History made in Bungoma as 11 Women Are Elected MCAs
Photo: Collins Lutta
In an usual turn of events, Bungoma County made history by having the second number of women elected as members of the county assembly in the second General Election after promulgation of the Constitution in 2008.
More than 10 women were elected to the Bungoma County Assembly, making the highest number of women elected to a single county since promulgation of the Constitution of Kenya 2010.
However, none was elected as a Member of Parliament, Senator or the Governor. Women also missed out on being picked as running mates by gubernatorial aspirants.
Bungoma has never had a single female MP since independence. According to Collins Lutta, a programme officer with the Catholic and Justice Peace Commission, the success of the 10 was linked to their lobbying and advocacy for women’s leadership through several activities.
“In our various programmes of civic education and awareness creation on governance and democracy we had pushed for the election of women in order to have a balanced face in politics,” says Lutta.
The Catholic Commission which also has programmes in neighbouring Busia had encouraged the electorate to give women a chance in politics so as to have gender balance in both the County Assembly, National Assembly and the Senate.
In their advocacy, the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice had also strived to encourage women to join elective politics so as to ensure that they were visible and that their voices as well as issues were heard and addressed by decision-makers and authorities.
Some of the major challenges that the few women who dared to contest in the polls in the expansive county of over 1.5 million people faced included patriarchy and retrogressive traditional prejudices that do not favour women. Traditionally, women were not expected to play a big role in the public hence most citizens do not take kindly the issue of women in politics. Women also lack the huge financial power and resource base that their male opponents have had.
Threats of or any form of violence is one thing that women candidates shied away from at all costs especially during the heat of the campaign period.
Turning to the media, Lutta says both county FM stations as well as county and national television stations highlighted women who stood for elective positions and gave them prominence.
Says Lutta: “Additionally, the women candidates were given airtime to sell their manifestos. Overall, the media was balanced, accurate and objective.”
Asked whether it mattered to have women in top elected offices, the official replied in the affirmative, adding that women in top elected offices will give prominence to issues affecting women like GBV and violence against women and girls.
Women in politics, says Lutta, will also give politics a balanced world view in which issues are looked into from a gender lens.
The Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice also focused on having an inclusive, gender balanced participatory political process in which all actors were given a chance to have their say.
On what could have been done better in support to women candidates, Lutta identifies exposure and giving them a bigger platform to articulate their issues across the board.
Another one was financial and logistical support for women candidates in addition to their endorsement by fellow political leaders as well as elders, youth and fellow women groups to boost their morale and chances of winning the elective seats.
Asked to comment on the major lessons learnt and best practices from August 8 polls, Lutta singled out the voting process and preparation saying it was well
He says: “Few issues of vote irregularities were noted. Voting was done peacefully and people elected leaders of their choice. Peace was maintained and the same should be replicated elsewhere. However, cases of voter bribery still remain.”