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THE INDOMITABLE SPIRIT IN THE REPRESSED FEMININE

Martha Karua campaigning during the 2013 general elections inKenya

"Political social and policy context today perpetuates inequality and oppression of women" Women should not beg for equality we should raise up our voices! Women should move from self help to networking and joint activism. (By Teresa Yates tweets @TeresaYates10, key message in opening speaker at the Gender Festival August 2013)

I count myself among the majority in the population in Kenya as women outnumber the men. Unfortunately, we are the repressed minority in both the political arena and in key positions within government and public offices. Politics has been more exclusively limited to men than any other realm of endeavor (Wendy Brown, 1988). In East Africa, Kenya is still struggling to attain gender equality in politics. Data from global gender gap report (2012) showed Kenya ranked 72, Tanzania 46, Uganda 28, Burundi 24 and Rwanda 1, with 56.3%.

This situation is not different in the 2013 Kenyan general election. Only 5.3% of women were elected as members of parliament. This is from 9.80% of women in parliament in the 2007 general election and a paltry 3.8% in the 2002. To add salt to injury, no woman was elected as a governor or a senator in the 2013 general election in Kenya!

The new 2010 constitution of Kenya has begun to implement the demands for gender equity – at least rhetorically! Articles 27(8) and 81(b)) of the constitution guarantee women a minimum of one-third of elected and appointed posts in government. This has enabled women to hold special seats. The “special seats” are referred to as the seat of women representative in all the 47 Counties. Nevertheless, the position “special seat” has been misused by many male aspirants to brain wash voters and curtails women from competing in other positions. For example, males use the argument that women have no basis for competing in other positions when they had their own special position. Sadly, that is not the essence of the affirmative action pronounced in the constitution. Civic education must be done intensely at the grassroots to demystify women leadership exacerbated by the patriarchal view on women and misinterpretation of the constitution.

The divide between the women new comers and the old women guards is huge. A divide also exists between nominated women leaders and elected women leaders, with the latter feeling that nominated members do not understand the true challenges of elective leadership for women. According to one feminist and blogger Bernadette Muyomi, the young women are suffocated, sidelined and ignored in leadership. A feminine mentorship agenda must be promoted to build bridges between these two groups. In doing so, they pave the way for new generations to enjoy true and sustainable leadership and equality.

Women who have the strength to compete with men in politics and other mainstream professionalized workforce are viewed as being ‘unruly’, because they have broken the societal norms that relegate women to more docile professions and activities. Also, women are curtailed by financial and other resources constraints. Women political aspirants should make intense use of the social media like tweeter and facebook to bring forth their manifestos.

Other dynamics that make it difficult for women to participate meaningfully in competitive politics in Kenya are gender stereotypes, threats of violence and actual violence in pursuant of political seats. In addition, the media has unfair coverage for women as compared to men. The sexualized and feminized nature of coverage for women leaders as compared to male counterparts impacts on the attitudes of voters, either consciously or unconsciously.

Women's networks must remain resilient in order to alter the status quo. The National Women’s Charter, developed by a coalition of Kenya women’s organizations, should be taken a higher notch, which can be transformed into an influential force. This is similar to the practice conducted by the South African ANC Women’s League that skillfully and successfully used its National Women’s Charter to achieve one of the best engendered constitutions. It goes without saying that, putting women into positions of power in public life is imperative as no society can realize meaningful development without women. Women are cornerstones to development and their strength must be harnessed to achieve a quantum leap!

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

Mukut's picture

Brilliant Ayunnie

A very meaningful and informative post. Well done,my dear :)

Love,

Mukut Ray

Ayunnie's picture

Meaningful and Informative Post

Hi Mukut,
Thank you for the comment. With more women in power I believe lots of feminine issues will be addressed.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Greengirl's picture

Women's Leadership

You did well to beam light on the challenges Wonen put up with in the political environment in Kenya. The scenerio in Nigeria is no different. It is not gladdening that the real intenrtions of women who are seeking political positions remain misconstrued.

It would actually make a lot of difference, when men begin to see women's leadership as an asset required for growth and development. Women's leadership must be encouraged because everyone stand to benefit.

