The International women’s day celebrations have been marked by women globally since the early 1900s. The day seeks to celebrate notable social, economical, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also seeks to increase awareness and participation of women in leadership and also rally for the acceleration of gender parity.
In the international scene women seem to be successful in their pursuit for leadership but Kenya has a long way to go. Though Hillary Clinton did not win the presidency it was refreshing to see her represent a major political party for one of the most powerful and highly coveted positions in the world. Then there’s Britain’s Theresa May who successfully took over from David Cameron to become the second female Prime Minister.
But closer home it is hard to place a finger on where the problem lies. Out of the 47 elected governors, none of them is a woman and only nine of the deputy governors are women. As if that isn’t telling enough, out of the 47 senators yet again there’s no woman represented. This however, is not without a spirited attempt from the women folk to pursue these opportunities. Women are rising up and seeking out opportunities and pursuing leadership, but there seems to be little to no political goodwill to support their bid.
This harsh accusation of the political class is not without basis. A couple of weeks ago, the boycotting of session by senators during the tabling of the bill that aims to increase women representation sent a loud message to the women aspirants. Confident of their political experience, connections and vast resources, the senators seemed to have dared women to fight it out for their positions. Regardless of the tyranny of numbers advantage that women possess, the political class seems confident that their positions are spoken for.
Surprisingly, their confidence is not without logic. Conspicuously missing in parliament during the session was a cross section of the female nominated senators who could have possibly changed the course of history that day. Many times the argument has been made that women are their own worst enemies; that they fail to support their own; that the census numbers indicate that they do not need positions to be handed out to them and that if women wanted female leaders, there would be enough female leaders.
While all that is true, it is also very true that women aspirants have certain limitations that tilt the win in favor of their male counterparts. Cultural conditioning has led many to be suspicious of a woman in leadership. We trust women with the most important responsibilities of raising families and influencing future generations but it becomes a different ball game when it comes to public leadership.
Female aspirants especially political newcomers are vulnerable of attack on their virtue, their reputations and to some extremes they even face physical attack. And yes, they may be the weaker sex in that they may be unable to adequately defend themselves, to fight for their right to participate in elective governance but that does not take away their ability to lead.
Why is it important for equal gender representation? Well, that Kenyans have been complaining about service delivery to the counties is no secret. Women are the most affected group of people when it comes to poor service delivery. Half their domestic duties are paralyzed due to water shortage. A woman, even the healthiest among them, will visit a hospital at least once in her life, if for nothing else but to give life. Who then is best placed to represent the communities if not a woman? Who would give a passionate account of challenges that marginalized communities go through if not a woman?
It is therefore important for the political parties and their leadership to answer the call to action and support women who are brave enough to present themselves for the service of their nation. It is also important for the electorate to support capable women aspirants in the forth coming election and then maybe next year the Kenyan women folk will have plenty to celebrate.