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ELECTION 2022

'Women of Steel': Female politicians set to give men a run for money in August polls

POLITICS
By Ben Ahenda | Mar 4th 2022 | 5 min read

Governors Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Charity Ngilu (Kitui) and Homa Bay Woman Rep Gladys Wanga during a BBI consultative meeting at Bukhungu stadium in Kakamega on January 18, 2020. [Benjamin Sakwa]


As the August 9 General Election draws nearer, female aspirants have emerged to seek key elective posts in various counties and are set to give men a run for their money.

Although it is not the first time women are competing against men, this time round they (women) have displayed vigour in the race for top seats in counties against the opposite gender.

In the last election, 29 per cent more women ran for office than in the previous election.

Currently, there are 172 women among the 1,883 elected seats in the country, up from 145 after the 2013 elections.

With the polls barely five months away, more women have shown interest in various elective seats and pundits say the number might be much higher than in 2017.

"The country has been able to break down some of the barriers that made it impossible for women to take part in politics and win elective seats. Women now are more actively involved in politics than before," said Prof Gitile Naituli, a professor of management and leadership

The country is now witnessing vigorous campaigns involving women aspiring to become governors, senators and MPs.

Most of them have strategically aligned themselves with key coalitions and leading presidential contenders.

They are either aligned to Azimio la Umoja led by Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) leader Raila Odinga, Kenya Kwanza Alliance (KKA) led by Deputy President William Ruto and Okoa Kenya Alliance (OKA) of Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka.

Others are working with Kanu Chairman Gideon Moi, Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua and United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Cyrus Jirongo.

A number of fringe political parties are also ready to field their candidates independently from the main three coalitions.

Breaking glass ceiling

Homa Bay woman representative Gladys Wanga, former Water Cabinet Secretary Sicily Kariuki, Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika, Busia and Kisii Women Representatives Florence Mutua and Janet Ong’era respectively and Nairobi Governor Ann Kananu are some of those who have come out strongly to declare their intentions to vie for top posts.

Others are former Starehe MP Margaret Wanjiru, former Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Martha Karua, Chief Executive officer of Keroche Breweries Limited Tabitha Karanja, Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu and Kericho deputy Governor Lilly Chepngetich Ng’ok.

Those seeking governorship are Gladys Wanga (Homabay), Sicily Kariuki (Nyandarua), Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Florence Mutua (Busia), Janet Ong’era (Kisii), Margaret Wanjiru (Nairobi), Martha Karua (Kirinyaga), Ng’ok (Kericho) while Kananu and Ngilu will defend their Nairobi and Kitui seats respectively.

Keroche Breweries CEO Tabitha Karanja wants to succeed Kihika(Susan) as the next Nakuru senator on a United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket.

Kariuki, who is out to unseat Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia and former Governor Waithaka Mwangi -seeking a comeback, said women have come of age and are better and more accomplished leaders.

Water CS Sicily Kariuki during an interview at Windsor Golf Hotel and Country Club on February 10, 2022. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

“We have done well in the corporate and public sectors in positions where men had failed and that makes us better leaders. I at one time managed three ministries simultaneously and what makes you think I cannot be an accomplished Nyandarua Governor?,” questioned Kariuki.

The former CS says she is more interested in serving the people of Nyandarua and in achieving their expectations is not rocket science.

On her part, Wanga who is aiming to become the first female Governor in the Luo Nyanza will face 10 strong men in former Nairobi Governor Dr Evans Kidero, Suba South MP and ODM Chairman John Mbadi, former Kasipul Kabondo MP Oyugi Magwanga, Homabay senator Moses Kajwang’, Homabay Deputy Governor Hamilton Orata, Homabay Town MP Peter Opondo Kaluma, KUPPET Secretary General Akelo Misori, Homabay County Secretary Isaiah Ogwe, Nairobi businessman Jared Otieno Kiasa and Homabay Finance Executive Nicholas K’oriko.

In a show of might, Wanga rallied Homa bay residents to back her bid on February 13, 2022,  promising to transform the county.

At her event were Governors Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Anne Kananu (Nairobi), Senators Ledama ole Kina (Narok), Rose Nyamunga (Nominated) and MPs Babu Owino (Embakasi East), Godfrey Osotsi (nominated) and Ong’ondo Were (Kasipul) who all vouched for Wanga’s leadership.

In the Nairobi Gubernatorial contest, Bishop Wanjiru will face off with Westlands MP Timothy Wanyonyi and Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja to unseat the current officer holder Ann Kananu.

Early this year, Wanjiru claimed Nairobians had made up their minds on her candidature compared to her opponents.

In Kericho Gubernatorial elections, Ng’ok will face former Energy Cabinet Secretary Charles Keter and Chuka University lecturer Dr Erick Mutai.

Ng’ok said having served as a senior administrator at a local university had given her exposure to be appointed the deputy governor (after the death of former DG the late Susan Kikwai), a move that encouraged her to go for the top seat.

Lily Ng'ok when she took the oath of office as deputy governor for Kericho county. [Nikko Tanui, Standard]

“This is when I realized I had leadership qualities that gave me the determination to go for the top seat,” Ng’ok told a local TV in a live interview on February 24, 2022.

Close ties with party leadership

University of Nairobi lecturer Herman Manyora says quite a number of women aspirants will be elected to the powerful governor position due to their closeness to party leaders.

Those close to their party leaders are Wanga who is an ally of ODM Party leader Raila Odinga, Kirinyaga Governor Ann Waiguru and Nakuru Senator Susan Kihika eyeing the Nakuru Gubernatorial seat are seemingly close to UDA leader and Deputy President William Ruto.

"These women are very powerful by the virtue of being close to their party leaders and they should not be underrated at any cost by their male opponents since they could pull some surprises,” Manyora told The Standard in an interview.

Asked why all of them had trained their hopes on that seat, Manyora said the governor’s seat is very powerful and lucrative and these aspirants have come to realize it at this point in time as opposed to the past.

He said chances are high the female aspirants who are close to their party leaders would win their seats.

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