Academician eyes Kiambu senatorial seat to bridge gender inequalities
Juliet Kimemia’s political journey was inspired by a strong conviction that she could bridge the level of inequalities and intimidation directed at women by the society.
She had attended a meeting that brought together Secretary General of political parties to discuss the two third gender rule. The secretary generals who also serve as the accounting officers in their respective political parties were also supposed to be taken through the electoral law reforms and the Campaign Act as a way of making sure the same information is disseminated at all levels in their respective parties.
Kimemia realized that apart from Agano Party, all the other political parties were represented by men, which then made her understand why women cannot effectively participate at the party level.
The meeting would end prematurely after the men ganged up to demand the removal of the chair of the political parties’ liaison committee because she was a woman and replace her with a man.
“It was so sad because the meeting was turned into an agenda to oust the chair. This is what inspired my bid to contest for a political office,” says Kimemia who is an academician and chair of the Association of African Women for Research and Development (AAWORD).
Her political prospects are highly pegged on her ability to marshal enough support ahead of the General Election in which she will be contesting for Kiambu County’s senatorial seat on a KANU ticket.
Kimemia has been actively involved in formulation of laws in Kenya and takes credit for having participated in crafting of National Policy on Gender Based Violence and Protection Against Domestic Violence Act.
“Most of these and other gender responsive legislations are gathering dust until women who have been instrumental in their formulation take up the leadership mantle,” she explains during the interview with Kenyan Woman.
With an agenda to see levels of violence against women reduce, Kimemia is the technical advisor of the Kiambu GBV Working Group and is currently working towards establishing GBV working groups at the Sub County level.
The aspirant has rolled out a GBV model which focuses on men as survivors of GBV. According to Kimemia, statistics have shown that 60 percent of men who die before the age of 60 have gone through depression, stress and low self-esteem, noting that these are issues that directly emanate from the household level.
Kimemia says that the male engagement strategy seeks to get men as champions who dialogue and address Gender Based Violence.
“Men have a personal investment in challenging current gender norms and can serve as allies to promote gender equality and shun GBV.”
At the policy level, Kimemia has organized a series of meetings to sensitize the public on the need to exploit opportunities at their disposal and cites the cash transfer programmes introduced by the government which remain unutilized because targeted beneficiaries have not been sensitized on the same.
Recently Kimemia convened a meeting at the sprawling Kiandutu slums in Thika and found that 50 percent of the population are old women who despite qualifying for the monthly stipend for the elderly, have never received a single penny from the Government.
“I had to educate them on the cash transfer programme and explain to them how the programme is implemented. There is also the issue of Gender Based Violence, it came out as a big problem driven by poverty,” says Kimemia. “I told them since there is an existing GBV programme, they can form a GBV working group and connect with the national programme using the 1195 helpline.”
She expounds: “I realised that most of them did not know that they can make free calls from their lines and get assisted.”
Kimemia’s priority during the campaigns is to leave people more educated and self-aware so that they can close the gap between them and policy makers.
She has an agricultural oriented agenda which is exciting to farmers. “I have been encouraging them to form the recommended farmer groups so that they can access fertilisers sold at half price and bring in new variety of seeds without depending on traditional crops.”
She has managed to rope in artists in her campaign and together they have come up with music coined around issues affecting the county to help the audience make informed decisions and change how knowledge is managed.
“Knowledge in this county is not sustainable, programmes are not implemented because of the absence of a structured management system. I want to start using music to change the narrative on development,” Kimemia reiterates.
If elected, she plans to make sure the country domesticates the international development agenda. “There is lack of understanding that we have shifted to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Without addressing and localising the SDGs in Kiambu County, we will not be able to report at the national level. I have not seen any motion in the Senate to legislate SDGs.”
She notes the culture of handouts as being one of the biggest challenges facing women during the campaigns. “Most people expect that every time you appear, you need to give them money. I am trying very much to convince people that aspirants do not contest for political seats because they have money but because they have a passion to lead.”
All in all, Kimemia says, “women should offer themselves in elective politics and believe in themselves”.