The reality TV show Ms President Season II has started. Following intense auditions that went on for several months, the show promises cutthroat competition that will culminate in the crowning of Ms President.
The women selected after the rigorous shortlisting process will be taken through an academy where they will be trained and mentored to be great leaders. The competition puts the woman’s confidence, problem solving capability and motivation to the test.
The Standard got to witness the audition process in Nairobi, and it was so intense you could almost swear that the women were actually campaigning to be Kenya’s next president.
Marie Claire Munyana, a communications officer at Media Focus Africa – the organisation behind the project – said the show is in pursuit of intelligent women with a passion for social change and a track record of professional and humanitarian excellence.
“The qualifications we were looking for included that one must be a Kenyan, aged between 20 and 60 years. To be considered, one had to be an excellent communicator and living in Kenya,” Ms Munyana said.
“You had to be a leader in your community – you had to have already been doing something actively in your region or neighbourhood. You had to have a vision to transform the community and believe in women leadership, because that is the basis of the show. It’s all about giving women the space to take up leadership positions.”
Ms Munyana said during the application stage, the women were required to fill out a questionnaire. It was not a simple one, though. She described it as an intense and in-depth list of questions requiring them to explain themselves and fight it out for a chance at the prestigious Ms President Academy.
“We started off the audition process in Eldoret and proceeded to Kisumu, then Isiolo. After Isiolo we went to Nyeri, Nakuru, Nairobi and finally Mombasa,” she said.
The competition attracted 750 applications, out of whom 320 were shortlisted. Fifty were finally selected to join the academy.
Media Focus Africa Director Harrison Manga, who was also a judge in the auditions, said the quality of applicants was impressive, giving the judges a difficult time with eliminations.
“It’s been an exciting process so far in this major step that is the audition process. We’ve met interesting ladies from across the country. Drawing the final shortlist is going to be a challenge, but one that we are happy to have,” Mr Manga said during the auditions.
“It shows the great potential of women who are in this country and are ready to take up the mantle. We’ve seen very young candidates, then those that are fairly experienced to those that are very experienced. We have a diverse representation in the competition in that sense.”
Mr Manga said the contestants are women who are doing exciting things in the community.
“There are people who are doing groundbreaking things. Some are in the political space already – they have either contested before or are contesting in these elections. We also have young people who are transitioning from traditional career into seeking leadership roles and others who are in business but see the value of governance,” he said.
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He said the type of applicants shows that there is no shortage of capable women leaders in the country.
The United Nations, through a blog post titled, Women’s Leadership: Inspiring change through learning, reports that women face certain recurring challenges while trying to take up these positions.
“Realities such as misogyny, pay gaps, uneven opportunities for growth, family pressures and expectations, and cultural norms, to name a few, create extra challenges for them,” the UN says.
The report added, “Despite this, the role of women in leadership has proven instrumental to an organisation’s success. Research studies have shown that diversity in the workforce and leadership brings different perspectives to an organisation, which, in turn, boosts creativity and encourages innovation and the search for new ways of doing things. This then leads to better decision-making and, in the end, greater overall success.”
The study suggested that women tend to make the best decisions not only during moments of crisis but during normal times too.
Business magazine Forbes reports that despite women’s strong leadership skills, the bias still exists.
“In the study, 45% of respondents believe women are more likely to follow their emotions when making a decision, while men are more likely to use logical thinking when making decisions,” Forbes wrote of a study conducted among 1,529 respondents.
Mr Manga said Kenyan women need the platform and support to show what they can do on the leadership front. He said the Ms President reality show will demonstrate to society the potential in women leadership in Kenya.
“What the female gender can do is so often underestimated. The society will see for themselves that we have such highly qualified, capable, intelligent women who are only asking to be given the platform,” he said.
“All these ladies are saying is, ‘give us the opportunity to sit at these tables because we have what it takes to occupy these positions, make a difference and help push this country forward.’”
Season 1 of the show is described on the Media Focus Group website as “an entertaining, educating and thought provoking reality series that sought to portray to a national audience the capacity and ability of women to lead effectively.”
The season aired on KTN Home in 2019, and Nereah Amondi Aketch was crowned Ms President. This season will begin to air on KTN Home in June.