Dismal performance of women in politics is a cause for concern in Nyanza. The region that once produced tough women politicians such as Kenya’s first woman MP Grace Onyango (Kisumu), former Karachuonyo MP Phoebe Asiyo and former assistant minister and Gem MP Grace Ogot can now hardly get a woman to Parliament.
Nyanza has six counties; Kisumu, Siaya, Kisii, Nyamira, Homa Bay and Migori. Of all Nyanza’s 42 constituencies, only Mbita is represented by a woman, Millie Odhiambo Mabona. Siaya, Kisii, Nyamira, Homa Bay and Migori have only one elected woman MCA each. Kisumu, perhaps because it is urban, has seven women MCAs.
According to analysts, failure to win seats means women have little involvement in decision making at national and county governments and in political parties, and in the end miss out on platforms to push for their issues.
Barack Muluka, a political analyst argues that women are interested in politics but the ground has not been levelled to encourage them to participate fully, including vying for positions.
“Take the example of CORD leader Raila Odinga. When the two-thirds gender rule was taken to Parliament, he went and sat there to offer support but in reality, he ought to ensure women in Nyanza, which is his stronghold, are nominated to vie for positions,” Muluka says.
He adds: “It does not make sense when parties cry for national democracy, affirmative action, to thirds gender rule and reforms at the national level when they do not practice the same.”
He says the situation is worse in Western region but admits in regions like Central, women are significantly represented in political platforms.
Gender expert and women leader at Dialogue for Development Network Jackline Oduor says misconception that men are best suited for political offices is largely to blame for the scenario.
“Women in Nyanza have always contested positions but it is the unfortunate misconception among voters that men are better candidates that has always worked against women in politics,” says Prof Oduor.
“Party nomination and campaigns require money which most women do not have. Women may also not be very good at mobilising resources,” she says.
Oduor who lectures at USIU says advocacy and voter sensitisation could change the equation.
“Voters need to be educated to go for leadership and not focus on gender or how much money someone has,” she added.
She says women should identify with political parties that believe in women leadership.
According to Israel Nyaburi, a political scientist, women need to come out of cultural cocoons and recognise their rights and responsibilities as able citizens which include but are not limited to political involvement.
Nyaburi reckons that there is an overwhelming need for a women parliamentary oversight committee whose mandate would be to play an oversight role and to champion issues that affect women.
Kisumu County Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga and Homa Bay Women Rep Gladys Wanga say many women aspirants are afraid of violence that usually mars politics in the region. “Let us be honest, we know political violence is rampant in areas like Kisumu and Homa Bay. This scares women from contesting,” says Ms Odinga.
Migori County Women Rep Denitah Ghati and Migori gubernatorial aspirant Anne Anyanga believe women are their own worst enemies.
“I have heard some women say I do not deserve a second term since I am not married and that the seat is for women not girls,” says Ghati.
She also said culture plays a role in demoralising women interested in vying for top political seats.