I enjoyed reading your post!

Greengirl

Ayunnie's picture

Women's Leadership as an Asset

Green girl,
I totally agree with you that women’s leadership is an asset and when women are given opportunity to lead the whole society benefits. Thank you

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

Iryna's picture

Changing stereotypes

"A woman's place is in the kitchen" is one of the most popular stereotypes... among women. And men successfully use it repeating all the time. In real men often are afraid of women leaders. In Ukraine the only woman who had a chance to get to the Presidential elections now is in jail. The situation is very sad, but I really hope I will see it changed. And I really, really want to see one day a woman as a President of my country!
Thank you for this interesting and important op-ed, Ayunnie,
warm greetings,
Iryna

Ayunnie's picture

A Woman's Place is in the Kitchen

Hi Iryna,
You are so right, this demeaning statement of 'a woman's place being in the kitchen' we should condemn it with the strongest words possible.Its sad to hear that even in developed countries like Ukraine women are still denied leadership position by intimidation of being jailed. That is why we are hear in solidarity to unit and voice our voices on this!

Regards from Kenya

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

pelamutunzi's picture

totally agree

Achieving better representation for women in politics is critical to change laws that impede women’s development. The Zimbabwean constitution has gone a long way in addressing this issue. Women form a good number of parliamentarians but now we are fighting for 50-50. We need more women in politics as women tend to bring relevant changes such as access to healthcare, education employment etc for their communities. I hope Kenyans start voting for fellow women and that you move forward an agenda to see more women in power. In zim WIPSU does that and trains and empowers grassroots women to

we may be powerless to stop an injustice but let there never be a time we fail to protest.
regards
pela

Ayunnie's picture

Women Voting for fellow women

Hi Pela,
I am happy to hear that Zim women representation is high. I am not giving up in my country Kenya we will keep encouraging fellow women and men too to vote for capable women and not intimidate them with prejudices. women are enemies of their fellow women especially in my country. we have the tendencies of negative criticism to our fellow women contestants this should stop. Thank you for your contribution

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

delphine criscenzo's picture

Let's make a quantum leap!

Dear Ayunnie,

Of course women in Kenya deserve to be part of the political system and governments which rules and design laws which affect women directly. Your piece is very strong in pointing out the poor record of Kenya and the absolute need to see more women decision makers.
Bernadette is such a strong example of what young women can contribute when they have a say and have a place at the table.
Thank you for this strong op ed.
Cheers,

Delphine Criscenzo

Ayunnie's picture

The Quantum leap

Hi Delphine,
Thank you for your contribution on this op ed Delphine. I know we are moving on the right path on women and political participation. we are pressing on... and the good news is that I will not be talking any more on how women should be leaders but I will be on the race myself, come the next Kenya's general election.

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

clarices's picture

Hello Ayunnie, Thanks for

Hello Ayunnie,

Thanks for your op-ed piece on "The Repressed Feminine". Women and power is a threatening combination for many cultures. Braking down stereotypes and gaining parity takes vision to imagine change and the will of the people to demand it. You and others who are passionate about gender equality in public service and elected office will break through. Know that you have the support of women and men who believe in what you are trying to achieve.

Thanks for bringing what's happening in Kenya forward.

Best to you,
Clarice

Ayunnie's picture

Thank You

Hi Clarice,
Thank you for your encouraging comments on this piece. I know many cultures are threatened by women leadership thus deny them opportunity to lead. I know there will come a time that many women will be voted in for various political positions. We will keep on voicing this out.

Regards from Kenya

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

mrbeckbeck's picture

Great work

Great work here. This is a very well articulated Op-Ed.

The challenge with quotas is interesting. Lots of work to do, but the rewards will be worth it!

Onward!
In partnership,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Ayunnie's picture

Onward!

Hi Beck,
Thank you for stopping by, Yes I agree we will keep on keeping on until we reach gender parity in all spheres of life.
Aluta continua

Regards from Kenya

@ Nairobi KENYA
Women have impeccable character, if tapped society realizes quantum leap in development

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