What you need to know:
- Apart from the Woman Representative seat, women in Tharaka Nithi County still believe that political positions are a reserve for men.
- In the last two general elections, no woman in Tharaka Nithi County contested for gubernatorial and senatorial seats.
Traditional beliefs and the practice that women should not hold positions of power, appear to be the ultimate hurdle for female governor and senator aspirants in Tharaka Nithi County.
Apart from the Woman Representative seat, women here still believe that political positions are a reserve for men.
In the last two general elections, no woman in Tharaka Nithi County contested for gubernatorial and senatorial seats. And as we approach the 2022 election, no woman has declared interest in any of these top seats.
In the county’s constituencies of Tharaka, Maara and Chuka/Igambang’ombe, only two women have expressed interest in the Member of Parliament seat in 2022. They are Salome Ruteere (Maara) and Mercy Kirito Mutegi (Chuka/Igambang’ombe).
Despite the significant gains brought about by the 2010 Constitution, no woman has ever clinched a parliamentary seat in the three constituencies.
And out of the 15 elected Members of the County Assembly (MCAs), only three are women, inevitably forcing the nomination of four others to achieve the one-third gender rule as stipulated in the law.
So far, five women have declared interest to unseat the incumbent woman representative Beatrice Nkatha. The hopefuls include Susan Ngugi, Millicent Mugana, Peninah Kambanja, Anita Mbae and Dr Beatrice Kathomi.
Ms Ngugi says it is easier competing with fellow women.
Incumbent Senator Prof Kithure Kindiki who has served two terms has declared he will not be seeking election for a third term.
Three men have, so far, announced that they will be seeking the position. They include former Tharaka Nithi Governor Samuel Ragwa, Onesmus Mwiricia and Ngece Kunga.
“We live in a patriarchal society and competing with men isn't as easy. One would want to utilize a seat that has been poorly utilized to build herself by working well, to prove to the community that given a higher opportunity, one can do well. It's a stepping stone to political prosperity,” she says.
Ms Kambanja cites fear of facing men in political contests and fear of violence.
“Therefore, we contest the woman rep position as a training ground and feel like it’s a fairer space. Again, women might not have the financial muscle exhibited by men,” she says.
Ms Mugana and Ms Mbae, attribute the disinterest in the governor seat to various factors including lack of finances and the fact that society perceives women as the weaker sex.
Other barriers include cultural and traditional values that have cast women as second class members of the society and which come with negative stereotypes, intimidation and harassment.
“Resources remain the major challenge to most women compared to men and since the governor, senator and MP positions are open to both genders, it becomes difficult for women to finance the campaigns,” says Ms Mbae.
She observes that society is yet to believe and accept that women can successfully take up major leadership roles noting that it is the reason women scramble for the Woman Representative seat, a women-only affair.
Ms Mugana says political competition involving men is very tough because while women have other family errands to run, most men will campaign even for weeks, without getting back home or minding the welfare of their children.
She adds that since woman representatives are supposed to mostly handle women issues, they feel they understand them better and can deliver.
“Running against men who have resources and can run campaigns up to late in the night becomes very hard for the women,” says Ms Mugana.
She also argues that political parties favour men in their primaries, thinking that they are the ones likely to win.
This means Kenya has a long way to go in achieving the one-third gender rule with some under-powered female gender.