Elders: Single men, women are 'not fit to lead', get life partners first

Jarongo Okumu, an elder from Ndhiwa sub-county. [James Omoro, Standard]

It is an electioneering period where women and men are scrambling for elective positions.

This comes against the backdrop of many women previously missing spots at the National Assembly, Senate and county assemblies. In September 2020, former Chief Justice David Maraga advised President Uhuru Kenyatta to dissolve Parliament to pave way for fresh elections that would meet the two-thirds gender rule.

Various organisations promoting the rights of women, led by Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation, are encouraging women to run for elective posts. This has seen both married and single women seek election.

But Luo elders now want unmarried women eyeing political positions to get husbands first. Their argument is that an unmarried woman is perceived by the community as a child who cannot lead.

Luo Council of Elders Chairman in Karachuonyo, Magayi Jonyo, said marriage marks the transition from childhood to adulthood.

“Marriage is what differentiates a woman from a child, regardless of their age; even if they are 50 years old.”

The senior citizen says single women lack people who can give them direction. His position is that the community believes God created men to give women direction. But the direction is mainly given to a woman by her husband.

“A woman is the head of a household but a man is the head of a family. A wife relies on direction and advice from her husband but a single woman will lack such if she is elected,” Jonyo said. He said leadership is about responsibility but single women or men are perceived to be irresponsible.

“As a community, we regard people in marriages as those who are responsible. What is a single man or woman responsible for?” Jonyo asked.

Jarongo Okumu, a 98-year-old elder from Ndhiwa Sub-county, said single men and women vying for elective positions should drop their bid and get partners first. Okumu said such aspirants have no major reason to stay single.

“Most single people vying for various elective positions are well educated. I challenge them to use the knowledge they acquired from school to win over partners. The same applies to men who are not married. After getting a wife or husband, they can now seek the elective seats,” Okumu said.

Joseph Ogada Gor, the Luo Council of Elders Chairman in Homa Bay County, said electing a single woman can hurt the region’s leadership. A single woman can be married to a man outside her electoral area after being elected.

“In case she gets married, the woman will relocate to the husband’s home, leaving the people with no leader,” Gor said, adding that failure to marry makes people doubt someone’s morality.

“People will view such an aspirant as someone with serious personal weaknesses, which may deter them from voting them in,” Gor said, adding that being married has significance for a woman seeking an elective post.

He said society considers a woman to belong to her husband’s family rather than her parents’ family. “Marriage enhances a sense of belonging. This makes it easier for people to entrust her with leadership.”

Elder Jonyo argues that marriage gives female politicians an advantage. However, some youth argued that marriage should not influence one’s choice of a leader.