What you need to know:
- Bullying has, for a long time, been synonymous with women vying for elective posts in Kenya.
- Boardrooms, too, would not have the pitifully low numbers of female representation.
If the boisterous cries against “bullying and victimisation” in relation to the threats of impeachment against Kirinyaga County Governor Anne Waiguru don’t sound a claxon about hypocrisy in matters gender equality, then little else will.
What has long been served to us in teaspoons by politicians is suddenly being dished out in gallons of empty rhetoric.
In speaking against corruption allegations levelled against Ms Waiguru, ODM’s Junet Mohamed said the party would defend the embattled governor, as she was “being bullied simply because she is a woman” and that “some people out there do not believe that women can lead”.
Thank you, mheshimiwa, for gallantly coming to the defence of a damsel in distress. But think about it. Can any political party in Kenya confidently say they believe in women’s leadership unless in reference to tokenism?
Gender inequality in political leadership in Kenya currently stands at 23.5 per cent across government bodies, according to Women Deliver, a global agency that champions gender equality and the health and rights of girls and women. We lag behind our East African counterparts.
Ms Waiguru is one of the three governors elected in 2017, so the need to protect her from harm can be understood. But in this specific context, the concern is not genuine.
If we lived in a country that believed women can lead, then they would not have to shed blood and tears to hold political seats. Boardrooms, too, would not have the pitifully low numbers of female representation.
Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia, in defending the governor, termed the calls for her impeachment a showcase of “how we don’t value strong women leadership”.
She is right, to some extent. Bullying has, for a long time, been synonymous with women vying for elective posts in Kenya.
But even that statement smacks of insincerity.
Because Ms Waiguru is only the latest in a string of female politicians who’ve come under political fire for one allegation or another. Where was the public defence when the backs of the other women were against the wall? Is it that they did not have “strong leadership” or is it that it did not serve any political agenda to support them? The jury’s out on that one.
It’s preposterous to use the gender card only when it’s convenient to do so and not in instances when it’s sorely needed. Hopefully, the flak CS Kobia received from online watchdogs gave her office points of reflection.
On the other hand, the politicians who claim to be the heroes in matters of gender equality had many opportunities to prove this but they did not.
The elusive two-thirds gender rule bill, which seeks to bridge the gender disparity in the House by allowing for extra nomination slots for women, has flopped four times, with no record of loud protests from politicians. Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (Kewopa), which should have featured prominently, also seems to be a cosmetic outfit, a mask to be worn only when it’s convenient.
There are many more instances of gender injustices.
It took the intervention of ordinary Kenyans to save the women and children who slept in the cold after the Kariobangi demolitions, not the politicians singing the gender equality song.
And where was the indignation when more than three million schoolgirls went without their supply of sanitary towels in 2019 despite the government allocating Sh420 million for the same?
Unless the message being passed across here is that the plight of a governor facing impeachment is more important than that of a girl who can’t attend school because she is on her monthly period.
Or the girl whose studies have been cut short because she is pregnant. Or Purity Muthoki from Makueni whose husband recently chopped both her hands off. Or primary-school-age boys who were sodomised in Chuka.
Pretending to give a hoot about the gender agenda for political mileage leaves a disgraceful stain on the fight.
Ms Oneya comments on social and gender topics. Email: [email protected]; Twitter: @FaithOneya