Life and times of women who create political kings and queens

A political rally. For female political mobilisers, there is nothing to smile about because once the politician ascends to power, they hardly appreciate their astounding service to them.

Photo credit: John Njoroge | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Everlyne Auma has done political mobilisation job in 2017 and 2022 general elections.
  • At times, she has to wake up the women as early as 4am to prepare well for the arrival of the politician.
  • During a recent forum, 180 women mobilisers from Kawangware, Mathare and Kayole decried physical, psychological and economic violence. 

A call comes through. It is precise and imposing.

“Tomorrow, I’ll be campaigning in Mabatini (Mathare, Nairobi County) and I want you to mobilise 30 women to attend my rally,” the politician on the line orders Everlyne Auma, a woman political mobiliser in Mathare.

For the next four hours or more, she excitedly phones some. For the unreachable, she makes her way through the narrow alleys to their homes. Hurray! Her work is done.

The 30 women are expected to welcome the politician with songs and dance, and cheer her or him when addressing the crowd.

At times, she has to wake up the women as early as 4am to prepare well for the arrival of the politician at hours after 10am.

She has done this mobilisation job in 2017 and 2022 general elections, counting as one of the many women, across the country, who create political kings and queens.

There are no reliable estimates of the women mobilisers in the country but often, politicians involve women groups who number beyond 14,000.

One would expect that once the politician ascends to power, she or he would appreciate her astounding service to them.

“I remember in the last election, the politician awarded the men mobilisers with Toyota Probox. Then the politician said we would be awarded with credit for business. We were expecting that each of us would receive Sh50,000. Shock on us! We received just Sh2,500,” she says.

Economic violence

This is notwithstanding the violence she exposed herself to in order to win the politician votes.

“Sometimes, a man would spank me. If I protest, the men around him would question my sanity and morality,” she says.

“They would ask me, “Are you alright in the head? Where have you left your husband? Go take care of your husband. Which woman leaves her husband alone to engage in political campaigns?”

One time, a man in the crowd wanted to punch her. She was unhappy that a woman was a team leader. Luckily, her bodyguards were keeping watch over and they protected her.

“I’ve made friends with the young men around here - they are my bodyguards,” she says.

Her experience resonates with hundreds of other women political mobilisers.

During a recent forum held in Nairobi by Badili Africa, the 180 mobilisers from Kawangware, Mathare and Kayole decried physical, psychological and economic violence.

One mentioned being cut on her arm with a razor blade by a competitor’s supporters. Some said they worked without charge and were bawled out whenever they demanded for their pay. Others were smacked with torrents of abuse.

“Everywhere you went, people will be shouting at you ‘you’re a loser, how can you support a loser.’ Or some would come knocking on your door shouting ‘give us money, give us money.’ We live in fear that they may attack us or our children,” said one of the mobilisers from Mathare.

Preliminary findings from a study conducted by Badili Africa on the challenges faced by community mobilisers established that violence ranged from physical attacks and assault, rape, inappropriate touching, undressing in public, spreading false rumours of immorality or infidelity to verbal insults.

Badili Africa Bina Maseno, Executive Director said women political mobilisers “are key players who influence democracy,” and their rights have to be mainstreamed by political parties and relevant agencies, and honoured by politicians.