What you need to know:
- Since independence, few women have dared to participate in politics in the Samburu community.
- Patriarchal underpinnings have undermined prospects of women in political leadership and administration posts.
- In the history of the community, only Josephine Naisula Lesuuda, Samburu West MP, dared to walk a "thorny path" less travelled by Samburu women.
Samburu remains stagnant as female politicians from other parts of the country plot to wrestle for elective seats in the August 9 General Election.
Since independence, few women have dared to participate in politics in the patriarchal community.
Season long patriarchal underpinnings of the Samburu culture have undermined prospects of women in political leadership and administration posts.
Barriers such as exploitation of girls and female genital mutilation (FGM) have slowed the participation of Samburu women in labour, governance and education.
Only a handful women have declared interest in the woman representative position that was created in the dispensation of the 2010 Constitution.
Women here are yet to come out and vie for elective posts despite deliberate efforts by government, civil society, political parties as well as development partners geared towards achieving equalitarian society.
In the history of Samburu community, only Josephine Naisula Lesuuda, the current Samburu West MP, dared to walk a "thorny path" less travelled by Samburu women.
In the 2017 election, Ms Lesuuda became the first woman to represent Samburu West in the National Assembly. The youthful former journalist defied odds, contested and won.
She trounced the former MP Jonathan Lati getting 14,561 votes against his 13,971votes.
Ms Lesuuda says her entrance into the political podium was not a walk in the park. She had to stand before men and convince them to vote for a female candidate in a largely patriarchal community.
"I remember when I made my entry into politics in 2017, I was told that I have gone against our traditions to stand before men, elders and warriors asking for votes. It was not easy competing with men, but I defied odds," the legislator says.
The MP was a first-time seeker of an elective post and won it. She hopes to use the opportunity in parliament to influence policies that will be beneficial to her community.
"I believe my historical win is a win to all women and girls from the Samburu community who are aspiring to be leaders. I am inspiring Samburu West," she says.
According to Ms Lesuuda, the number of Samburu women in politics is low due to deeply rooted patriarchal underpinnings in the community.
In an exclusive interview with the Nation.Africa, she points notes that lack of support from families also deters women from joining politics.
"As a woman, you have to get a family backing for you to comfortably stay away from them during campaign period. That is an important backing that Samburu women do not get," the legislator says.
During the infamous Kisima Declaration to end FGM in Samburu County last year, President Uhuru Kenyatta noted that women, if given a platform could make great leaders.
The Head of State urged Samburu community to elect women into leadership positions.
"Women can make very good leaders if given a good base and platform and Naisula Lesuuda here is a testimony," the President said at Kisima area in Samburu County, last year.
President Uhuru tasked the elders and other opinion shapers to sensitize communities on the need to abandon circumcision of women, which he noted was a biggest barrier for girls and women into leadership. He told community members to embrace alternative rites of passage.
Samburu Girls Foundation executive director Josephine Kulea says barriers such as exploitation of girls, forced marriages and FGM have slowed the participation of women in labour, governance and education.
Dr Kulea says women in top positions have offered great leadership despite the challenges in the midst of male dominated society.
"Samburu women are always choked by societal beliefs and practices, which depict us as inferior. When you look at those few who are in various administrative posts, they are doing well," she observes.