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Violence, insults and lack of financial might pushing women away from elective politics

Upset woman during a meeting at work [Courtesy]

Vihiga Nominated MCA Jackline Mwenesi has weathered many storms.

She has survived attacks in her line of duty. “But the attacks have hardened me,” she told The Standard on Sunday by telephone.

The most recent was on November 10 when Deputy President William Ruto’s motorcade was stoned at Kondele in Kisumu County.

“I suddenly found myself in the thick of it, stones were being hurled from all corners and there was nowhere to hide,” said Mwenesi, nominated Member of the Vihiga County Assembly.

Later, area police said the violence started when youths disagreed over distribution of campaign money, but this was disputed by the political leaders.

Days earlier, Mwenesi and her colleagues ran into a hostile crowd at Korinda in Busia during Ruto’s tour of the county.

She was a victim of police brutality in 2019 when police lobbed teargas to disperse a crowd that had attended an ‘illegal’ rally in Mumias town.

But that has not discouraged her from pursuing her dream of running for higher political office next year.

Mwenesi said she is focused on clinching the Vihiga Woman Representative seat on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party ticket.

“I believe women have been treated unfairly in politics; we are attacked and insulted by supporters of our rivals yet no action is taken to end the attacks,” she said.

“I have fallen victim of violence, political threats and intimidation and many other bad things. However, I will not give up.”

Mwenesi has also been trolled on social media platforms and insulted by other politicians.

“The attacks come in many forms including physical attacks, psychological torture, sexual and largely economic attacks,” said Mwenesi.

According to Nominated Senator Naomi Shiyonga, women ought to up their game and compete for different elective seats next year despite hostilities they face.

She also wants relevant authorities to guarantee women a level playground.

Shiyonga, who is eyeing the Kakamega woman rep seat, believes women stand a better chance to win parliamentary, senatorial, gubernatorial and county assembly seats if they mean to do it.

“Culture and lack of respect for women have been major issues in Western, but slowly we are overcoming that. We have female politicians who have declared interest in top county jobs, including Busia County MP Florence Mutua, who is keen on succeeding Governor Sospeter Ojaamong,” she said.

Ms Shiyonga also cited ignorance among women and fear of violence as factors that have eclipsed them in the past.

“We would like political parties to open up and create a friendly environment for women to take leadership positions. I believe 2022 will be the beginning of the female politicians' breakthrough. We shall not let men take away everything,” said the senator.

According to her, some women who are already in leadership positions have also suppressed the voice of budding female politicians.

“Some of the women in leadership are corrupt, and they do everything possible to fight potential women leaders from being heard. It is unacceptable,” argued Shiyonga.

“We want to change the narrative to make men see development in a different context. We want them to understand that women can make better leaders.” 

In Meru, a region that has seen only one woman elected as an MP since independence, women leaders have decried violence that continues to be meted against them.

Annaritah Karimi Njeru is the only woman to have been elected in the larger Meru (Meru and Tharaka Nithi counties) after she won the Central Imenti seat in 1975.

From then on, female politicians in Meru have found it a monumental task to be elected MP, even though the Constitution came to their rescue when it created the woman rep position.

In the highly patriarchal society, those seeking the less prestigious seats of MCA have fared better, with Kisima MCA Joy Karambu beating a good number of men to win the seat twice.

Eunice Karegi also did well when she amassed enough votes to win the Kiagu Ward seat in 2017, but then she succumbed to cancer earlier this year. 

Nominated MCA Makena Muthaura of Jubilee, who is planning to run for woman rep seat, and Gacheri Muthuri, said women have suffered violence in their quest for political seats.

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