to rein in on these men. Our main aim is to ensure that women can compete with men equally,” she said.

Despite the challenges, they vowed to use the current push for constitutional changes to ensure that the realisation of two thirds gender rule is entrenched in the supreme law.

In particular, Kihika said that women leaders lack an equal playground with their male counterparts.

“Part of the problem we are facing today is party primaries. We want be given an even playing ground to be able to contest,”she said.

Kihika said gender equality should be everyone’s responsibility with Parliament leading the way by becoming fully gender sensitive where women and men share responsibilities and ensure that there is a culture of zero tolerance towards sexism, harassment and violence against women in line with the IPU guidelines on this matter.

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