Giant women’s movement finally gets new officials

Outgoing chairperson Ambassador Rukia Subow step down in favour of Rahab Mwikali who sailed through as the national chair unopposed.
Outgoing chairperson Ambassador Rukia Subow step down in favour of Rahab Mwikali who sailed through as the national chair unopposed.

After staying for seven years without elections, the giant Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (MYWO) finally held elections that saw a new team elected into office.

The elections that were held recently saw the outgoing chairperson Ambassador Rukia Subow step down in favour of Rahab Mwikali who sailed through as the national chair unopposed. Another contestant for the same seat Lucy Nyoroka also stepped down at the last minute.

According to Subow the move to step down was facilitated by the need to promote peace and unity among the women of Kenya.

“For the sake of the unity of the women, I want to step down,” Subow said just before the elections kicked off.

Subow’s decision elicited mixed reactions among the delegates at Moi Sports Centre Kasarani. Those who were supporting Subow walked out in protest while Mwikali’s supporters broke out into songs and dance as they celebrated Subow’s move terming it brave and selfless.

Nyoroka who also stepped down said on the other hand she did step down not because she was compelled to do so but to solidify the Eastern region block as Rahab Mwikali also comes from the same place.

“We met with our leaders from the Eastern region and decided that for the sake unity we will front one person and that is why I decided to step down for Rehab,” Nyoroka explained in an interview.

For the last seven years, Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation has not been able to hold any election and Subow has been in charge as the chairperson.

The giant grassroots women’s organisation has been rocked with controversy over the appointment of an electoral board which has kept the much-awaited elections secret until last month when a polls team was constituted.

The elections across the county have, however, been marred by instances of chaos and accusations of interference by politicians.

The national elections were not without trouble either as the delegates were torn between going for secret ballot or voting by acclamation.

The organisation’s constitution allows for candidates to be voted in by acclamation as an alternative to casting ballots.

Another group lobbied for regional balance, using a system that would have seen each province propose a leader.

Eventually, the women insisted that they choose their leaders through secret ballot. Ten delegates from each County voted for three vice chair women, treasurer and national secretary

The Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation was registered in 1952 as a non-governmental organization (NGO) seeking to unite and empower grassroots women socially, economically and politically.

The Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation was first organised by the Department of Community Development and Rehabilitation within the colonial government and then at the time of independence, the leadership of the organisation was turned over to African women.

From there the independent government decided to reward the organisation’s effort by funding their projects and distinguishing the role of the organisation as a welfare agency.

Overtime, The Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation’s grassroots network expanded to eight provinces of the country and the leadership was made up of a chain of elected representatives from the smallest administrative unit up to the national level.

Today, the organisation has a nation-wide network of over four million individual members and 25,000 affiliate groups.

At Kenya’s independence, The Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation played a role in building the country through its countrywide network.

The Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation’s efforts in women’s mobilization were instrumental in building schools, clinics, and community centres across the country. By the mid- 1970s, the organisation had raised enough money to build Maendeleo House in Central Business District of Nairobi.

In the 1980s, The Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation became affiliated with the then ruling party KANU. The organisation mobilised women for KANU and managed government programmes for women.

During the political transition from one party to a multiparty system in Kenya, Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation, like many civil society organisations in the country that supported multiparty went through an identity crisis as it attempted to find its place in the reform movement to better take care of the interests of women in the new political dispensation.

Other officials who were elected included, Elizabeth Mayaka as national secretary, Mary Odhiambo national treasurer, Phyllis Polong as national vice secretary, Beth Mutunga national vice treasurer.

Others are Suraya Roblle, Eileen Kendagor and Beatrice Kones as national vice chairpersons..