Gusii Nation must change mindset, elect women to political seats

EBC officials verify voting materials. [Peter Ochieng, Standard]

The other day, while working on a story about the just concluded elections, I learnt something that shocked me. All these years, I thought that we are in the 21st century and societal myths had changed. I thought we had embraced not just modernity, but abandoned stronger and weaker sex myths which led to women being sidelined when it came to leadership roles.

Several years ago, it was believed that women lacked leadership qualities, and it was the man-bites-dog type of news when a woman beat men to a political seat.

Their gender was used against them on the campaign trail and they were called all sorts of names and voters urged to shun them.

But times changed, and even before the end of the Cold War, women were already going toe-to-toe with men when it came to political seats, and winning.

Such moves made men realise that leadership is not about gender. Asian countries that were considered patriarchal started doing better than the West and elected women to their countries' top leadership positions.

Nearer home, because of our short history of proper elective politics, few women have angled for the top seat, but when it comes to parliamentary, and with devolution, the county assembly seats, women have been contesting and getting elected.

But not in Gusii Nation. In the just concluded elections, Gusii counties of Kisii and Nyamira elected only three women, and this is because two of the seats, Woman Representative, in either county are constitutionally theirs.

Kisii with 45 wards, elected only one woman as an MCA while Nyamira, with 20 wards, did not elect any. Not that other counties have done better, only that the Gusii Nation have never elected a woman to Parliament since Kenya got independence.

And so, it happens that the woman MCA-elect in Kisii ended up on the ballot just because the man who had been voted in during the party nominations, died.