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Women should seize the Karua moment to push for gender parity

May 20th 2022

Azimio presidential running mate Martha Karua. [Phares Mutembei, Standard]

The unveiling of Martha Karua as Raila Odinga's running mate under the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition has, no doubt, generated excitement.

Karua’s nomination is a win for millions of women. It has given some of them a good reason to vote in the August elections and others a reason to join politics. If Kenyan women do not seize this moment to rally behind one of their own, they might as well forget about the sticky gender agenda issue.

Women, the moment we have all been waiting for has presented itself; falling on one of the most qualified women to drive the agenda forward. The fight for gender parity in decision making began in 1992 when more women, the likes of Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu, former Kibwezi MP Agnes Ndeti, former Kinangop MP Mary Wanjiru and Martha Karua decided to add to the number of women who were eyeing various political seats at the time.

This raised the profile of women in politics and created room for more women to join the political space. unfortunately, 30 years down the line, Kenya is still unable to actualise the two-thirds gender rule. Efforts by women in the 12th Parliament to persuade their male counterparts to support the two-thirds gender rule have not borne fruit.

At some point, we even saw women in the 12th Parliament hold a dinner party for their male counterparts, aiming to cajole them to vote for the Gender Bill. It failed. If Parliament cannot enact a law that enables us realise the gender rule, the moment has come, and not just through Karua, but through women who have been nominated as running-mates to gubernatorial candidates.

As much as women politicians seek support from their fellow women, the ball is in the court of women aspirants to win the hearts of all voters, regardless of their gender, by making clear their campaign promises and how they plan to deliver them if elected.

The greatest challenge we have as a country is that our politics is ethnically inclined in regard to voting patterns. Deputy President William Ruto is trying to change this by bringing in the hustler narrative.

Women should give a clear direction of where this country should be headed when it comes to fighting for the rights of women and their space in governance. As much as we are pushing for more elective seats, we must not forget about the appointive seats in government that await us after the general elections.

We ought to start demanding for those seats now so that presidential candidates and their running-mates know women are patiently waiting to have their share of the national cake after the August elections. And not just any seat, but the top seats of governance in this country.

As women, we must not settle for less. Karua has set the pace for us and in that pace, we will continue with the race of ensuring that issues touching on women in Kenya are heard and resolved amicably. This can only be achieved if we remain steadfast and focused.

Political parties also have the uphill task of ensuring they nominate women to Parliament. Party leaders also need to ensure that women aspirants are protected during the elections campaigns.

Verbal attacks, body shaming and name calling cost several women their political seats during the political party primaries that were held in April this year. At no point did we see parties come out to defend and protect women aspirants.

Political parties should come up with a roadmap that will assure women of their safety during campaigns. There is need for parties to work closely with the independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission and the Ministry of Interior to ensure women are protected during the election period.


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