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Gender and Governance

Curses pose a big challenge for women candidates in getting elected

While attending a feedback meeting organized by the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) for women candidates from Laikipia and Samburu Counties, Rebecca Lolosoli narrated how women from Waso Ward were made to believe they would be cursed if they voted for a women.

“It was hard to convince my people especially the women to vote for me because they had already been warned there would be repercussions if they did. I think that is some kind of a rigging strategy so that the votes can go to a particular person which is very unfair. ” Rebecca Lamented.

David Lekoomet Rebecca’s Chief Campaign’s Manager also in attendance explained his challenges for supporting a woman leader. “The council of elders discourage men from giving support to women candidates and those who defy such orders are isolated since they are considered bewitched.” The elders excommunicated Lekoomet from the community for his staunch support for a woman candidate, a thing that was unheard of in their community. The fact that Rebecca was running against her ex-husband, Mr. Lolosoli made it even harder for both of them to conduct campaigns and to garner enough votes to win her the Waso Ward ticket.

Rebecca and David feel that they did not win because their community especially the women believe in curses and fear going against advices made by the elders. The saddest part is that Rebecca lost to her ex-husband to whom he had sought for votes just to frustrate the effort of Rebecca.

The women candidates also reported that most women Identity cards had been with held by their husbands and had been demanded to vote for their preferred candidate. If the wife failed to comply, they would be barred from voting and exercising their democratic and constitutional rights to vote for their favorable candidate.

The women candidates reported that due to intimidation from the elders, they had to step down for lesser competitive positions such as the woman representative position to give leeway to their male counterparts to vie for the ‘higher’ positions. It was noted that other women candidates had to step down on behalf of their brothers, brothers-in-law or husbands out of family support.

Sarah Areman who had expressed interest to vie for Member of the National Assembly Laikipia North had to seek a lesser position to vie for Segera Ward representative position because they elders thought she would not make it for the Member of the National Assembly position.  Susan Leaduma a woman candidate from Samburu West Constituency vied for Losuk Ward Representative as her brother-in-law. Susan explained she had been the fist to declare her interest and expected her brother-in-law to support her but had to vie against him.

Other challenges women have to deal with include financial constraints as they are unable to raise funds to assist their campaigns. In most cases women end up using most of their family savings and end up being broke after the elections. Lack of media coverage is another challenge the women candidates have to grapple with as the media has become very expensive for them. The women complained that majority of the journalists ask for a lot of money just to get coverage.

Beth Kamau, a journalist with Radio Citizen, explained to them women that they were being duped by the journalists to pay money for coverage. She demystified the myth that media is only expensive when it’s being paid for advertisement. She said it’s also important for the women to understand that some of the journalists are not facilitated with transport or lunch and the best thing you can do is to give some small allowance just for appreciation.

Lack of information is also a big challenge especially for the women who do not understand their rights to vote and to vie for political positions. It is their imperative that NGOs conduct civic education nationwide to inform the communities on what is expected of them by the Constitution so as to demystify myths such as those of clanism and curses. There is a need to be inclusive when conducting civic education by including the village elders and religious leaders in support of women leadership. The elders need to be sensitized on gender issues so as to understand the importance of gender equality as envisaged in the Constitution.

Despite the women candidates losing the elections the women are still motivated to push forward for another battle in 2017. They have learnt and they have grown from the experiences of the elections and are looking forward to 2017 with great optimism. Other women candidates are looking forward to working in the county assemblies and county committees. Jane Meshami from Dol Dol has been nominated to Laikipia County assembly so is Margaret Kamau who is pushing for her nomination in the same assembly.

The meeting was held in Isiolo on 13th and 14th May 2013 was organized by the Association of Media Women in Kenya and supported by UN-Women under the Gender and Governance Project phase 2.

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