How gender dynamics played out in the 2022 poll

A man marks the ballot papers for his wife at Embakasi Girls Secondary School polling station in Nairobi County on August 9, 2022 during the General Election.

Photo credit: Moraa Obiria | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Kenyans and especially gender equality advocates, were happy  when Martha Karua was picked as a presidential running mate ;it was time for women to join the Executive arm of government.
  • Some advocates, however,  think this was simply some sort of tokenism for women.

The 2022 General Election brought to light gender dynamics in how men and women vote for political leaders.

In May, when Azimio presidential flagbearer Raila Odinga picked Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as his running mate, a cloud of excitement covered the country.

From interviews conducted by Nation.Africa thereafter, Kenyans and especially gender equality advocates, were happy that political parties had finally recognised that it was time for women to join the Executive arm of government.

But this seems not to be the case for other advocates.

“It later turned out to be some sort of tokenism for women yet there is nothing to beg about being included in political leadership. You could tell from the campaign messaging that her selection was not a genuine move but a mere political strategy to win,” said a head of an international feminist organisation who preferred anonymity.

Their competitor Dr William Ruto and his running mate Rigathi Gachagua were declared winners of the election, but Azimio has since challenged this at the Supreme Court.

Then came the actual voting.

At Embakasi Girls Secondary School polling station in Embakasi South, Nairobi County, a man literally voted on behalf of his wife.

Little education

Having voted early in the morning, the husband accompanied his wife through the queue to the booth where he marked the ballot papers for her.

The husband said he wouldn't allow her to vote on her own as she had little education, and he had already decided whom they would vote for.

While the wife said, she was fine with her husband assisting her to vote.

Well, that wasn’t a surprise.

Following the 2017 election, Carter Centre, which led an election observation mission in Kenya, held consultations with women from eight counties, exploring challenges hindering their political participation.

The counties were Nyeri, Narok, Kisumu, Bungoma, Baringo, Kitui, Garissa, and Lamu. The women reported that in some cases, husbands dictate whom their wives should support. Thus, influenced a woman to vote for a male candidate, even if a woman is her preferred candidate.

Particularly in Narok, they said, in cases of women with zero education, their husbands intimidated them to support specific candidates. Other times, “the husband decides who will assist them in the voting booth, thus ensuring they vote according to their husband’s wishes.”

Nevertheless, men contributed to the win of women in the elections.

Men account for 50.88 per cent of the 22,120,458 who registered to vote in the 2022 election compared to 49.12 per cent of women.

And voters elected seven women governors, three senators, 29 Members of Parliament and at least 99 County Assembly members.