Women shouldn't play second fiddle in leadership

NAIROBI: I still do not understand why not a single woman was elected as governor in the March 2013 General Election. This was a big disappointment for a country that elected its first female mayor in 1965 - Grace Onyango was elected to run Kisumu Town at a time when many believed the place of a woman was in the kitchen.

Fast-forward 48 years later, to a time when there was significant change and attitudinal shifts in society about women's equality and emancipation, and we have regressed. We are told that women make up more than half of the registered voters in the country, meaning if women believed in themselves, they would have elected several of their own in the 2013 elections, and by a landslide.

We have about two years before the next elections. Women should start strategising how to capture at least half of the 47 governor positions or more. Who said we must be confined to deputising men? There are nine women deputy governors; Hazel Katana (Mombasa), Fatuma Achani (Kwale), Mary Kibuka (Taita Taveta), Dorothy Nditi (Embu), Peninah Malonze (Kitui), Adelina Mwai (Makueni), Evalyn Aruasa (Narok), Susan Kikwai (Kericho) and Ruth Odinga (Kisumu). This is probably the first time you are hearing some of these names. That is because a deputy governor wields little power, if any. The faster women realise this and go for the real deal, the better.

Educate a man, and you educate a man. Educate a woman and you educate a generation, or so one adage goes. This bolsters my conviction that indeed women would make better governors.

The county chiefs command huge budgets, second only to the national government's control of funds. But all we hear about is plunder and wastage by the brothers we chose to elect at the expense of the fairer sex. Why I'm convinced that women would make better governors any day is because women know what to prioritise at any given time. A woman, especially a mother, will not build roads when she knows that what her people need is water. She would go to great lengths to provide that water.

In many of our communities, women walk long distances in search of the precious commodity. They wake up at dawn and only return after many hours in the scorching sun, carrying heavy jerrycans on their backs or heads, depending on the region. In the meantime, the men are likely to be found whiling away the time in shopping centres or drinking themselves silly in chang'aa or kangara dens.

Quality medical care would rank high on their to-do list. Thanks to their maternal instincts, women would hate to see other women dying in childbirth, and as such would ensure that every hospital had a well-equipped maternity wing.

This would end the 'woiye' stories of a mother dying in some remote village as people struggle to get her to hospital on a rickety wheelbarrow.

It is not as if men don't know these things, but we have seen the kind of work they have been doing in the past two years. A woman will not buy tens of ambulances when she has not built enough hospitals, equipped and staffed them adequately. That is like putting up a beautiful lawn without any plans to build a house.

Sharing of resources wouldn't give women a headache at all. The majority of us recall how our mothers painstakingly shared that piece of cake she brought home from her chama among all her children. But all we hear nowadays is that some governors are favouring their home areas.

The position of County Woman Representative, which came about with the passage of the 2010 Constitution, saw 47 women join Parliament. While this boosted the number of women in the National Assembly, they don't control the kind of budgets and resources governors do.

It appears women were hoodwinked and sidelined from the real deal. Come 2017, we want to see them elected as governors. Let's make it happen.