Don't listen to naysayers, women are driving the wheels of change

Indira Gandhi, India’s first woman prime minister has retained a special place in history as one of the world’s most formidable political leaders of her time.

Known as the ‘Iron Lady of India’, she saw her country through baby steps into economic emancipation, democracy and expanded political and civil rights. 

At the height of her rule, she was a firm believer in equity and social justice. She had the conviction that for any nation to leap forward, its people must have a deliberate but strategic bias towards action.

“Have a bias toward action – let’s see something happen now. You can break that big plan into small steps and take the first step right away,” she once remarked.

The Azimio la Umoja revolution we’re seeing in Kenya today is, in many ways, reminiscent of Gandhi's philosophy. By believing in the power of women, Azimio recognizes that gender equality has a special place and a society that values every single person, gender notwithstanding, is safer and healthier.

Sceptics and naysayers may deny it but the choice of Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua, Kenya’s Iron Lady, as the Azimio presidential running mate is a no mean feat for the country. In Azimio and its affiliated parties, there’s a deliberate effort to soar up women numbers in political leadership, something that has been elusive more than 50 years after independence.

Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga and running mate Martha Karua. [Allan Gichigi, Standard]

Admittedly, by settling on Karua, the Raila Odinga-led coalition long read the mood of the country. It is said that you cannot prevent an idea whose time has come. Giving women a voice at the decision table is intrinsically linked to stability, peace and sustainable development and is vital to the quest for human rights for all. There’s no better time to appreciate women’s contributions. A tried and tested politician, Karua adds flavour to the top race.

Power of diversity

Voters, not just the woman folk, must cast their lot with Azimio. In it, we see a selfless group that seeks to build on the power of our diversity to take the nation forward in a systematic manner devoid of exclusion, marginalization and class wars that could put the country on the precipice of chaos. 

It is time for women to further prove their mettle. Going by the excitement elicited by Karua’s nomination across the country, it is evident the nation is on the edge of a women-driven revolution. All over the world, women are claiming their place in history.

The United Nations’ UN Women division says 26 women were serving as heads of State in 24 countries as of the year 2021.

Women’s resolve has never been stronger. Despite political violence, harassment, political hooliganism, outright contempt and other challenges presented by our society’s remaining elements of chauvinism, women will go all the way.  

Indeed, Kenya’s 2010 Constitution opened up space for women’s political participation in Kenya. While the gender rule realization remains elusive as has been evidenced in the several failed attempts by Parliament to give it the much-needed shot in the arm, we have noted milestones in the journey.

Apart from Karua’s rise, we’ve seen many women contest the governorship. Many more have been named running mates in several counties. They deserve support, not ridicule. We cannot do the same thing all the time and expect a different outcome. 

Our society must reject all forms of humiliation and violence against women politicians. The time has come for us to completely reject political figureheads who have refused to accept that time for women has come, and that time is now.

As a governorship aspirant in this election, I have a conviction that the horse has bolted. To borrow the words of Martin Luther King Jnr during the defining moments of the civil rights movement in the US, “I have a dream.” 

Ten years after devolution, we are still confronted with teething socio-economic challenges, graft being chief among them. My Homa Bay gubernatorial bid is premised on establishing a transformative, efficient and inclusive governance system, improving healthcare and citizens’ wellbeing, ensuring food security, job creation and poverty eradication, empowering women and youth and harnessing untapped cultural and tourism potential. Ours is the land of legends and we must live up to the bill.

With the benefit of hindsight, having served two terms as a county MP, my antidote would be a prudent use of our available resources.

There’s need to change tack in addressing the age-old challenges of abject poverty, corruption, wanting healthcare standards and high disease burden, poor infrastructure and insecurity.

I share in Azimio’s belief that to realise the potential of devolution, there’s isn’t been a better time to eliminate graft, strengthen social welfare programmes, expand education opportunities, create more jobs by strengthening manufacturing and usher in good governance. Poor governance practices are substantially to blame for our county’s current social, political, and economic challenges.

Kenyans be warned. Women can no longer be taken for granted. The train has long left the station. William Ruto and Kenya Kwanza must take the cue from Azimio. The country and more so the womenfolk, are watching. As concerns August 9, Karua and Raila have what it takes to deliver us to Canaan.