A young woman vied for a political seat in the last year’s general elections. Possessed with zeal and passion to go after what she wanted, she knew that the road ahead would be plagued with nothing but challenges of intimidation by the male opponents, insults, not to mention, to the very point of extreme, physical violence. This did not deter her though, for she had the nerves of steel as she was prepared, armed and ready to take on anyone who tried to put her down. She calls for a meeting to sell her brand and manifestos, only to have someone try to pull down her skirt.
She postponed the meeting to be held in the next 2 weeks. As a young, unmarried woman, she faced verbal abuse from her male opponents in public. As if that was not enough, She faced harassment and hooliganism at the polling stations. Honestly, someone else would not have gone that far. There are many like her who are pursuing the dream of sitting with policy makers to affect change in the country by averting the status quo, brought in by political heavyweights who have overstayed their term.
The past political leadership in Kenya has been characterized by none other than graft, status quo and tribalism. In the current dispensation, the same crop of political leadership are campaigning on the platform of change, which is outdated since that was what Jubilee government advocated for. Youth and women, who make up the special interest groups have made up their minds that it’s about time that they take the bull by the horns, if they want to see visible and transparent economic development in the country.
The road to ascension of leadership for the special interest groups has not been easy for it seems to the veterans that these special interest groups need a form of tough and ugly initiation in order to “fit in” or “join the club.”The dominant political parties in the region are making it hard for the special interest groups to engage hence the need for lobby groups to push forth the agenda of increasing participation for the special interest groups in the mainstream parties for effective representation.
Key obstacle that the special interests groups face is the financial bit. The veteran opponents are well moneyed and networked to the grassroots level while the youth and women still have to figure out how to raise millions just to affect their campaign strategies. These special interest groups have been met with violence for expressing their desire to be political representatives. It’s clear that the veteran opponents are ready to outline the battle of supremacy by cowing them into silence lest they be brutally ‘punished.’
This experience thereby creates apathy among the youth and women citing that no idle threats were made but a promise to create chaos and confusion during their campaign period. Others have resulted to selling their vote for meager returns due to the pounded ‘status quo’ belief system that youth and women are simply not ready for political leadership, whereas the opposite is true. There’s also lack of motivation among the special interest groups or there are individuals who may have the answers to the ongoing problems plaguing the country in terms of leadership, but they chose not to bat an eyelid.
It’s not exactly front page news that young women (18-27yrs) are not interested in voting, attending political rallies, protesting, blogging or speaking and debating on political issues that affect the country. In young women’s minds, issues to do with politics is mainly associated with men. They don’t want to be seen as loud mouthed or politically incorrect.
The VoteADada initiative courtesy of the Youth agenda, Oxfam and FIDA couldn’t have come at a better time. Its main focus is to address the reluctance of women to put themselves forward as candidates let alone consider a political career. The initiative also vouches for equal representation in positions of leadership. One must be persistent, passionate and possess the nerves of steel if he or she feels the call to a political office hence the need to train aspirants on importance of equal representation and how to wade off or not to be shaken by the challenges that comes with vying for a political position.