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The raw deal for women in Kenya Kwanza and glaring contradictions

Kenya Kwanza presidential flag-bearer William Ruto with the legal team after the signing of the Kenya Kwanza Women chapter at Nyayo National Stadium on June 10, 2022. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

Dear people of the Kenya Kwanza Alliance,

Let me begin by clarifying that this letter is addressed to followers and not leadership of Kenya Kwanza. If you are one of the many big and small bosses in the Yellow Alliance, you can stop here. Your letter will come next week.

Now, Kenya Kwanza people, there are some contradictions that have been bothering me, and I have been wondering who to ask. I figured you would be the best to offer clarifications, explanations and interpretations since you must have rationalised them by now.

The inconsistencies are many, roughly 42 of them, but in this column, I only have space to ask about five of them, all which have come up this week, with the launch of the Kenya Kwanza Women’s Charter.

The first contradiction is how hurriedly the event was put together, given that in the weeks leading to it, the Kenya Kwanza leadership and followership had accused the Azimio Coalition of making gender, instead of ‘the agenda’ an area of campaign focus. This was Kenya Kwanza’s response to the celebration and discussion that followed the announcement of Martha Karua as Raila Odinga’s running mate. 

You may argue that the Charter represents an agenda, only that it is specific to women. That is fair. But it brings me to the second contradiction. Of the four candidates cleared to run for president, all have running mates who are women, with the exception of William Ruto.  The Roots Party nominated Justina Wambui Wamae, The Agano Party appointed Ruth Mutua and Azimio La Umoja, Martha Karua.

This gives us two contradictory messages. One, is that women in Kenya Kwanza can only aspire to the 4th level of national leadership. Tier one being the presidency itself, tier two being Deputy President and tier three being the new chief minister/pseudo prime minister/head ‘government prefect’ position that is in both of the big coalitions. Kenya Kwanza people, what explains this? Was there not a single woman who could lead along with ‘the big boys’?

The second message is in the choice that Kenya Kwanza actually made for the position of Deputy President designate. It seems like the man with the highest political liability was preferred over any woman in the Alliance, no matter how politically accomplished she may be.

Another contradiction is the dishonesties of some of Kenya Kwanza’s commitments to women. Two are glaring. The first is the promise to supply free sanitary towels to all menstruating women and girls. This is a token populist promise because it seems to have been arrived at to create political convenience, with no considerations or clear vision for its attainment.

Let us not even discuss the amounts required to sustain a population where almost half the population menstruates for 4 to 7 days monthly, with thousands of girls getting their period for the first time every single day. And factoring in population growth and life expectancy, for each woman that transitions into menopause and stops menstruating, there are three new ‘menstruators’.

Given that it is a government scale promise, and Kenyan women live in a wide spectrum of realities, are there attendant measures such as environmentally friendly considerations like menstrual cups and discs, and period underwear? Are there plans for accompanying measures like adequate water and sanitation facilities? An unattainable or under-thought populist promise undermines the electorate, and when it is targeted to a specific demographic for political expediency, it is even offensive.

Finally, another contradiction is the promise to address Gender Based Violence. This promise is puzzling, coming from the head of the coalition himself. William Ruto publicly used Gender Based Violence to humiliate one of his then rivals, Moses Wetang’ula. In his comments, Ruto inferred that the acceptable norm is the other way round, when a man beats a woman, and so Wetang’ula should not have embarrassed himself by ostensibly taking the matter to a police station.

In addition to being chauvinistic, it reinforces the stigma that many men going through domestic violence face. And not forgetting that Ruto’s running mate Rigathi Gachagua, has never wasted an opportunity to be unapologetically chauvinistic.    

So, Kenya Kwanza people, I truly hope I have not overwhelmed you with this letter of bewilderment, but the discrepancies are just too mind boggling to ignore. So as a good Kenyan would say, I am ‘just asking’. Can you explain? Yours Truly.

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