Kenya: Partnering for women in leadership

"Women will bring transformative leadership, because they have been serving you, they serve their families, communities and everybody therefore they will serve you if you elect them, ... elect them because they will not be your masters but your servants" said Hon. Phoebe Asiyo, the special guest, while addressing the public during a gathering in Kisumu. This was following a street march whose aim was to support female political aspirants in Kisumu and Migori counties.

Her sentiments were shared by Ms. Betty Okero of Civil Society Organisations Network who shared her belief that women can be great leaders. She called on all women to work together to pursue this goal. "We are ready to work with all women irrespective of their party or the position they are vying for".

The event was planned by the women political aspirants with the support of ACORD, CSOs Network, Women in Fishing Industry Programme (WIFIP) and with financial support from the UN Women.

The procession which enjoyed a mammoth crowd of over 800 people and brought together a total of 37 women political aspirants vying for different position through different parties from Kisumu and Migori counties aimed at championing for women's representation and demonstrate that women can work together for a common cause despite their different political parties they were representing. Their objective was to publicly declare their political aspirations. With an impressive show of bravery and self-confidence, different women stood up to introduce themselves and announce their manifestos.

A message from Hon. Phoebe Asiyo

Addressing the women political aspirants, Hon. Asiyo reminded the women of the difficult moments which lay ahead. "I want to tell you it is going to be very rough and even sometimes violent", she said.

Hon. Phoebe Asiyo speaks to a group of women during the

Still, she encouraged them not to give up, in view of the fact that the gains made in the constitution have granted women the opportunity to engage in leadership especially for elective positions. She compared the new constitution with an awakened a giant that had been left behind for many years. It had now been brought to the attention of the public that it would not be business as usual. Change was inevitable; politics would not be a male dominated arena anymore. More importantly it granted protection to women, youth, and other marginalised groups from any form of discrimination and violence.

"Learn from men as they learn from you"

Hon. Asiyo made a special call to women aspiring for elective position, advising them not to fight with men. "They are your compatriots, husbands, fathers, brothers and above all, you have a lot to learn from them as they have a lot to learn from you". She also urged the women to look at men as people who can complement their aspirations but not as enemies. She dispelled the stereotype that ‘women are their own enemies' and stated that men with ill motives often used some women who were easy to manipulate to fight their fellow women. For this reason, she urged the women to continue working together and not to accept to be used by anyone to fight fellow women.

She congratulated the team that worked tirelessly towards attaining a new constitution, a long journey of over two decades, and she emphasised on the heavy price paid to acquire this constitution, to gain a new direction for a new dispensation. She encouraged the public to say no to the social evils which had held majority of Kenyans back in poverty and forcing them into poor leadership and consequently thriving in grand corruption, intimidation and even assassination.

Insisting that it was the responsibility of everyone to ensure that others know the gains contained in the new constitution, she listed the new formula for distribution of resources, the equalisation fund for the marginalised, women gains accorded in the constitution and taking into account the needs of the marginalised and the challenged as the strongest pillars.

The youth as responsible citizens

Her final call was to the young people to exercise caution and rationale during elections. She encouraged them not to be carried away by political waves but to ensure they vote for people of integrity with young people's agenda at heart. They should be able to listen and be willing to address the problems the young people are experiencing in this 21st century such as lack of employment. The same message was echoed by Hannah Chira of ACORD who called on the youth to engage in peaceful as opposed to violent politics. She encouraged them to vote in leaders of integrity who can help them regain and establish their own livelihoods as young people.

The women political aspirants are planning for similar event to be held in Migori and neighbouring towns and villages.

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