Against all odds, 25 women make it to the National Assembly

Long queues that characterised the voting day as voters turned out in large numbers to elect candidates of their choice Photo: Jane Godia
Long queues that characterised the voting day as voters turned out in large numbers to elect candidates of their choice Photo: Jane Godia

The sound of rapid gun shots fired as a crowd was headed to the Marakwet East tallying centre is the hallmark of how high the stakes were in the just concluded General Election.

Jebii Kilimo was being escorted by supporters to hear the election verdict. However, a firing, as of one from a machine gun, stopped them from reaching their destination.

A strong contender on an independent ticket having lost the nominations on the Jubilee Party primaries, Kilimo was definitely not going to have it easy.

While Kilimo’s case may have come to the public, many women who were voters, election officials or candidates met resistant from men as more and more came out courageously to vie for the many political positions.

In the end, three women made it as governors, three as senators and seven as deputy governors. For the Kenyan women, although this fell short of the two third gender principle as entrenched in the Constitution of Kenya, it is much better than the outcome of 2013 when no woman was elected governor or senator.

Numbers rise

The National Assembly also saw 25 women elected at constituency level. This will increase the number of women who will be elected in the 12th Parliament because the 47 women county representatives will add up to this total as well as the six women who will be nominated, the young woman and the person living with disability. All in all, these women went ahead to win against all odds.

Sophia Abdi Noor makes history as the first woman from the Somali community to be elected as Member of Parliament for a constituency position. Noor was elected as Member of Parliament for Ijara Constituency. Coming from a community that holds a conservative view to women and leadership based on culture and religion, Noor made her way back to Parliament on a Party for Reforms and Democracy. She was first nominated by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party in 2007. In 2013 she attempted to vie through the United Reforms Party (URP) but did not make it.

Beatrice Kones won the Bomet East parliamentary seat after beating seven men who included her son.

Kones also made her come back to Parliament after losing in the 2013 General Election. Many people were of the idea that Kones should leave the position to her son despite the fact that she was a strong candidate. These arguments were merely being raised for the fact that she is a woman.

The people opposed to Kones vying brought in the issue of ‘a mother fighting her son’ yet Kones had first won the seat following her husband’s death in a plane crash in 2007.

History made

Naisula Lesuuda won the Samburu West seat. An indigenous woman from the Maa community that is yet to embrace women and political leadership, Lesuuda won the seat on a Kanu ticket. Naisula made history by “beating the incumbent during his first term and being the first woman to not only vie and win but vie for MP in the entire Samburu County”.

She noted: “It has been a tough journey but I look forward to serving my people diligently.”

Among the other indigenous women who will be in in the National Assembly include Sarah Korere of Laikipia North. Together with Lesuuda they join Peris Tobiko of Kajiado East and Grace Kipchoim of Baringo South who broke the glass ceiling in 2013 and will be going for a second term.

With the Jubilee Party wave rocking the coastal region, Aisha Jumwa and Mishi Mboko of Malindi and Likoni constituencies respectively went against the tide to clinch the parliamentary seats. Jumwa and Mboko, formerly women representatives for Kilifi and Mombasa counties were almost being written off as people who will not make it. However, they went on to clinch the seats with Jumwa being the first woman from Kilifi County to be elected Member of the National Assembly for a single constituency.

Stiff competition

In Nakuru three women went ahead to win parliamentary seats even as they held off stiff competition from independent candidates whom they thrashed in the Jubilee Party primaries. Jayne Kihara (Naivasha), Martha Wangari (Gilgil) and Charity Chepkwony (Njoro) went on to raise the flag for women in the county that saw the high and mighty take on them. The women faced challenges of being branded outsiders among other things as their rivals tried to find all means of discrediting them in the eyes of the voters.

Janet Rotich, who lost the Turbo Constituency nominations during the Jubilee Party primaries, went as an independent candidate after the voters called on her not to give up. This paid off and she emerged victorious in the Deputy President’s backyard.

Rachel Nyamai of Kitui South also survived against all odds the Wiper Democratic Party wave in Ukambani and managed to win the constituency seat on a Jubilee Party.

In Murang’a County, the women who won include Ruth Mwaniki (Kigumo) and Mary Njoroge (Maragua). The two join Alice Wahome who retained her Kandara seat. The three women beat all odds to secure the Jubilee ticket and also fought off the strong independent candidates who emerged as the country went to the polls on August 8.

Visibility

Dr Lillian Gogo and Eva Obara won the Rangwe and Kasipul Kabondo seats respectively in a region that had almost given a blackout to women in political leadership despite having brought out the first woman MP in Kenya. Gogo and Obara join Millie Odhiambo who reclaimed her seat as Member of Parliament for Mbita now renamed Suba North. Odhiambo, having faced first level of violence that left her house set ablaze and bodyguard killed, went ahead to win the seat and make a comeback to the National Assembly.

Naomi Shaban won on a Jubilee ticket in a region that is dominated by opposition politics. With 15 years in the National Assembly and counting, Shaban who first vied and won in 2002 could have been the woman to watch but she went ahead and clinched the seat.

In Nairobi and Kiambu counties, Mercy Gakuya (Kasarani) and Wanjiku Kibe (Gatundu North) stand out as women who despite not being given much attention are the only ones elected in their respective counties. Gakuya fought strong opposition to be the only woman elected in Nairobi City County. Kibe, a journalist also emerged victorious among strong contenders from Kiambu County.

As the women of Kenya cry with one eye and laugh with the other, it is only in order to celebrate these women who went against all odds to win in elections that were highly contested.