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Special Post-Election Issue

Issue Number 36 • April 2013

Dama Sirya Maruwa Centenarian who has lived to see Kenya’s election process evolve

…By Diana Wanyonyi


t 104 years, Dama Sirya Maruwa has lived to see four generations of her family and several political regimes from colonial period to Jomo Kenyatta, Daniel Moi, Mwai Kibaki and now Uhuru Kenyatta. The centenarian participated in Kenya’s first election during Kenyatta era. Although she is illiterate through a translation by her daughter she says that this could be year she voted. She also voted during the general election in the Moi era but has since then not participated in any election exercise. Although she did not vote for the two Kibaki terms and the immediate past General Election, Maruwa says the only difference about the campaigns and election then and today is that there was no violence or rigging. “I remember in 1963 I participated in the first general election that had only two political parties Kenya African National Union (KANU) and Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU). For us to vote we had vipande (identification cards) and people voted peacefully for the leader they wanted,” says Maruwa. She notes: “This was a multi-party regime yet peace and unity prevailed during the elections.”


cise began her grandmother was not happy that she would not participate in the General Election not only due to her old age but because she lacks the new generation identification card. “The minute she learnt that the country is preparing to have an election she asked us on daily basis if we would let her register as voter. We told her that it was not possible because she does not have new generation identification card and moreover her health condition would not allow her to walk the distance to the polling station,” explains Kazungu.


Maruwa who is widowed says she did not participate in the elections but spent most of her time praying and meditating that the country would remain united after elections. However, her age does not allow her to remember many things as she tires easily. Having witnessed the post-election events of 2007-2008 Maruwa says: “I was not happy with what happened in 2007-2008 during the post-election period with neighbours fighting and killing each other because of politics. This is against African traditional setting and norms.” According to Kazungu, the old woman spends most of her time advising her family members to shun violence and preach peace using riddles

Dama Sirya has lived for more than a century and she knows the importance of a peaceful election process. Below: KANU membership card. Pictures: Diana Wanyonyi and examples of past events. “She always narrates to us how people lost their lives including children after the coming of colonialists to Kenya and how everybody was trained to fight the colonialists including women. That ruined peace and she does not want Kenya to be in the same situation again,” explains Kazungu adding that is why she used to spend most of her time praying for peaceful election and co-existence between. Maruwa is a proud custodian of Mijikenda history as she is the oldest

““I was not happy with what happened in 2007-2008 during the post-election period with neighbours fighting and killing each other because of politics. This is against African traditional setting and norms.”

While many women still ponder over which political party to join, Maruwa is among the women who had enrolled for party membership many years back. At the time of the one party rule she did not shy away from enrolling as a member of the ruling party Kanu. When the voter registration exercise began last year, Maruwa wanted her name to be on the voters’ register. One of her great granddaughters Miriam Kazungu says when the exer-

— Dama Sirya Maruwa

traditional female dancer before Kenya’s colonization remaining. The dancing group comprised of eight female dancers who passed away a long time ago. It was formed under the Mijikenda culture and they would perform dances at the shrine of a female prophetess known as Mepoho in Kaloleni area. The prophetess was believed to have been swallowed alive by the earth after she predicted the coming of white people who will change their culture and take away their land. Seated on a three-legged stool (locally known as Kigoda) outside her daughter’s compound in Ziwa la Ng’ombe area in New Nyali Constituency, Maruwa’s old looks tells more about her age. On her ears she wears wide beaded earrings which symbolise beauty and culture. When she is not taking her nap, Maruwa will be found glued to a radio that broadcasts in Giriama language keen to update herself with country’s current affairs. Her main interests are politics and health matters. Despite her age Maruwa is keen on

the news hour and at 1 pm she moves closer to the radio to listen to news often nodding in agreement with what is being broadcast. After the news is over and the station plays a traditional song, Maruwa starts smiling. She recalls that she was the best traditional dancer and the team’s leader. “We used to wrap our waist with a wrapper in blue and red colours known locally as hando. The colours were specific because they symbolised divine and holiness. I kept it well for my generation,” she says.

Women emerge biggest losers within coalitions Continued from page 1

alition strike a balance among tribes within the city. Ongoro and Governor elect Evans Kidero come from the same community. However, ODM has nominated her to the senate. The women, especially those seeking parliamentary positions suffered huge losses under the coalitions. Jebii Kilimo who has normally gone against the grain to win the Marakwet East constituency seat this time found the tide too strong for her as the United Republican Party (URP) sought to dominate the North Rift. Kilimo says that despite contesting on The National Alliance (TNA), a party that was in the same alliance with URP, she still lost the seat. Kilimo says the electorate was warned against voting for her because she was in a party that would not allow the region to talk as a family.


