What you need to know:
- In an ideal world, we could tally up the things that our politicians have done for us, and vote for them accordingly
- But in this world that we live in, all we can do is shame people—ever so slightly— into action on Twitter
A friend brought this viral image to my attention. The picture shows a mabati construction in Nyeri County—then again, construction is too fancy a word for what that thing looked like. It has three boards around it, and an open fourth 'wall', and a barely-there roof supported by four poles. When your eyes move from the debris that surrounds it, and after you question which person abandoned this shelter, you'll see a placard proudly declaring that this ramshackle eyesore was donated by Honourable Rahab Mukami, the Nyeri County Woman Representative. Then there's a mocking motto under her name: 'Maendeleo Mashinani.'
A couple of days ago, Millicent Omanga put one of her donations up on Twitter, with a caption that read, 'The transformation that warms my body organs.' There was a lady roadside seller's picture under the caption; a before and after of her torn and tattered wide umbrella, and the one Millicent donated to her after. The umbrella, of course, had Millicent's name emblazoned across it.
The transformation that these women are talking about is non-existent. To start with, 'warm body organs' means you have a fever. Please see a doctor. Second, that mocking motto, this supposed change, that these women are pursuing, quite literally is not there. What maendeleo has that shed brought exactly? Why is it so filthy? How is donating an umbrella and not assisting in capacity building done anything for this roadside seller? And if there was some sort of capacity building – where's THAT tweet? Because that's the one I want to see. And of course, the more obvious one, is how conveniently placed all these bad pictures are, considering how much closer we are to elections.
I understand that politics is a game, but it is way past time that we started calling our politicians to task – for me, as a woman, our female ones. The whole point of women Reps is that women's views, wants, needs and capacities are listened to and utilised. When women do this thing of donating one mabati sheet in a community that clearly doesn't need it, it emboldens other people—equally underworking and overpaid men—to think that women's Reps aren't needed, and they can therefore run for our positions, the few positions we have. As you will recall, this has happened before.
In an ideal world, we could tally up the things that our politicians have done for us, and vote for them accordingly. But in this world that we live in, all we can do is shame people—ever so slightly— into action on Twitter, and such things.
I'm sure there are other things these women have done, that I haven't seen (please, show me!) – or at least, I would hope so. But this outright insult to the average Kenyan's intelligence, while using Kenyan taxpayers' money to do it and inflate the total bill—while adding to our excise duty fuel and other taxes – should not be acceptable in a new dispensation.
Maybe it's too late for us as a generation. Maybe it has to be the next generation of politicians, the ones after us, the ones who burn schools when they're not heard and create new entrepreneurial careers every day – maybe it's them, their time, that will make a difference. A future in which the things that are being lauded are actual schools and stadiums, and electricity and running water, as opposed to defiance of Covid-19 protocols and 50 bob handouts in shacks that would look at home in an NGO's advertisement of why to donate to Africa – flies attached separately. But until then, we'll have to reckon with the fact that when it comes to equality, the only place where the patriarchy and feminism are achieving parallel gains is in the mediocrity of offerings that the Kenyan people receive from their multigendered leaders.