As the world marks the 16 days of activism against Gender-Based Violence (GBV), the resilient voices of women in Mt Elgon and Trans Nzoia have exposed the harsh realities they encounter within the challenging realm of politics.
Jane Chebet, a two-term Cheptais ward representative who vied for the Mt Elgon MP seat and lost, passionately expresses the uphill battle women face in achieving the two-thirds gender rule, attributing it to entrenched male chauvinism.
Chebet vividly recalls a terrifying incident where over 20 hired goons ambushed her after articulating the need for gender mainstreaming, debunking myths about women, advocating against Female Genital Mutilation, and emphasizing the necessity of electing more women into decision-making roles.
“My driver had to speed off to save his life and mine. My vehicle's windshield, windows, and a side mirror were broken,” reveals Chebet, underscoring the challenges women endure to secure their space in leadership.
She laments that even her staunchest supporters faced threats for backing a female candidate.
“Some presiding officers and agents who advocated for free and fair elections for all candidates, regardless of gender, were threatened into silence,” Chebet discloses.
Jane Wasike, a resident of Bidii ward, faced physical assault during frontline campaigns, with her skirt torn and valuables, including three cellphones and cash, stolen.
Shockingly, when she reported the incident to Matis police station, the officer in charge dismissed it as a normal occurrence during campaigns, urging her to brace for more.
Jemimah Pkomu, who lost in her bid for Cheptais ward but now serves as a gender advisor in the office of Bungoma Governor Ken Lusaka, underscores the need to challenge stereotypes against women.
Pkomu emphasises the importance of equal access to education and applauds the 70 per cent of women who voted for their female counterparts.
Ann Bucheche, Maendeleo ya Wanawake chairperson, addresses deeply rooted cultural beliefs that have prevented Mt Elgon constituency from experiencing women's leadership for over 60 years.
Bucheche calls for men's involvement in gender mainstreaming campaigns to dismantle beliefs that belittle women.
An anonymous female representative aspirant shares a harrowing experience of being undressed while condemning attacks against women.
She questions why she was subjected to such humiliation, emphasizing the need to protect freedom of expression for women.
Jackline Kurgat, Motoshiet ward MCA in Trans Nzoia, asserts that women leaders are denied freedom of expression and association by their male counterparts.
She identifies culture as a significant threat to combating teenage pregnancies and teen marriages.
Abdel Kamasai, programmes coordinator of Kareu Mpya CBO, which empowers communities in gender mainstreaming, calls for demystifying myths against women.
He urges the implementation of constitutional provisions on the two-thirds gender rule, urging leaders to ensure equal representation in the cabinet and other appointive posts.
“As we mark these 16 days of activism, let's remember that equal access to education is a crucial step toward a brighter future,” concludes Kamasai, emphasising the importance of addressing gender-based violence to pave the way for a more equitable society.