The country’s male-dominated political scene could be headed for a major shakeup if the efforts being put by women to clinch seats ahead of the polls despite the perennial claims of threats and intimidation is anything to go by.
Although none has declared interest in the country’s top seat so far, several women have thrown their weight in the political ring and are causing ripples in political ponds ahead of next year’s General Elections.
Buoyed by the ideology "If we do not run, we won’t achieve", and the performance of some of the trailblazers in the first eight years of devolution, women are keen to break the yoke of the male-dominated political scene in the 2022 elections by winning more seats and increasing their representation through the ballot.
And as the world marks the 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence which has hurt women more in the past, some of the trailblazers who advocated for women leadership could be tossing in their graves with a smile because of the progress women have made.
For the first time since the inception of devolution, more than 23 women have entered the races to lead some of the 47 counties and have hit the ground running with intense campaigns.
And unlike the past elections, a number of factors seem to be working in the favor of women including political inclusion adopted by political parties as well as support from political institutions.
The office of the Registrar of Political Parties and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission is also keen on improving the participation of women in the next polls.
The two offices are working on a robust plan to mentor women aspirants as well as ensure that political parties comply with laws promoting the inclusion of women.
Yesterday, the Registrar of Political Parties Anne Nderitu told The Standard that as part of the efforts to ensure that more women contest seats, they are liaising with IEBC to ensure that the list of aspirants presented by political parties for party primaries meet the two-thirds gender rule.
“We are enforcing the laws that stipulate the inclusion of women. We have also developed a program which we will unveil early next year to train and mentor female candidates,” said Nderitu.
She also said that they are planning to sort out the mess at party primaries which she claimed has been the first gate that political parties use to lock out many women from contesting in polls.
And encouraged by the prospects of breaking the proverbial glass ceiling, a number of women eyeing governor seats are already on overdrive as they seek to craft winning formulas in the next polls.
In almost all the regions across the country, women-both young and old have entered into various races and are keen to upset their male rivals at the ballot and are keen to be part of the choices for parties during party primaries.
Some of the women who served as woman reps, MPs and senators are now keen to take their political fight a notch higher by contesting as governors.
This came as interviews with a number of female leaders established that the 2017 General Elections was a major eye-opener for women after three of them clinched gubernatorial seats.
Two sitting female governors Anne Waiguru and Charity Ngilu will be defending their seats while a host of others have also entered the races.
Among the regions where women have attracted the attention of Kenyans as they begin campaigns in earnest for seats include the Mount Kenya region where interesting contests are developing.
Governor Waiguru, Narc leader Martha Karua and woman rep Purity Ngirici have raised political temperatures in the county with all of them leaving nothing to chance in their quest to lead the county.
Although male aspirants are also keen on unseating Waiguru, the contest is slowly developing into an all-women affair as political clouds continue to gather.
Both Waiguru and Ngirici will battle it out for the ticket of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party allied to Deputy President William Ruto despite a sense of disquiet from the two camps.
In the last couple of days, the two leaders have been trading barbs over their position in the UDA party over the uncertainties on who would clinch the party’s ticket.
They all claim they are the best to lead the county with all eyes on how the contest will unfold in the coming months.
In Kitui County, however, career politician Ngilu will be hoping her track record during her first term in office will earn her another term in office.
She is also among the leaders who could influence the region’s presidential vote and has thrown her weight behind Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga.
A longtime ally of Raila, the ODM chief’s camp is banking their hopes on her to help mobilize support for the ODM chief in an area where Ruto is also attempting to make inroads ahead of the polls.
Other women who have expressed interest in battling for Governorship include Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, former Kathiani MP Wavinya Ndeti, Peris Tobiko (Kajiado East), Aisha Jumwa (Kilifi woman rep) who is training her sights on the Kilifi governorship on the United Democratic Party (UDA) ticket is to face it off with Getrude Mbeyu, while Deputy Governor Fatuma Achani is to battle it out with Zulekha Hassan in their quest to succeed 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, about five women have expressed interest in the governor seat including three woman representatives.
They include Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay), Pamela Odhiambo (Migori) and Florence Mutua (Busia).
Last week, Wanga told The Standard that time is ripe for women leadership, adding that women have demonstrated that they can perform.
According to political pundits and gender activists, the increase in the number of women eyeing elective seats ahead of the next general elections is a result of increased awareness of the benefits of the participation of women in decision making.
According to Dr Scholastica Omondi, an associate dean at the School of Law Nairobi University, the failure by the parliament to endorse the two-thirds gender rule on two occasions has opened the eyes of women.
“It is important to note that the existing women leaders have done very well to stay visible and have acted as an inspiration to other women to come out and contest,” said Omondi.
In the past elections, only a handful of women expressed interest in various seats with only a few getting the nod from voters to lead.
Some women politicians have pointed to a culture that favors men as a major limiting factor for them. Others have also raised concerns over intimidation by male politicians and their supporters, especially around election time.
According to them, most women cannot sustain the insult-oriented style of politics that has already started taking shape ahead of the 2022 duel. They also blamed lack of enough resources as a factor that has thrown women off balance in the succession talk.
But now, there could be a paradigm shift if more women continue to enter the different races and build a strong grassroots network ahead of the polls.
In the Nyanza region, a women caucus has been formed with an aim of pooling resources to help build campaign machinery for women candidates ahead of the next general elections.
In Homa Bay, three women leaders who defied odds to clinch MPs seats are marshalling support with the intent of successfully defending their seats.
The trio Lilian Gogo (Rangwe), Millie Odhiambo (Suba North) and Eve Obara (Kasipul) hopes their track record will earn them another term in office even as opponents start intense campaigns.
In the region, several young women have also entered various races. At the weekend, Betty Akinyi, a journalist became the latest entrant in the parliamentary races.
She has set her eyes on unseating Kisumu East MP Shakeel Shabir and will face off with other aspirants for the ODM ticket.