What you need to know:
- Women in Nothern Kenya still battle social exclusion.
- This immense disparaging of women has made it nearly impossible for the council of elders, who are vested with the responsibility of validating political candidates, to endorse women to run for political seats no matter how influential they are.
Northern Kenya has seen sluggish progress in women’s participation and representation in politics.
This state of affairs has compelled female elite in Marsabit County to embark on promoting women’s leadership in the region.
Speaking during a Women Leadership Workshop at Chicho Guest House in Marsabit last week, the Abrassa Mentorship and Empowerment Network (Amen-Kenya) Project Manager Zainabu Galgallo, said women in the region still battle social exclusion.
“We can’t win or change the course of our lives if we leave more than three-quarters of the team out of the game,” Ms Galgallo said, adding that the deeply entrenched patriarchy has locked women out of leadership.
She said pastoralist men own and control resources, dominating nearly all socio-economic activities, politics and decision-making. Women are left to play secondary, subordinate roles to fathers, husbands and sons.
This immense disparaging of women has made it nearly impossible for the council of elders, who are vested with the responsibility of validating political candidates, to endorse women to run for political seats no matter how influential they are.
Girls are cast as the weaker sex in pastoralist communities and are taught to obey, respect and submit to men’s leadership.
On that account, women contestants often meet hostility during the electioneering periods as some are derided, insulted, booed or even stripped naked to make them back out of the political race.
Ms Galgallo observed that women, being the majority voters in the region, were likely to emerge winners if they supported one of their own.
She added that the endemic ethnic strife experienced in Marsabit would be a thing of the past if women were elected since they are compassionate and empathetic, and would foster ethnic integration and cohesion.
She decried the current statistics that indicate that women only hold only 10 per cent of leadership positions in the region.
Her sentiments were echoed by Marsabit Women Advocacy and Development Organisation (Mwado) Executive Officer Nuria Gollo, who blamed retrogressive cultural practices, limited resources, high level of illiteracy and predominant patriarchy for the woes women in the region grapple with.
She underscored the importance of women role models as a modality of influencing more of them to take up leadership roles.
Additionally, Ms Gollo explained that the most critical factor that limits pastoralist girls’ education was not necessarily social or cultural barriers, but the fear that an educated woman would move away from the pastoralist economy.
“The rife illiteracy in these regions is the greatest pastoralist women’s undoing, it’s high time we changed our perception about formal education,” Ms Golloh said.
She called on women to come out in big numbers and contest political seats in the forthcoming election to change the narrative of the region.