Young Women, Ready for Political Race??
As women, we continue to call ourselves marginalized, but the truth is, women are to blame for such a sad state of reality. We are on the race for 2012 elections, (if it happens this year) but the truth is very few young women have devoted themselves to run this race.
Attending the launch of the Kenya Women’s National Charter, aimed at promoting the rights of Women two weeks ago, if the women in attendance is anything to go by, it is evident that we will still have older generation in the next Parliament in Kenya.
Walking around looking for young women ready to take the initiative, I realized many of them were volunteers and ushers taking part in the two days event held at the Bomas of Kenya, who were probably not interested in the political race. Feeling a bit disturbed by this reality, I decided to engage some women into a discussion (aged between 42 to 53) and they had a very interesting views as I tried to find out why were the young women missing.
“We, the older women are not ready to give the mantle to young girls like you, (pointing at me). You should be at home taking care of your families. You know at this age, I am ready to take the challenge, I have the time, my children are all grown up and living away on their own.” Said an aspiring woman vying as a Member of Parliament at the Narok County.
That alone was not convincing for me. If you ask me, young women aged 30 years and below versus women of 50 years plus, these two will clash as a result of generation gap. I found it so hard to try to strike a conversation with these women as most of them emphasized on the fact that they are in a better position to take up leadership positions than young women.
“What do you think you can teach us? We are more experienced in life matters, we have been through a lot and we know exactly what this country needs. Kenya needs women like us, we have the ability to make a great change in this country,” Remarked Fatma Suleiman aspiring Member of Parliament from Tana River County.
In the 2007 General elections, out of the 2, 548 parliamentary aspirants, only 269 were women and only one out of the 9 presidential candidates was a woman. Many women did not make it to leadership positions which meant that only 22 women made it to parliament, against 200 male politicians. Only six of these 22 women hold cabinet positions.
While the New Constitution provides for 47 special legislative seats for women, the challenge is to get women vying for leadership positions. For a long time there has been a myth that many women shy away from vying for such positions because they do not consider themselves qualified to compete against men.
Minister for Gender Naomi Shabaan, who was among the dignitaries gracing the occasion, challenged women to look up to countries like Norway, Sweden and other European countries where there has been a successful liberation for women’s rights.
“Women have come a long way to be where they are today, this is not the end. We have to prove ourselves fit for the challenge.” She added.
The Women’s charter with 18 articles stipulates the provisions of each article and warns against the non-compliance with the non-discrimination constitutional provision specifically those under Article 27 of the Constitution.
Women’s Empowerment Link
The Charter which was distributed to the hundreds of women from all the counties, was developed by “Mwamko Mpya:Uongozi Mpya consultant Professor Maria Nzomo through the initiative of Women’s Empowerment Link (WEL).
“We can only be counted if we stand up and prove that we are countable,” advised Prof. Maria Nzomo who asserted to the fact that women continue to be marginalized in various areas in life and this can only be corrected if women took charge and one area of doing so is in politics.
WEL Director Grace Mbugua said it was not enough to have the constitution secure seats for the women, women too need to come out in huge numbers and support each other, correct each other and plan together. She commended women for showing such a great solidarity and said she was optimistic that in the next Parliament there will be more women ready for leadership roles.
The role of the media especially during this campaign period was something that was discussed at large. Women were cautioned against shying away from cameras and journalists who will be streaming in, in large numbers gathering stories from all over the counties.
“Know your media contacts well; know when to ask media people to cover your story. Not all stories are newsworthy, so make sure you have substance in your press release. Make it relevant,” advised Macharia Gaitho, a columnist at the Nation Media Group.
Use of Social Media
The issue of using of social media as campaign to gather voters was also a great topic under discussion. However, there was an obvious challenge. Having noticed that most women attending this conference were older women, I asked the obvious. Do these women know or even use social media platforms like the popular Twitter and Facebook?
Your guess is as good as mine. Most of these women have only heard from some youngsters around mention these sites but they have no clue on what they entail. The good thing is that many were willing to learn and actually promised to take it upon themselves to learn how to use social media as a campaign tool. Many talked of the possibilities of looking for experts in social media to help them set up their accounts, which they are ready to manage.
The launched Charter expresses the fact the women are still discriminated and marginalized in politics, economy, society, culture, religion, as workers, and as mothers of the current and future generations. “There are differences, but still there are compelling similarities and we can learn from each other. Men are still earning more money for the same jobs as women do,” remarked Prof. Nzomo.