As Kenyans thronged polling stations in their droves yesterday to vote for the leaders of their choice, a local daily run the photograph of a woman who was seemingly consulting with her husband before casting her vote. The headline accompanying the story with the photograph, however, painted a different picture. According to the story, the husband had already chosen the candidate his wife was going to vote for since according to him ” she has little education and thus he would decide who he votes for”. As despicable as that sounds, it is also the reality. Hard as it is to believe, for women in Kenya, elections are riddled with numerous challenges. While some are denied the chance to express themselves by exercising their democratic right to vote for their preferred candidate, others have to contend with violence.
For example, former sports cabinet secretary Rashid Achesa allegedly roughed up a female journalist at a polling station in Mumias Township because she was taking photos of some of the activities going on in the station which involved the exchange of money. According to the story, the former CS then forced the journalist to delete the photos she had taken. These are just a few of the incidences that made it to the public eye.
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According to the National Peace and Mediation team, there were enough reports on violence against women to raise concern. In a press release earlier today, the team noted that data collected by their moderators and observers stationed across the country and relayed to their Women Situation Room at the Radisson blue hotel in Nairobi shows that there were about 200 cases of violence against women. According to the NPMT, most of the violence reported was physical violence against women candidates, agents and voters.
This is an unfortunate situation. While the country has made tremendous progress with more women putting themselves out in the political space and taking their positions, the ground is far from level for women. It will take more than the two-thirds gender rule for women to finally be in an environment that enables them to exploit their full potential. The Kenyan society needs a paradigm shift in the way women across the divide are viewed and treated. Otherwise, we shall keep making five steps forward and ten steps backwards.
Featured Image: Women Situation Room trainees during a past training exercise. Photo||Mary Ndulili
In case of any incident, you can reach the situation room via 0784301823 or 0782098785 or 0795592627