What you need to know:
If you have lived in this story, and you have the power to change it…then why wouldn’t you? What’s stopping you?
Oh joy! Elections are over and we can go back to our relatively normal semi-uninterrupted lives of going out in the streets again, holding leaders to account, and regular brunch.
One set of leaders that I am perhaps too hard on is those who are in government, and are women. I think this is something that has been socialised in us all. If you were following the brouhaha of the election season, you can clearly see that women are treated very differently from men, and maybe that is something I have absorbed as well—to an unhealthy degree. Sometimes I remember too much, and too loudly, what one or the other woman has done, instead of also remembering the litany of complaints her male counterparts have to their names – or even, outside of the litany, I poke at her for one single incident, instead of remembering her for her record. Everyone has a blemish on their history, and as we choose our leadership, we should try and gravitate towards the people who have done more good than harm.
On top of higher than harsh judgments, women’s campaigns are often derailed by suddenly unearthed scandals of misconduct, that more often than not have no evidence, or in comparison to fellow political candidates, are miniscule in effect. Not that I’m saying that candidates should be blameless, or that they should be compared to everyone else, but if there is a shifting scale in which we know everyone is not perfect, surely women shouldn’t be judged that harshly?
Already, running as a woman is so hard – women candidates have to take extra care when they’re sharing their manifestos on the ground, with a lot more protection, preparedness, and awareness. There are groups and caucuses formed to train women politicians on preventing physical harm; almost as if we are being punished for even thinking of standing for office in the first place.
That being said, I would like to see more women in office – as ex-Chief Justice Maraga stated in 2020, the constitution of the Parliament is illegal in terms of gender representation. And as for the women who are already in office, I want to feel more tangible impact from their policies and bills than what I am currently feeling. I want there to be more attention paid to the rights of a woman over her body, both medical and physical. I want more severe legal ramifications for perpetrators of assault and violence on women.
I want more homes and shelters, especially those under the government mandate, for the survivors of GBV. I want archaic laws scrapped, laws that stop women from carrying protection like pepper spray – because what other means do we have, if we have to wait for the corruption of the police force to be dealt with? Goodness, I want basic things like street electrification to be widespread, for the safety of everyone concerned. And I don’t think this is too much to ask.
When I said I take these women who are in office to task so much, I think I do so because I expect that as women, they have a unique understanding of what it means to be a woman in this country – our struggles, our wins and woes, the glass ceilings we still are forced to break, the salaries we basically beg for and negotiate for to death – all of these comprise the experience of womanhood in Kenya. In my opinion, if you have lived in this story, and you have the power to change it…then why wouldn’t you? What’s stopping you?
I have dreams and hopes that I want to come to fruition – hopes for a better government, and a hope that women, will be at the forefront of that change. I also hope that that isn’t too much to ask.