Let women show they can offer different leadership

Are women shooting themselves in the foot in their fight for leadership roles? Some of their actions in the recent past have left us wondering. Not too long ago, hundreds of women took to Nairobi streets to petition President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto to intervene in the Nairobi County affairs. They wanted Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko prevailed upon to not only appoint a deputy but specifically give preference to a woman. Led by Nairobi County Women Forum chairlady Cecilia Wairimu, the women argued that whereas the governor was doing a good job, “A house cannot be complete without a woman, and Sonko’s house lacks one.” Thus, the women fought hard to gain access into the inner sanctums of power in the Nairobi County government.

In a separate incident, all women Members of Parliament recently took the unusual measure of wearing white head gear to all sessions of the House, ostensibly to protest the delay in the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule. On the first day of their protest, official House business was delayed for more than an hour as the women justified their action on the floor of the House. They insisted that they would continue to don their “vitamba” to Parliament until the gender rule is implemented. Indeed, as the debate on the bill has been going on, the women have made good their threat and turned up in their white headscarfs.

It is said that desperate times call for desperate measures. On the face of it, these are valid actions taken by the women over very legitimate issues. The call for women to be granted space at the high table is one that requires our full support. Unfortunately, how the women have consistently pushed this agenda, both in the local and international arena, has inadvertently left their dreams mainly unfulfilled. And it does appear like the more they push, the more difficult it becomes for them to make any reasonable progress. Where any semblance of considerations has been granted, it has been more through the goodwill of some benevolent male leader rather than the consequence of overwhelming female pressure.

Reject the tokenism

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One of the truths and realities that women may have to come to terms with is that, in our largely male-dominated world, it is going to be extremely difficult to achieve much by brute force. The male psyche is such that men do not respond very positively to pressure. Whenever a man senses that pressure is being applied upon him to undertake a given task, his natural reaction is to resist or rebel. Things get worse when such pressure is being exerted by a woman. This is true even for matters that would be beneficial to the man. That is why if a woman appears to pressure a man into a relationship, no matter how beautiful she is, he takes off – very fast! It is called the burden of being a man – a burden thrust upon us through a small thing called the ego. Ego is the force that causes many a man to drive several miles in the wrong direction but will not stop to ask for direction. It is worse if his wife had indicated that he may have missed the correct turn.

With this in mind, if women are serious about sitting with men at the decision-making table, they will have to change tact. Instead of street demonstrations and ugly head turbans, women should employ more persuasive methods to appeal to the hearts and minds of their male counterparts. For starters, women must reject the tokenism likely to come with the possible passage of the Gender Bill as currently crafted. It will relegate them to nominated posts as men share the elected positions, thereby snatching real power from women.

Most women who have had great impact in society have never depended on tokenism. Women like Wangari Maathai, Julia Ojiambo, Jane Kiano, and such others, offered distinguished leadership without need for any constitutional crutches to lean on. With the current cry by the electorate over the overwhelming burden of the government wage bill, women should come out as different from their male counterparts. They should not only reject the Gender Bill, but also distance themselves from the proposed exaggerated perks for MPs. After all, in most homes, it is the women who keep extravagance in check and educate their children with meagre resources. Let women arise and demonstrate that they can offer a different kind of leadership. We will vote them in overwhelmingly – whether men like it or not. Dear sisters, your time has come, but it is not through the Gender Bill!

- The writer is Presiding Bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries. [email protected]     

President Uhuru KenyattaDP William RutoTwo-Thirds Gender RuleGender BillWomen in PowerWomen in Leadership