Stop onslaught on young women leaders

Gender Rights

We must protect women’s gains in terms of rights.

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Kenya has tried to bridge the gender divide in appointive and elective positions through legislation such as the two-thirds gender bill now failed several times.

But there’s a new pandemic for young women in power, designed to scare them from rising, voicing their opinion and leading as per their constitutional mandate: Patriarchy.

However, patriarchy is not new and plagues even the mature democracies. Today, a woman would be sitting at the apex of power of a superpower but for patriarchy.

Granted, there are many reasons why a woman running for political office might not win an election. But patriarchy tops the list.

Recently, a nominated senator, a young woman, reportedly narrowly escaped being stripped and assaulted at a parliamentary group meeting.

Months earlier, an elected Member of the National Assembly (MNA) was hospitalised after she was attacked. Before that, another nominated senator was fighting to keep her job over her decision to lodge a sexual harassment complaint against a man who is a senior parliamentary official.

These unabated cycles of violence are intentional, curtailing the participation of young women in politics.

In last year’s general election, a record (only) 20 women aged under 35 were elected. These were seven women governors, one MNA and 14 members of the county assembly.

And this while we boast of a youth bulge and more than half of the population being women, according to the Census.

Right to equal treatment

The Constitution gives women and men the right to equal treatment, including to opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres.

Admittedly, the playing field has never been level. But this new plot to push young women off power should be condemned. One woman leader less, elected or nominated, is pain we should not allow Kenyans to feel.

We must strictly enforce the Election Offences Act. The campaign trail is murky, a breeding ground for the culture of violence.

But for women in positions of political authority, the violence begins in online spaces and catches up with them in person.

That is infringement of women’s rights. We must protect women’s gains in terms of rights. Gender rights is not a woman issue; it is the difference between good and bad quality of life socially, economically and politically.

- Ms Aduma is the director, Run For Office. [email protected]. @AdumaWilkister