For those who keep the company of Kenyan women political aspirants and their supporters, it is hard not to miss the recurrent conversation that revolves around political coalition building which seems to have given women leaders a wide berth.
Unlike the previous elections in the country’s history, the forthcoming polls looked better for women since the two-third Gender Rule was very clear on how women will ascend to National Assembly and the Senate.
But now with the coalition politics, the big horse race seems to be in the form of a male face except for Narc Kenya leader, Martha Karua, who is the only serious female candidate going for the highest office in the land.
And now with the 14,337,399 voters having been registered, the focus now is on the eagerly anticipated party primaries which are meant to take place early next year.
But even as political parties are opening space and some of them have waved the nomination fees, the number of women coming forward to vie for the various political positions is falling short of what was expected both at national and at the county level.
It seems in the up-coming Elections, which is momentous in many ways and which will also introduce a new system of governance, that women are again not playing a major factor.
Apparently being on the wrong end of an election is something that women candidates can readily attest to. The irony of the situation in 2013 despite the Constitution of Kenya 2010 is that it is no different from the election period in 2007, 2002, 1997 and the election cycle backwards to 1963 when Kenya became independent and women have since always found themselves pushed into the political periphery.
What the women are experiencing currently is a reminder of what happened in 2002 where political re-alignment was the order of the day where women’s political aspirations were compromised for what was termed then a bigger goal.
With the elections on the horizon, the subject of women’s participation in the 2013 general elections is dominated by concerns that history will repeat itself once more.
And women need to understand that the stakes are high in these elections – the fifth since the advent of multiparty politics in 1991 – and women are under pressure not only to fit into pre-determined pigeon holes, including within their political parties, but to ensure that the country realises the not less than one-third gender rule.
The coming elections woman should use their power to mobilize and organize human and material resources for political processes which has been compromised and whittled away over the years.
And strengthen the presence of women’s organisations in the political arenas where their dominance seems to have been lost.
The women’s movement has lost its dominance in Kenya’s political agenda, we and that the dominance of patriarchy within the election processes is making it very difficult for women to engage in politics meaningfully.
The other nagging problem for women seeking electoral posts is the realization that it is extremely expensive to run an election campaign. Using the 2007 estimates, conservatively, candidates in urban constituencies need between six million to Shs10 million.
Observed against the long-standing economic subordination of Kenyan women, this scenario is particularly challenging for women and no wonder the majority of women aspirants are holding funds-drives better known as harambees to raise money for their campaign just for the political parties’ primaries.
There is no question that the 2013 polls is proving to be a challenge to many aspirants. It not only going to be a tough one, but aspirants will need to demonstrate right from the onset that they are prepared in all ways for this undertaking if they hope to convince the voters to cast their valuable votes for them.
Female candidates will need to consistently speak to their plans, clearly outlining what they are doing each step of the way while all along demonstrating that they are strategically engaged and are as good as their male counterparts at the game of political maneuvering. As it is now, they are yet to start doing this, despite the fact that time may not exactly be on their side.