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Here is election ‘cheat sheet’ for 2022

OPINION
By Saoyo Tabitha | November 1st 2021

Families and friends play around with a monkey at City Park Nairobi on December 27, 2020. [David Njaaga, Standard]

Christmas in Kenya is almost always predictable. Everybody packs and heads for the village after disappearing for a year. The flyers for the New Year’s party are everywhere. Goats begin appearing in Nairobi. Clothes sales are advertised left, right and centre, and everybody is trying to sell you a holiday package.

Then comes January 1, and all the hype goes away. The dust settles. School fees, textbooks and back to school plans check-in. Kenya’s election cycles are almost also this predictable. Political aspirants begin their campaigns a year before the voting date. Flyers appear everywhere, with contestants declaring their preferred position, party and where they are running.

They visit the village where nobody has seen or heard from them for four years. They have pictures on social media washing clothes with the locals, distributing food rations in arid areas and getting rained on, all in the name of ‘assimilating with the common man’. Pledges and promises are made and everyone is trying to sell you their manifesto in exchange for your vote.

Since coming of age, I have voted in three elections, 2007, 2013 and 2017. I did not honour my civic duty in the re-election of 2017 directed by the Supreme Court. I thought my choice had been quite clear in the first round and a gut feeling made it obvious that my preferred candidate was not going to hold the coveted Bible to be sworn in.

The 2022 election buzz is already here. I can see posters everywhere, with political aspirants encouraging voters to register. This scenario feels familiar, and if the Supreme Court continues with the same streak that BBI has so far received at the High Court and Court of Appeal, by God I can almost pre-empt how 2022 political campaigns will run.

This time, however, I do not want to wait until the media organises a presidential debate to unpack who resonates with my values. I want to make demands to all those who are yet to write their manifestos. I want to change that narrative of helplessness that many voters have over who is calling the shots. This time round, I am only interested in listening to six sets of aspirants, from the lowest seat (MCA) to the President, who have a clear agenda that focuses on the place of women.

From climate change to the economy to health, transport and education, any aspirant worth their salt must have a clear vision on the central place that women will occupy in their manifesto. These pledges must be boldly engraved in ink so that when they disappoint us, we will have written words to hold them accountable. Political aspirants must remember that they are interviewing for a job, and so, for the short-listed candidates who by corruption, God’s will or party favouritism get their party nominations, as your duly appointed employer, I am eager to see who will demonstrate the following: First, a pledge to have a percentage of elected and appointed seats allocated to women, be it at the Ward Committees or in Cabinet. Second, a manifesto that pledges first-class health treatment to ensure women do not die needlessly from preventable health complications.

Third, a pledge that girls’ retention in all levels of education will be prioritised. As top-performing students, we are tired of repeating Class Eight simply because we could not afford high school fees. Fourth, that all government-approved constructions in Kenya will have a gendered lens. We cannot be walking longer routes because the pathways and sidewalks (if any) that you design are not safe for us at night.

I want aspirants who will pledge the safety of women and girls during the electioneering period. We will not buy emergency contraception in preparation for sexual violence. I want aspirants that nuance and acknowledge the central place of women in critical issues such as climate change, mental health, police reforms, caregiving and social protection of the elderly. If for any reason there is an aspirant who is yet to type the last full stop on their manifesto, here is the cheat sheet. Women are waiting for your pledge.

The writer is an award-winning Human Rights Lawyer, PhD Candidate and Aspen New Voices Fellow

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