August polls a defining moment for women as more aspire for seats


Kitui governor Charity Ngilu speaking at the Azimio La Umoja rally Kakamega chapter at Bukhungu Stadium on December 31, 2021. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

In the 2013 elections, no single woman was elected governor. In 2017, three women sailed to victory.

Two of these governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) and Charity Ngilu (Kitui) are set to defend their seats in the August 9 elections while a host of entrants have joined the governorship race.

The big question is, are we likely to have more female governors from this cast?

In Kirinyaga, an interesting contest is developing. Governor Waiguru, Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua and Woman Rep Purity Ngirici have raised political temperatures, with all of them leaving nothing to chance.

Although some male aspirants have expressed their interest in the seat, the contest is slowly developing into an all-female affair.

Waiguru is eyeing the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket, while Ngirici is yet to announce the party on whose ticket she will vie. The woman rep was in UDA until recently when she announced her exit from the party.

In Kitui, Ngilu will be hoping her track record during her first term will earn her reelection.

Other women who have expressed interest in governorship include Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, former Kathiani MP Wavinya Ndeti, Kajiado East Peris Tobiko, Aisha Jumwa (Kilifi woman rep), Getrude Mbeyu, Kwale Deputy Governor Fatuma Achani and Zulekha Hassan (Kwale Woman Representative).

Jumwa is eyeing the UDA ticket and will face off with Mbeyu. Achani will battle it out with Hassan in their quest to succeed Kwale Governor Salim Mvurya.

In Taita Taveta, woman representative Lydia Haika, Patience Nyange and Rachael Mwakazi are seeking to oust Governor Granton Samboja.

In western Kenya, five women have expressed interest in the governor seat. They include Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), Pamela Odhiambo (Migori) and Florence Mutua (Busia).

In an earlier interview, Wanga told The Standard that time is ripe for women leadership, adding that women have demonstrated that they can perform.

According to some political analysts, the increase in the number of women eyeing elective seats is as a result of increased awareness on the benefits of participation of women in decision-making.

Scholastica Omondi, an associate dean at the School of Law, said failure by Parliament to endorse the two-thirds gender rule on two occasions had opened the eyes of women.

“It is important to note that women leaders have done very well to stay visible and have acted as an inspiration to other women to come out and contest,” said Dr Omondi.

In the past, women have raised concerns over intimidation by male politicians and their supporters, especially around election time.

According to analysts, most women cannot persevere in the face of insults directed at them. They also said lack of resources keep women off politics.

In Nyanza region, a women caucus has been formed with an aim of pooling resources to help women build campaign machinery ahead of the elections.

In Homa Bay, three women leaders who defied odds to clinch National Assembly seats are marshalling support to defend their seats.

The trio Lilian Gogo (Rangwe), Millie Odhiambo (Suba North) and Eve Obara (Kasipul) hope their track record will earn them reelection to the National Assembly.

In Kisumu, several young women have entered various races for elective posts. Betty Akinyi, a journalist, has set her eyes on unseating Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabir.

She will face off with other aspirants for the ODM ticket.

In Kiambu County, three women have entered the governor’s race, which may complicate matters for some of the seasoned politicians. Among them is Mwende wa Gatabaki, the wife of outspoken economist David Ndii.

Mwende was recalled by President Uhuru Kenyatta from the head office of the African Development Bank in Tunisia in 2014 to champion the Jubilee Government’s digital agenda. At the time, she worked as the special adviser to the president of the bank.

She is credited with leading the digital transformation of government that led to the development of what is today known as eCitizen’ and the Huduma Centres.

Mwende, who is yet to declare her party of choice, has cautioned Kiambu residents against electing leaders based on party affiliations.

The daughter of former Githunguri MP and Senior Chief Peter Gatabaki has promised to give male aspirants a run for their money in the elections.

Mwende attended Kenyatta University between 1987 and 1990 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. Between 1994 and 1996, she attended the United States International University where she graduated with a Masters in Management and Organisational Development.

Even as the number of female aspirants increases, it is clear that a contestant’s performance record, integrity and choice of running mate will play a big role in determining the next county boss.

An ex-county official Juliet Kimemia who holds a Bachelor of Education degree from Moi University, a Master in Entrepreneurship and a PhD in Entrepreneurship says she is motivated to vie for Kiambu governor based on her past networks in women empowerment.

“My vision for the residents of Kiambu is to see them economically empowered through the promotion of agriculture and ensuring they are able to access information on improved livelihoods.”

She has educated communities on issues of gender-based violence.

Agnes Ndung’u, a social and community development worker, is also vying for the governor’s seat.

“I will be on the ballot for the governorship. I have a lot to offer Kiambu residents and the new role will allow me to scale up the projects that I am already undertaking at the grassroots level,” she said.

She added that her bid has been motivated by some of the development that she steered when she was appointed to the board of Karuri Municipality in 2018, where she served as chair and vice chair.