Special Post-Election Issue
Issue Number 36 • April 2013
It was a tough call for pastoralist women
…By Hussein Dido
ebecca Lolosoli, Habiba Jillo Ali and Anne Wairimo were among the few women from pastoralist communities who contested for the various positions in Laikipia, Isiolo and Samburu counties respectively. None of the however managed to clinch the seats despite having mounted campaigns to seek elective political seats. Lolosoli and Ali both running for Waso and Bulapesa ward representative seats came third in the hotly contested race. Ali, a youthful aspirant in Isiolo County garnered 754 votes against her rival Musa Kithenji who managed 1,600 votes. Lolosoli had opted to run against her husband for the Waso Ward seat in Samburu county but little did she know that this will not only end up violently but lead to family break up. The two have now parted ways following the political contest and Lolosoli is now struggling to make ends meet after she lost the seat to her former husband. During the campaigns, she became a subject of ridicule and in one instance she was assaulted by her husband who broke her hands following confrontation that ensued between the two. Lolosoli who runs the Umoja Cultural Tourist Village at the heart of Archers Post garnered 535 votes finishing in the third position. Her husband Fabian Lolosoli scored 851 votes while his closest rival Julius Lemalasia garnered 731 votes.
Five days to the elections, the Asso- Samburu women carrying banners and vowing to back one of their own during elections. In the finals women voters seem to have abandoned one ciation of Media Women in Kenya (AMof their own. Picture: Hussein Dido WIK), a non-governmental organisation engaged in empowering women to leaderalso have affected the dismal performance by lenging for women to voice themselves or to life is also an excuse used to bar women from ship positions had pitched tent in Laikipia, take leading positions. Most of these parties leadership. Samburu and Pokot in order to drum up sup- women candidates. Since Kenya’s independence from the Brit- only nominate men to winnable positions durSeveral women affiliated organisations came port for women candidates in the area. AMWIK had printed materials and organ- ish rule in 1963, female representation in Par- ing elections. It is also evident that very few out to empower women as they bid to take up ised voters across the region to back the women liament has been very low. During the Kanu women politicians are seen hitting the cam- leadership positions. Through these organisations, profiles of candidates in their quest for the elective posi- regime, there were only nine women out of paign trail. If present, they are rarely heard on the 220 members of parliament (MPs). There the podium because the campaign rallies are women politicians have been published in local tions in the pastoralist region. dailies, online newspapers and newsletters to When the results were announced, the or- has also been very low female representation male-dominated. give them visibility. ganization’s officials and the women candidates in decision-making positions within governDuring our recent campaign visit to Arwere shocked that the outcome did not favour ment sectors/departments, the local governRetrogressive cultural practices especially chers-post, Lolosoli pleaded and challenged ment (municipalities) and parastatals. them across the region. When the Narc government took the among the pastoralist communities hinder women to back one of their own in the forthThough the pastoralist women have truly come a long way in penetrating the male-dom- reins of power, the number of female MPs women, who are portrayed as not possess- coming general election but little was reflected inated political scene, they still have to contend increased to 18 out of the 222 members of ing strong leadership qualities from ascend- in the outcome of the results. They came out in large numbers and with retrogressive cultural barriers that hinder parliament. However, this still falls short of ing to power. Many Kenyan communities the United Nations target of achieving 30 per still believe that men should lead. Combin- vowed to support one of their own but their them from ascending to leadership positions. ing politics and ‘child-rearing’ and or family male counterparts managed to edge them out Jacinta Alimlim who was eyeing the Coun- cent representation of women in politics. It also falls short of the Beijing Platform of the race. ty Assembly Representative seat for Nachola “It is going to be a big shame for us women Ward, Samburu North Constituency suffered a for Action (the Fourth World Conference for in this region if we do not use our numerical similar fate. The seat had attracted more than Women in 1995), where it was agreed by all governments that there should be equal parstrength to elect one of our own in this elecsix contestants. tion,” Lolosoli told a political rally. “I lost the seat to my brother but this does ticipation of women and men in decisionIn unveiling her plans, Lolosoli had said not mean that I will stop offering leadership making bodies. The gender imbalance in she would help to tackle insecurity and conflict to my people. I shall continue since it gives me Kenya’s political playing field has widened so among the neighbouring warring communities pleasure to bring positive change to men and much, since the male political ideology continues to define the standards of evaluation of in the counties. women,” she stressed. women’s political performance and participaShe urged women in the area to embrace tion. peace and unity and vote as a bloc in order to And after the promulgation of the new secure seats in the area. The poor performance by several strong There has been a long standing animosity women who have in the past fiercely fought to constitution that came up with the devolved between the Turkana and Samburu communipromote gender equality and participation in government structures and establishment of the county positions, few women went for the ties as a result of cattle raids, killing those who politics was not encouraging. resist during the raids as well as killing that is During the campaigns violence against position of senators, governors and members part of a rite for the morans. women was witnessed in certain areas. Female of parliament. In almost all the 47 counties, women went Other than Lolosoli, various church elders candidates were beaten by supporters of their from these communities also called for peace male rivals, male power was seen at play with for the position of women representative leaving and brotherhood to end violence in the area just manipulation and possibly rigging out of wom- behind the other positions for men to dominate. What hinders women from being frontrunbefore the elections. en. Lack of funds for women politicians was ners in politics? Lolosoli noted that she had helped to raise also a major handicap. One of the major problems that women school fees for vulnerable and poor children However, tribal and clan rivalry seems to the areas to ensure that they remained in have determined how the election outcome face is the lack of funds to conduct elections. “It is going to be a big shame in school. was going to be. The long standing animosity Due to the feminization of poverty, many said a vote for women will also encourthat exists between the Turkana-Samburu as women interested in politics are faced with fifor us women in this region if age She pastoral girls to be role models in their soa result of cattle raids, different ethnic identi- nancial constraints which bar them from conties and killing as a part of a rite for the mo- testing, compared to their male counterparts; we do not use our numerical ciety adding that girls in the area always look upon them in order excel in their life. rans (age groups) also affected the way people hence their political leadership potential go strength to elect one of our unnoticed. During the occasion, the women aspirants voted. The political parties’ structures are also pledged to agitate for development and ensure Before March 4, various church elders from own in this election.” that morans abandon their way of life and enthese communities called for peace and broth- male-dominated, thus are discriminative — Rebecca Lolosoli gage in income generating activities. erhood to end violence in the area. This could against women. It therefore becomes chal-