Will Gusiiland, Kakamega elect first female MPs in August?

Ambassador Yvonne Khamati, Ikolomani MP aspirant (Dap-K).

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • This will be the first time in Kakamega County that female aspirants will be battling to clinch a parliamentary seat, usually considered in the region the preserve of men.
  • Two women aspirants have been issued with nomination certificates by the Jubilee Party to contest the Kitutu Chache South and North Mugirango parliamentary seats.

Four women aspirants from Kisii, Nyamira and Kakamega counties are contesting parliamentary seats in the August 9 General Election.

For Mumias West constituency and the entire Kakamega County, history has already been made as it is the first time a female aspirant is going for a parliamentary seat, usually considered in the region as the preserve of men.

ANC-nominated MCA Jackline Okanya has decided to swim against the tide, challenging the incumbent, ODM MP Johnson Manya Naicca.

She and Ambassador Yvonne Khamati are the only women aspirants issued with nomination certificates by their parties to run for parliamentary seats in Kakamega.

Ms Khamati is running in Ikolomani Constituency on a Dap-K ticket and is confident of winning.

"As a mother, sister, daughter and aunt, I understand the plight of my people and would make their lives better if elected," she said.

Intimidation

Ms Okanya is already facing hostility from a section of politicians, who have frowned upon her decision to contest.

“Since I was handed the nomination certificate, there has been a lot of hostility from politicians who think I’m meddling in a male affair, but I’m determined to fight to the end,” said Ms Okanya.

Former Kakamega senator Boni Khalwale told her to go home and concentrate on preparing food for her family. But she is determined to overcome the gender stereotypes, despite also facing financial hurdles in her campaigns.

Dr Khalwale was unhappy with Ms Okanya for going for the seat, in a move he said would disadvantage former Cabinet Secretary for Sports Rashid Echesa of the United Democratic Alliance.

Contacted, Dr Khalwale said he had no apologies to make about the matter as Ms Okanya, who is a relative of Senator Cleophas Malala, needed to respect his decision to bow out of the governorship race in favour of Mr Malala.

“I made a huge sacrifice to support Senator Malala for the governorship. Likewise, I expect Ms Okanya to withdraw from the race and avoid creating confusion in the contest for the Mumias West parliamentary seat,” said Dr Khalwale.

Jubilee nominees

The Gusii region, too, has never had a woman member of Parliament. In the upcomg polls, two women aspirants have been issued with nomination certificates by the Jubilee Party to contest the Kitutu Chache South and North Mugirango seats.

They are Ms Cyntia Kerubo Toel in Kitutu Chache South and Dr Janet Komenda, who seeks to dislodge North Mugirango MP Joash Nyamoko.

Cynthia Kerubo Toel, Kitutu Chache South Member of Parliament aspirant during the interview at Nairobi Golf Club on February 24, 2022.

Photo credit: Dennis Onsongo | Nation Media Group

Before parties conducted primaries in line with their constitutions and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (Iebc) timelines, several women were eyeing tickets of top political parties.

But following the conclusion of the exercises, only two out of 13 women in Kisii and Nyamira counties secured tickets.

Unlike in other communities where women have had a chance to occupy top elective seats by flooring men, the Gusii community is largely patriarchal. Female leaders face stereotypes, which end up working against them.

Therefore, the two Jubilee contenders could go into the history books as the first female MPs in the region, should their bids go according to plan.

Better leaders

Dr Komenda, a psychology lecturer at Moi University, says women can bring total transformation should they be given an opportunity to serve in the august House.

She says some traditions belittle women as not capable of leading, thus hindering their political quests, adding that most men do not believe women are inferior.

“In our society, the stereotypes that women are lesser people are still there and this is why we normally do not make it in politics. But this is not true and we need to fight those perceptions with the seriousness they deserve,” the don said.

“Women also fear venturing into politics and many of them do not have the requisite resources. Politics is an expensive affair that needs more finances. Only a few people can make it to the ballot without spending a lot of cash in their campaigns.”

Dr Komenda has been in politics for quite some time. She unsuccessfully vied for Nyamira woman rep in 2017 on a Ford Kenya ticket but lost to Ms Jerusha Momanyi of Jubilee.

She said her decision to leave the affirmative seat for a mixed-gender contest is a clear indication that women are determined to compete against men on a fair platform.

Unity call

Women can have their say should they unite and cast their votes for other women candidates as they have the numbers, she adds, expressing optimism that she will clinch the seat and initiate changes that would benefit her constituents.

In Kitutu Chache South, new entrant Kerubo will be banking on the support of the youth.  She will, however, have to battle it out with the former youth director at the office of the Deputy President, Mr Anthony Kibagendi of ODM, and Japheth Nyagami of UDA, among other contestants.

Incumbent MP Richard Onyonka will not be defending his seat as he has opted for the senatorial seat under ODM.

Women aspirants need to put in a lot of effort to break the cultural barrier that undermine their bids in competitive politics going by past outcomes.

In 2017, Kisii and Nyamira counties each elected only one woman as Member of County Assembly. They are Ms Callen Atuya of Bokeira ward in Nyamira and Ms Rosa Kemunto of Machoge Bassi in Kisii.

In the Bonchari by-election in 2020, Ms Teresa Bitutu, a widow of former Member of Parliament Oroo Oyioka, failed in her bid to succeed her husband.

She lost to ODM's Parvel Oimeke, who emerged the winner with 8,049 votes, while Ms Bitutu came third with 6,964 votes. Jubilee's Zebedeo Opore got 7,279 votes. That was the closest a woman contesting any top political seat in Gusii has ever come. 


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