“They were told that they should not elect an outsider who will give out the family’s secrets,” Kilimo said when she visited the Women Situation Room, that was observing the elections. At the end of the General Election, out of 290 constituencies only 16 women were elected Members of

Parliament. This is a very small percentage, and translates to only 5.5 per cent compared to the last parliament when there were 18 women, 8.1 per cent, out of 222 seats. The women elected are Peris Tobiko (Kajiado East), Millie Odhiambo (Mbita), Mary Emaase (Teso South), Grace Kipchoim (Baringo South), Hellen Sambili (Mogotio), Esther Murugi (Nyeri Town), Alice Wahome (Kandara), Esther Gathogo (Ruiru), Alice Ng’ang’a (Juja), Naomi Shaban (Taita Taveta), Joyce Laboso (Sotik), Regina Ndambuki (Kilome), Rachel Kaki Nyamai (Kitui South), Jessica Mbalu (Kibwezi East), Cecily Mbarire (Runyenjes) and Mary Wambui (Othaya).


For the first time in the history of Kenya, a Maasai woman Peris Tobiko defied culture that barred women from assuming leadership position to be elected into parliament. However, among the Maasai, Narok will have a woman as its deputy governor and there will be two women Mary Yiane Seneta and Roselida Tuya who will represent Kajiado, and Narok respectively. Uniquely other communities that have never embraced women’s leadership include the Pokot, Turkana, Borana, Rendille and Somali. All these

will have women from their respective counties at the national assembly for the first time. This then shows how the 47 women’s representative seats have helped women, and particularly those from marginalised communities ascend to positions of leadership.


While the Pokot have taken a hard stance towards women’s leadership, they have elected one woman within West Pokot County as a county ward representative. The challenge among the Pokot, is how the men will be addressed by a woman while culture dictates that a woman sits on the floor while addressing men. It is thumbs up to Hellen Cherotich Madio, who won the Lomut Ward seat in Sigor Constituency, West Pokot County. She is among 84 women who managed to secure county ward seats out of 1,450 countrywide. Sadly, the counties will have to nominate women to ensure that the principle of not more than two thirds of one gender is adhered to. The cost of paying salaries for nominated women county representatives will be drawn from allocations earmarked by Commission of Revenue Allocation and this means that in the next five years, development might not take place as is

expected. While Nyanza gave Kenya the first woman parliamentarian since 1963, it worth noting that the region has not been very friendly towards women being elected in parliament. Since 1992, when Phoebe Asiyo was last elected, the region has been defiant towards women leaders. However, in the General Elections, Millie Odhiambo won the Mbita Parliamentary seat amid controversy that a woman who is married elsewhere should not be given leadership from her parents’ home. Odhiambo served in the previous Parliament as Nominated MP.


Another woman who defied party wave to win is Mary Emaase who won the Teso south Constituency seat on a United Republican party (URP) ticket against the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party wave that was blowing through Busia County. Emaase, also comes from a community that has never appreciated women’s leadership and she becomes the first woman from the Teso community to defy cultural norms and to be elected to parliament. She is joined by Grace Kipchoim who also defied culture to emerge the first woman and person from Endorois

community to clinch a parliamentary seat. Kipchoim won the Baringo South Constituency seat amid all odds. The 16 women MPs will be joined by the 47 Women Representatives to bring the total number of women elected into the National Assembly to 63. These will be joined by another 12 members who will be nominated by political parties. The National Gender and Equality Commission is seeking to sue the IEBC for failing to compel political parties to uphold the twothirds gender principle in their party lists that will determine nominations. Among those to be nominated should be women and men who will represent special interest groups including youth, persons with disabilities and workers. However, from the names that parties gave to the Registrar of Political parties just before elections, the rule of nominating women and men equally as well as those living with disabilities and minorities has not been adhered to. However, although the women’s numbers are not impressive, it is hoped that within the bigger voice for women, the tone of debate in parliament will certainly change to ensure that policies which have a special leaning towards women are given more consideration than before.

Kenyan Woman Issue 36  

Kenyan Woman - Advocating for the Rights of women The Kenyan Woman is a monthly publication of AWCFS

Kenyan Woman Issue 36  

Kenyan Woman - Advocating for the Rights of women The Kenyan Woman is a monthly publication of AWCFS