Special Post-Election Issue
Issue Number 36 • April 2013
Women candidates in Nyanza locked out
…By Oloo Janak
he absence of elected women from Nyanza in the Kenyan National Assembly over nearly a decade has been a shameful blot on a region that played a pioneering role in recognising the importance and role of women as leaders right from independence. It was Nyanza that produced Grace Onyango, a pioneer woman leader in Kenya who was not only the first woman elected to parliament but also the first woman mayor. The region was later to produce great women leaders, notably former Karachuonyo MP Phoebe Asiyo, and former Gem MP and one time Assistant Minister Grace Ogot. Catherine Nyamato also from the region served as a nominated MP, increasing the tally in the 1990s. Of course other women have previously been elected and served at lower levels. These include two former Homa Bay County Council chairpersons Jane Were and Dorcas Matunga, former Kisumu and Migori mayors Priscah Auma and Truphosa Adawo respectively.
At the parliamentary level, the gap has been worrying over the past ten years. Other regions, traditionally synonymous with gender disparities in terms of representation are slowly embracing change. Rift Valley, for instance, managed to bring a record seven women legislators to the last parliament. During the just concluded General Elections, Nyanza was expected to bring in several MPs. Gender equality advocates from the region had campaigned hard and long but their efforts returned minimal numbers from the constituencies. Only Millie Odhiambo, who was nominated MP in the last Parliament, got elected to represent Mbita Constituency, formerly represented by Otieno Kajwang, now Homa Bay Senator. The election did not come easy for Odhiambo, popularly referred to as “Gesa Gesa”, on account of her agility, debating prowess and visibility. Odhiambo, a lawyer by profession and renowned gender equality advocate has through her election broken a jinx
of sorts. She has been elected where she was born –making her among the Luo, the first migogo (the usual reference to a lady married elsewhere by her relatives in her birth place) to achieve the feat.
The constitutional provisions that allocated women seats at the County level has proved a saving grace for Nyanza as Odhiambo will now have companionship from the six Women County Representatives recently elected. The Women County Representatives from Nyanza who were all elected on the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket are: Gladys Wanga (Homa Bay,) Denitah Ghati (Migori), Dr Christine Ombaka (Siaya), Mary Sally Keraa (Kisii), Alice Chae (Nyamira) and Rose Nyamunga (Kisumu). While it is true that a number of women came out to contest various positions, constituency seats did not attract as many women as was expected. There were no prominent names contesting as MPs except at the County Women Representative level and a few for governorship. The second time loss of Roza Buyu to lawyer Olago Aluoch, by a narrow margin is probably the most painful among women MP aspirants. Buyu put up a gallant fight on an ODM ticket against a determined onslaught from Olago Aluoch on Ford Kenya ticket, who was aided by what many believe to be clan and gender considerations in Kisumu West, still predominantly rural and conservative. Former Provincial Education Officer and later Teachers Service Commissioner Roselyn Onyuka lost the race for the Homa Bay County Women Representative at the ODM party primaries Wanga. In Migori, Anne Omodho Anyanga, wife to Nyatike MP Edick Omondi Anyanga, who waged a determined fight for the governor’s seat, including using a helicopter to campaign in the vast county, lost her quest for the seat. She nearly became deputy governor as she later dropped her bid to become running mate to Prof Edward Oyugi who lost narrowly by less than 180 votes to Okoth Obado who clinched the seat.
Women aspirants in Siaya County hold their hands as a sign of solidarity before the elections. Only one woman was elected for the position of a County Assembly Representative. Picture: Omondi Gwengi. Ruth Odinga, a sister to ODM presidential candidate Raila Odinga lost her quest to become Kisumu County Governor amid tension and discrimination based on her dominant family background but has bounced back to become the Deputy Governor to the eventual winner Jack Ranguma. In Siaya, Dr Concilia Ondiek, an educationist and wife to former Ugenya MP Bishop Stephen Ondiek, failed in her bid to be elected Women Representative, losing to Ombaka. A former nun and a scholar, who contested for governorship as an independent candidate, also lost her quest to Rasanga Amoth.
