Women Leaders Share Horrid Gender-Based Violence Experiences in Kenyan Politics

/

As the World observes the 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), we look at the challenges women in leadership face to break the glass ceiling.

Daring Kenyan politics especially as a woman is not a walk in the park.  It calls for resilience and thick skin that can withstand mockery, threats, physical attacks and even threats.

In the cosmopolitan Trans Nzoia and Bungoma Counties,  Uasin Gishu News caught up with women leaders who participated in politics after the promulgation of the 2010 Constitution.

Jane Chebet, who served as Cheptais ward Member of the County Assembly (MCA) for two terms and who unsuccessfully vied for the Mt. Elgon MP seat says hooliganism and male chauvinism remain a serious threat to women leadership.

Jane Chebet, former two terms Chesikaki ward Member of County Assembly in an interview with Uasin Gishu News. Photo/Kipkorir Tarus
Jane Chebet, former two-term Cheptais ward Member of the County Assembly in an interview with Uasin Gishu News. Photo/Kipkorir Tarus

In an interview at her Chepkube home, Chebet famously known by locals as an ‘iron lady’ has a fresh memory of a life-threatening incident she experienced at the height of the 2022 general elections campaigns.

I had attended a night interview in one local radio station and after the interview, over 20 goons ambushed us. My vehicle was damaged and my driver had to speed off and luckily, we escaped unhurt,” Chebet narrated.

Use of goons to silence women leaders

The educationist-turned-politician revealed that opponents who feel threatened by strong women candidates use goons to silence them. In addition, their supporters and election officials who advocate for transparency and fairness in elections are also threatened.

Walking around with goons is a costly venture because you always have to pay them to execute your orders. The whole idea is to silence perceived opponents in campaigns,” she added.

In the neighbouring Cheptais ward, we meet Jemimah Pkomu, who unsuccessfully vied for the Cheptais ward MCA seat.

Pkomu, who took an early retirement as a primary school teacher to venture into politics argues that achieving two-thirds gender rule, especially in elective positions is far from being achieved.

People in this country have for the longest period believed that the enemy to women are fellow women but I want to demystify that and state that men are our enemies in terms of leadership because they incite women against us,” notes the former MCA.

Jemima Pkumu, 2022 Cheptais ward MCA candidate in an interview with Uasin Gishu News. Photo/Kipkorir Tarus
Jemima Pkumu, the 2022 Cheptais ward MCA candidate in an interview with Uasin Gishu News. Photo/Kipkorir Tarus.

The ambitious woman who is very passionate about leadership currently serves as a Gender Advisor in the office of Bungoma County Governor Ken Lusaka.

Freedom of expression

Jackline Kurgat, the Motosiet ward Member of the County Assembly in Cherang’any Constituency, Trans Nzoia County avers that freedom of expression and that of association enshrined in articles 33 and 36 of the 2010 Constitution remains only in paper, especially during campaigns.

Sometimes last year, I went to a public rally and when my opponent realized I had a serious following, he colluded with sound people who switched off the microphone. Already-planted hecklers then heckled me. Nonetheless, I articulated my agenda. At long last, he felt ashamed,” Kurgat said.

The MCA who also chairs the powerful Agriculture Committee in the County Assembly of Trans Nzoia argues that some communities hold on to deeply rooted cultural beliefs that women should neither be heard nor given leadership positions.

Some communities are entangled in the belief that women cannot male good leaders and will do everything possible to kill your dreams,” she added.

Motosiet ward Member of County Assembly, Jackline Kurgat speaking to the press. Photo/Courtesy of Radio Baraza
Motosiet ward Member of County Assembly, Jackline Kurgat speaking to the press. Photo/Courtesy of Radio Baraza.

Can you imagine your dress or skirt being torn, your mobile phones, money and other valuables being stolen while you are trying to convince voters to vote for you or your candidate? This is exactly what happened to Jane Wasike, an opinion leader and a resident of Bidii ward.

Although she reported the ugly robbery with violence incident at Matisi Police Station in Saboti Constituency,  the matter was downplayed and taken as a normal occurrence.

The incident taught a lesson that our country normally drifts into a state of lawlessness during campaign periods,” Wasike said.

Undressed in broad daylight

Another woman, who declined to be named for fear of being mocked and ashamed narrated how she was undressed in broad daylight when she went to look for votes in an area perceived to be her opponent’s stronghold.

I was very terrified and I am still traumatized that youths who are age mates to my sons undressed me and forced me to kneel, they robbed and later surrendered my clothes,” she said.

Ann Bucheche, the Maendeleo ya Wanawake chairperson in the Cheptais ward, said addressing gender imbalance in leadership calls for men’s involvement in the campaign.

Since independence, Mt. Elgon constituency has never had a woman Member of Parliament. This should change because women have better leadership skills. We should change this narrative through empowering girls by giving quality education,” Bucheche appealed.

It is against this backdrop that KAREU MPYA CBO Programs Coordinator Abdel Kamasai has called for gender equality in leadership both at the National and County government levels.

Abdel Kamasai, KAREU MPYA CBO Programs Coordinator in an interview with Uasin Gishu News. Photo/Kipkorir Tarus
Abdel Kamasai, KAREU MPYA CBO Programs Coordinator in an interview with Uasin Gishu News. Photo/Kipkorir Tarus.

Kamasai urged all the registered political parties in Kenya to give women some decision-making positions in their leadership structures.

If we have to achieve the two-thirds gender rule that has flopped twice in the National Assembly, then political parties must demonstrate that they value this constitutional provision by making sure women occupy decision-making positions,” he challenged.

During the 2022 general election campaigns,  President William Ruto promised to have 50/50 sharing of Cabinet slots between men and women. However, that promise was not fulfilled when he formed his cabinet.

There are only 7 women in a cabinet of 22.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Previous Story

President Ruto: Bolstering Kenya-India Ties Will Enhance Our Development Agenda

Next Story

Stanbic PMI: Inflationary pressures continue to hit demand in November

Latest from Features