Kenya elections 2022: Harrassed and abused, Kenya’s female politicians struggle to get elected

Native to Lamu, a conservative region near the Somali border, Omar is known for its well-preserved Swahili culture and UNESCO heritage site.

“If we’re going to address the challenges we face as women, young people and Indigenous communities, we must also fight politically,” she told CNN.

The 39-year-old is Coastal County’s first female candidate for the top job. She is part of a record number of women running for office in Kenya’s August 9 general election.

After seven years of offering a ‘Band-Aid solution’, she said it was a natural fit for her to run for office Poor health care.

“Being able to really dig deep into the root causes of rural challenges is definitely what drives us into politics,” Omar said.

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But she faces an uphill battle.

Although female makeup nearly half Among registered voters, Kenya still has fewest elected female leaders in East Africa.

stipulated by the constitution gender quota Breaking the power of the male supermajority has failed in the 12 years since it was passed.

But this election could be different.

“Kenya is ready for women at all levels”

If opposition leader Raila Odinga wins, Kenya could welcome its first female vice president, 64-year-old Masha Karua.

When she ran for president on her own in 2013, Karua was sixth with less than 1 percent of the vote, well behind five men.

In the 25 years since a woman first ran for Kenya’s presidency, it’s the closest anyone has come to the top job.

When asked if Kenya was ready for a female president like neighboring Tanzania, Karua was furious.

Tanzania sworn in as first female president in Samia Suluhu Hassan

“This question shows that women shouldn’t be on the ballot because I’ve never had anyone question whether Kenyans are ready to accept another male. So the question itself is discriminatory,” the former Kenyan justice minister told CNN.

“I think Kenya is ready for women at all levels.”

Her nomination energized Odinga’s campaign and excited many women, some of whom compared her to U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris.

During her three years in Kenyan politics, Karua earned a reputation as a principled statesman and earned the nickname “Iron Lady” – a nickname she hated.

“The name speaks to misogyny in society. Power is not seen as a woman, power is seen as a man,” Karua told CNN, noting that it was first used to describe the former British leader who came to power in 1979. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

“It’s about the misogyny and the patriarchy that rule the world,” she said.

‘Systematic exclusion of women’

Despite an increase in the number of women entering Kenyan politics over the years, women held only 23 percent of seats in the last parliament. This includes female representation positions reserved exclusively for them – 47 of the 349 seats currently reserved for women.

“We’re seeing more and more women running, which tells us that women’s participation in politics has never been an issue,” said Marilyn Kamuru, a suffragette lawyer and author. “It’s still an issue of systemic exclusion of women.”

Such exclusions include the financial hurdles of competing in notoriously expensive campaigns that can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, as well as frequent sexual violence against women running for office or even those already in office. In 2019, for example, a Kenyan MP was arrested for allegedly slapping and abusing a female colleague.

Kenyan MP arrested, accused of slapping female colleague

“It’s chilling the environment for women, making women rethink, hold back,” and consider running for lower office or abandoning the campaign altogether, Kamuru said.

The latest election cycle follows a familiar pattern, with many women reporting threats of violence or physical harm and misogyny being used intimidate them out of the game.
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“We’ve had some major, shocking character assassinations to the point that our work with Safari Doctors has been discredited, but we try not to let that distract us,” Omar said.

She lamented the campaign’s propaganda against her, including taboo allegations, such as being an LGBT “recruiter” or a drug dealer, to undermine her campaign.

It is harder for women in rural Kenya to participate in politics due to sociocultural barriers, says Daisy Amdany, Women’s Rights Advocate and Executive Director of the Nairobi Community Advocacy and Awareness Trust, tell CNN affiliate NTV.

“Some cultures don’t even give women the right to keep voter cards, so you need permission from men,” Amdany said. She added that the negotiation of elders deciding who to run for office also works against women and is “more common than you might think”.

Kenyan women persevere despite obstacles in political office. “As long as we remain non-negotiable players, the system has to accommodate us,” Kamru said.

long shot

With only three of Kenya’s 47 counties headed by women, Omar’s vision of a powerful governor role is considered out of recent polls put her in third place of the four candidates But she was not discouraged.
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While everyone CNN spoke to in Lamu knew she was running, some men felt her fists were more than her weight and should be vying for the less powerful county seat of congresswoman.

But Constance Kadzo, 24, the owner of a small grocery stand, told CNN she was inspired to see an indigenous Swahili woman running for the top seat.

“I vote for her because she’s the only woman who has the courage to stand up to a man, and I know she’ll fight for us.”

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