It is, however, encouraging to note that many women this time round came out to contest for seats even though most of them lost. Those who have won seats will be role models and an encouragement to other women that all is not lost in their quest for gender parity. Many of them were women of substance, from the academia, business and civil society, indicating that in future the region will not lack the kind of human resource required at various
levels of political leadership. The equation of gender representation at the national, senate and county assemblies will obviously improve the situation for the region and make up for gaps that the political party primaries and the actual election brought up. Almost all the six counties in Nyanza will need to nominate more women to the County Assembly given that most of the Ward Representatives elected were men. For instance, in Migori County, only one woman was elected as county representative out of the 39 seats. Kisii and Kuria communities, who have been more conservative and negative against the election of women to key elective positions have this time produced two Women County Assembly Representatives — Alice Chae (Nyamira) and Denitah Ghati (Migori). In the case of Ghati, it is important to note that most of her Kuria people still felt negative towards her candidature but she had a huge appeal across the County, making the majority Luo and other smaller ethnic groups vote her easily against other Luo women candidates. The challenge is for the women
leaders and indeed the entire leadership of the region to forge ahead with the fight for greater gender parity at all levels, both elective and appointive positions to ensure that Nyanza regains its pivotal role as torch in producing and nurturing women leaders. This will require determined effort, starting at school level as the number of women being produced to join universities and other tertiary institutions have significantly dropped over the last two decades.
There will also be need for sustained campaign against negative cultural practices and attitudes that have in the past affected the participation of women in leadership at various levels. The women elected to various positions and those who will be nominated must work hard to show that women can indeed make a difference when given leadership positions, as indeed has been amply demonstrated in the past. It can be said, confidently, that for Nyanza, the 2017 General Election will see a major shift in attitude towards women and many more are certain to be elected at different levels.
Party wave upset realisation of gender rule …By Robert Wanjala
omen candidates performed dismally under the strong wave of United Republican Party (URP) that swept Uasin Gishu County in the just concluded general elections. During party nominations, only a handful of women who secured URP tickets, were guaranteed a clean win in the final polls. The general elections for them were just a formality. “Whether you like it or not Uasin Gishu County and by extension Rift Valley at large was a URP zone. Like most voters I voted for any candidate who was on URP ticket,” says Calvin Koech, a resident in Uasin Gishu County. Koech says women who vied on other political parties suffered a humiliating defeat for going against the community’s wishes. However, there are men who won on parties such as Kanu despite the URP wave. However, strong women like Margaret Kamar lost for going against the grain.
According to Eunice Wairimu, a voter: “This election was not so much about candidates but rather alienation to political parties. Right from party primaries, women were never given a fair chance to stand. Female candidates we expected were edged out leaving limited option to choose from.” Wairimu notes that women who decamped to other unpopular parties in the region again did not make any impact during campaigns because of financial limitations and other factors. A few of the female candidates who braved the URP wave on unpopular parties still lost to their competitors despite their potential to offer quality and effective leadership.
According to Richard Maina, Regional Programme Officer with Transparency International, most women candidates failed to capture seats in the recent General Election due to strong political party waves. Maina also blames strong cultural beliefs and financial challenges as
factors that prevented most women from competing favourably. “Women who vied on unpopular parties met the wrath of voters in spite of their potential to offer quality and effective leadership,” notes Maina.
He observes that female candidates from pastoralist areas were hardest hit as they were forced to solicit financial support from their unwilling husbands. Maina notes that most husbands were not willing to support their wives saying that politics was a tricky venture. “Majority of women stood out as the greatest losers because of lack of resources for elaborate campaigns coupled with cultural issues,” observes Maina. Higher Education Minister Professor Margret Kamar conceded gubernatorial defeat against 39 year-old Jackson Mandago, a former Teacher Service Commission official who garnered 210,682 out of the possible 286,838 cast votes. Kamar who vied on an Orange
Democratic Movement (ODM) garnered 70,912 votes. Eusilah Ngeny (URP) won the Women Representative seat which had attracted seven candidates fighting on various political parties. Ngeny garnered 213, 487 votes against her closest competitor Moira Chepkok, (ODM who stood a distant second with 36,970 out of the 290,429 votes cast. A handful of women secured county representative seats. Rebecca Magut and Josephine Tireite won Kuinet Kapsuswa and Cheptiret Kipchamo ward seats respectively.
Maina says most male candidates mounted high political campaigns where women could not afford to foot such expenses. Most communities are yet to fully appreciate the potential of women’s leadership. Maina blames political parties urging them to review their constitution to ensure free and fair nominations. He notes that very few women would have landed leadership posi-
tions if affirmative action had not provided for the direct election of 47 women representatives across counties. In Uasin Gishu County alone, less than six women managed to capture various seats in the recent concluded general elections. URP of Jubilee Coalition swept all the six seats in Uasin Gishu County with the Presidential candidate Uhuru Kenyatta garnering 212,684 votes against the total 288,752 cast votes. Raila Odinga’s ODM, a key partner of Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) came a distant second with 60,424 votes and the rejected votes stood at 5,279. All the six constituencies – Soy and Turbo formerly Eldoret North, Kapseret and Kesses formerly Eldoret South and Anabkoi and Moiben curved up from former Eldoret East were swept by URP. While declaring winners, Truphosa Korir the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) Uasin Gishu County Returning Officer, said the elections were free and fair.