Road to victory: Women vote the stone builders rejected

Azimio la UmojaRaila Odinga, Deputy President William Ruto

Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga and Deputy President William Ruto.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Mr Raila Odinga set the ball rolling when, on May 16, he named Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as his running mate.
  • Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza last month launched a charter that seeks to enhance women’s total inclusion in the political and economic spheres.

The women vote did not seem to matter much in previous general elections like it does in this year’s election slated for August 9.

It was not as coveted as it is now. It has become a key target for leading presidential candidates as election campaigns enter the home straight. The flag-bearers are leaving nothing to chance as they woo women to support their bids.

Every vote counts if either of them has to garner 50 per cent plus one vote for a win in the first round. And so the women vote is turning out to be the stone the builders rejected and, among different voter segments, could be the cornerstone of victory in the upcoming general election.

It is little wonder that the two leading presidential candidates—Raila Odinga of the Azimio La Umoja One Kenya coalition and Kenya Kwanza Alliance’s William Ruto—are going flat out to win over women voters. They have resorted to strategic targeting of the vote basket in their runs for State House.

Azimio goodies

Mr Raila Odinga set the ball rolling when, on May 16, he named Narc Kenya leader Martha Karua as his running mate. Political observers were quick to point out that by appointing Ms Karua, Mr Odinga was seeking to tilt the crucial women vote in his favour.

Speaking shortly after nominating Ms Karua, Mr Odinga noted that after 60 years of independence, the country cannot excuse the male domination of the executive.

“For the first time in the history of our republic and on the seventh multi-party election, history is calling on us to close the gender gap in our country. History is also calling on us to reciprocate the struggles and fidelity of our women,” he said.

Last week, Azimio launched an initiative dubbed ‘A Million Women for Martha’, a drive meant to rally women's voices and votes for the coalition in next month’s election.

Acknowledging the support accorded to her during the event, Ms Karua said: "Thank you, 10 Million Women for Martha Movement for hosting me today. I am encouraged that Kenyan women from all walks of life are standing up to be counted and to take charge of their political future and that of coming generations. We’re marching on!"

She elaborated how Mr Odinga fought for women rights by bringing back motions before Parliament that sought to champion women rights, even at a time when such rights were nowhere envisaged in the old constitution.

"Raila Odinga didn't just think of women because it was a campaign season; it is something he has done before. He has supported motions by women politicians, and this is something I remembered when he named me running mate," she said.

Azimio, in their manifesto, incorporated Azimio La Akina Mama, an initiative aimed at enhancing gender equality. Through this agenda, they view women as the true multipliers of wealth in Kenya and promises to focus on them to spur growth.

The programme plans to unlock access to financing for women-led businesses and provide support for women on other enabling factors such as access to assets for production, land tenure and proportional representation at all levels of government.

“Women constitute more than half of the country’s population, their potential contribution to the economy is, therefore, enormous. Gender equality and empowerment have received increased attention in recent years. However, despite a progressive constitution that promotes gender equality and women’s empowerment, gender equality remains elusive,” said Mr Odinga during the Azimio manifesto launch.

Kenya Kwanza carrot

Dr Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza last month launched a charter that seeks to enhance women’s total inclusion in the political and economic spheres. It is also aimed at making sure women are at the decision table should the coalition form the next government.

“Today marks the turning point in the governance of the Republic of Kenya, where women can sit on an equal basis with men. Women will become equal partners. The women will have an equal voice and will occupy equal positions in the highest decision-making organ. We will get rid of the culture of tokenism and ensure they are also at the table with other Kenyans,” said Dr Ruto during the launch of the Women’s Charter in Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi.

He also promised to actualise the two thirds gender rule and put in place enabling mechanisms to make it a reality within the first three months of his administration. A Kenya Kwanza government will also provide state funds targeted at women.

The led coalition will also set up a special fund to support widows facing severe economic hardship, and make sure children of single mothers are automatically entitled to state bursaries.


Eva Komba, a gender and development expert, told that the scramble for the women vote is good news as it shows the extent to which the candidates value women, a situation that could help accelerate gender equality push.

Komba says the inclusion of women’s issues in the manifestos of major presidential candidates is a good pointer to the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality, particularly on women inclusion in political participation.

“This means we will have more women at the decision table and millions others will benefit from inclusion and reviewed policies, which is good news. They will be able to put on the table issues affecting vulnerable groups in society who include women,” she says.

Gladys Chania, an aspirant for the Kiambu woman representative position on a Jubilee Party ticket, said the move to recognise the importance of women vote is a good step towards making gender equality a reality.

“This move shows society has now accepted women leadership. The power of women leaders can never again be underestimated. It is good news for the women of this country,” says Ms Chania, who is a psychologist.

Registered women voters in the country constitute 49.12 per cent of voters, which is equivalent to over 10 million voters. Women, however, account for 51 per cent of Kenya’s population, according to the 2019 census. The Constitution requires no more than two-thirds representation by one gender in all elective posts.


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