Enhance safety of female candidates in campaigns

With three presidential running mates and 57 governorship candidates, women’s increasing participation in national politics is enhancing democracy. After all, women make up slightly more than half of the population and locking them out of the decision arenas is unfair and undemocratic.

The strong women’s showing in pursuit of leadership is manifested in the fact that some 57 of them are also gunning for the deputy governor positions, 340 are running for Parliament, 42 for the 47 senatorial seats, and 1,187 are MCA candidates. They have not been discouraged by the fact that the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule has remained elusive.

Ours is a traditionally male-dominated society, but there have been impressive steps to empower women to run for public office. Violence is a crude weapon that is often used to scare women away from the campaign trail.

There is also the use of crude language and base insults against those who dare to seek leadership.

However, the emergence of more women candidates confirms that these primitive tactics as no longer working as well as in the past. This is so yet violent election campaigns still hamper women’s participation. Attacks targeting women often scare many of them from seeking leadership and if not stemmed, could disenfranchise them further by discouraging them from even voting.

A study by the Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya (Fida) has fingered Nairobi, Kisumu and Siaya as the most unsafe counties for women in this year’s election campaigns. The three were found to account for more than half of the attacks against women. They are not the only ones, though. Others include Kericho, Marsabit, Kisii, Nakuru, and Mombasa.

Fida recorded 745 attacks countrywide on female candidates and aspirants between April and June. The report has documented incidents of gender-based violence at cultural events, including funerals and even church gatherings.

It gets even dicier for women, especially on the polling day and during the counting of votes and announcement of results. These are usually more volatile and women candidates are at greater risk. All the candidates, and especially women, must be protected from attacks by hoodlums, goons and other hirelings. They must also be shielded from verbal abuse.

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