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Can Martha Karua amass enough women votes to tilt poll victory for Azimio?

Raila Odinga with his running mate, Martha Karua (left), during a rally at William Ole Ntimama Stadium in Narok County. May 22, 2022. [Kipsang Joseph, Standard] 

Can Martha Karua use the gender card to rally women across the country and tilt the vote in favour of the Azimio la Umoja One Kenya coalition ticket?

Although women are about half the number of voters in the country, they have not shown a lot of enthusiasm to vote for one of their own in past elections.

Analysts and women politicians are confident they will use their numerical strength to ensure victory for the Raila-Karua presidency this time.

Former Nairobi County Assembly Speaker Beatrice Elachi argues that the momentum that Ms Karua’s nomination created across the county bears testimony to the trust Kenyans have in her leadership.

“The political mood in the country changed hours after she was nominated and the excitement it created not only among women but across the country is breathtaking,” says Ms Elachi. She wants Ms Odinga to go even further and appoint Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu as the Chief Minister, a position Wiper leader Kalonzo Musyoka rejected, to increase more votes for Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya.

The Dagoretti North parliamentary seat aspirant says Ms Karua’s track record in politics, her unwavering fight for integrity, and her consistency in the fight for human rights make her attractive. Political analyst Prof Macharia Munene agrees that Ms Karua will attract a few votes among the youth, particularly the younger lot that will be voting for the first time.

He described her as an inspirational leader capable of influencing reluctant young women to vote, especially those who will cast their ballots for the first time.

“She will get a few thousands of votes in many areas across the country which will make a lot of difference when it comes to the 25 per cent threshold to be met by more than half of the counties,” he said.

Added to the fact that she is an old hand that has been tried and tested in local politics, Ms Karua appeals to older women who want change and those in professional circles whose support is largely guaranteed.

The former Gichugu MP is a hard campaigner, and although she does not always get many votes, she is a hard worker, an attitude many women resonate with.

The fact that she is doing fairly well and making people listen to her in places like Meru where crowds have been hostile to Azimio la Umoja–One Kenya attests to her bravery.

Lack of goodwill?

Ms Elachi dismissed the long-held argument that Kenyan women are their own worst enemies because they hardly vote for their own kind, mostly because of ethnicity or lack of goodwill.

She says the ethnicity card cannot deter them.

The performance of women like Busia woman representative Florence Mutua who is from Ukambani but married in Busia, Cecily Mbarire from Embu and married in Teso and Naisula Lesuuda an MP in Samburu who is married in Eldama Ravine is a big inspiration for women.

Others like Kandara MP Alice Wahome married in Nyeri, Anne Waiguru married in Murang’a but serves in Kirinyaga and Gladys Wanga MP in Homa Bay but from Muhoroni are other examples Ms Elachi wants women to emulate.

Women see Ms Karua opening new frontiers that will embolden them to go for more prominent offices in large numbers as they look back at the long journey they have travelled.

Ms Elachi is full of admiration for pioneer women rights fighters like Phoebe Asiyo, Julia Ojiambo, Ms Ngilu, Beth Mugo, Nyiva Mwendwa and Zipporah Kittony.

She credits them for fighting to ensure Kenyans appreciate women from diverse backgrounds with good leadership.

Women politicians are confident they will use their numerical strength to vote for Martha Karua (right). [Allan Gichigi, Standard]

“It is a great honour that in her 90s Ms Asiyo, who fought for gender rights from the 1960s, has lived to see that a woman is running as Deputy President in one of the leading coalitions and another as a governor in Homa Bay county,” says Elachi.

Ms Kittony, a former Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organisation (MYWO) chairperson, says Ms Karua will deliver votes for the party.

Blending easily

She was impressed by Ms Karua’s ability to easily blend with other women leaders when she visited Eldoret a few weeks before she was nominated.

“Women have waited a long time for such a moment. That is why we have been telling them their time is now,” Ms Kittony said.

The task ahead is for women to convince a majority of the four million MYWO members to vote for one of their own in August.

“We are talking to women because if they come out in large numbers with a clear focus, then we will be home and dry,” Ms Kittony said.

Prof Gitile Naituli of Multi-Media University rated Ms Karua as a game-changer in the Raila ticket because it is a revolutionary plan that appeals to women and all Kenyans.

“This is the ticket we should have had in 2002 but we got (the late President Mwai) Kibaki, who was a good President but conservative,” Prof Naituli said.

He says the heckling Ms Karua’s campaign team faced this week in Mt Kenya will mellow with time as she will soon be seen as a candidate who means well for the region and is against corruption.

Ms Elachi also appreciates that Mr Odinga has been steadfast in supporting women and 80 per cent of those who have served in Parliament came through him, among them Ms Sophia Abdi. The latter was among the first women elected in North Eastern.

Turning to Ms Ngilu, Ms Elachi said her nomination as Chief Minister will be a no-brainer because she is best suited to take over from the flip-flopping Musyoka.

“We want a Cabinet where people listen to each other. These are women who have been in politics and served with distinction. They understand the needs of the people and how to reach other colleagues.”