Coast female politicians take the battle to their male counterparts
By Benard Sanga
| July 31st 2016
Women politicians at the Coast want to change the political landscape of the region in the 2017 General Elections.
A number of women in various political positions and fresh faces are eyeing influential elective seats in the National Assembly and Senate.
It is worth noting that during the 2013 General Election, one of the most hotly contested battles was in Taita Taveta between the current MP Dr Naomi Shaban, a close ally of President Uhuru Kenyatta, and Basil Criticos.
Shaban won by a narrow margin.
In the gubernatorial race, Jacinta Mwatela, a former Central Bank of Kenya deputy governor, lost narrowly to Taita Taveta Governor John Mruttu.
Mwatela, who ran on a Wiper Democratic Movement ticket, garnered 32,890 votes against Mruttu’s 34,290 votes.
Those fierce contests in the county appear to have inspired other female candidates to join the 2017 race.
Ironically, Dr Shaban is pulling out of next year’s race but Mwatela will take the battle to Mruttu’s doorstep.
And just like Mwatela, women politicians who lost in other seats like senatorial and gubernatorial posts in the 2013 polls, are back with a bang, ready to take on the men head on.
“Many people have told me to contest again and I’m listening to my inner self and the people. I never give up and I learned many lessons from the last elections,” said Mwatela.
Given that she has been missing from the political scenes for a while, Mwatela will have to claw back her support base because Mruttu has spent a considerable period consolidating his influence and marshaling resources.
To win the seat, Mwatela will have to cover a lot of ground to deal with a bigger field of opponents.
Acting Orange Democratic Movement Secretary General and nominated senator Agnes Zani has expressed interest for the Kwale Senatorial position.
“I will definitely contest for the seat again. The time for women to claim seats is now,” said Zani.
Now holding a coveted position, though in an acting capacity, Zani is quickly riding on her growing profile.
She has been engaged in civic education advocacy in Kwale over the role of women in leadership.
She has also been fighting to ensure her party puts in place structures that will help women contest in a fair environment.
In a new development, more incumbent Women Representatives from the Coast are now going for parliamentary seats in 2017.
Mombasa County Women Rep Mishi Mboko says she will seek a party nomination for the Likoni Parliamentary seat currently held by Mwalimu Mwahima.
Mishi will attempt to vie on an Orange Democratic Movement ticket while Mwahima is hoping to be nominated by the Jubilee Party.
“Let everyone know that I will seek to be on the ballot paper as a Likoni Parliamentary candidate. There are those who are using religion or social cultural reasons to discourage women from vying, but this time round we will trounce them.”
In the Coastal campaigns once central message the women aspirants are selling is that what men can do, women can do better.
There are 16 elected women members in the current Parliament but the Coast has only one legislator (Shaaban) from Taveta.
Other personalities that are eyeing seats include Mwarere wa Mwachai, who served as the MP for Msambweni between 1997 to 2002.
Aisha Jumwa alias Maketailili wa Menza, the Kilifi Women Rep, will also be seek nomination for a parliamentary seat.
Jumwa has declared that she will seek nomination to contest for the Malindi parliamentary seat after campaigning aggressively for the current MP Willy Mtengo during the March 7 by-election.
Political analysts say unlike other regions, Coast politics is highly patriachial due to deep-seated cultural and religious beliefs.
However, things are gradually changing as leaders like Women Reps have acquired renewed confidence having served in Parliament.
“Religio-cultural barriers remain the biggest impediment on women’s political careers in Coast. We have competent women who have done well in the corporate world but find politics a difficult ball game,” says Prof Halim Shauri.
He adds: “The move by Women Rep to shift to the parliamentary seats to fight it out with male candidates is a demonstration that things have evolved.”
Nominated MP Zulekha Hassan has also declared that she will seek nomination to contest for the Msambweni constituency in Kwale. Nominated Senator Emma Mbura has declared that she will seek her party's nomination to run for Rabai constituency seat in Kilifi.
Analysts at the Coast note that cultural and religious barriers that have over the years held back women are still present.
“There is no justification to deny women power,” says Prof Muhammad Hyder.
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