Women’s movement set to change face of politics in Kenya

Women who are vying for various political positions recently converged in Nairobi to launch the Ni Mama Movement that seeks to have more women elected. Picture- Courtesy of National Women Steering Committee.
Women who are vying for various political positions recently converged in Nairobi to launch the Ni Mama Movement that seeks to have more women elected. Picture- Courtesy of National Women Steering Committee.

The power to change the political discourse in Kenya lies in women’s hands and they can, with the right information and guidance, use it to take the country to the next level.

According to Daisy Amdany, while women do not have the financial resources that limit their engagement with political parties, they have much more resources in their hands than they can imagine.

“For instance, women have networks and numbers and politics is about numbers, and these numbers are people,” says Amdany. “We are telling women that they use their uniqueness in numbers and being organised in those networks, use these resources to promote themselves within political parties.”

She notes: “Political parties are only as good as their supporters and if women can actually begin to capitalise on them, then they will be providing these resources to political parties.”

Resources

According to Amdany, women can use their resources like networks and power of mobilisation to place themselves strategically within political parties.

Political parties, it’s noted, have failed women and within the political processes women have been balkanised into tribal cocoons making it difficult for them to penetrate the political space.

However, the National Women’s Steering Committee, an organisation that brings together various women’s organisations in the country, has created an initiative that is also a movement that will change the way politics operates for the Kenyan woman.

The Ni Mama Movement is looking at making women pioneers of issues based politics. “This is because tribal politics has not favoured women and because tribe is patriarchal, women do not find space within it because it favours men,” explains Amdany.

She notes: “Unfortunately tribe does not require one to be a good leader or a good performer. It does not require one to be anything other than being from a particular tribe. And because tribe is patriarchal, women are seen in the light of either their husbands or fathers, and this becomes their tribal leaning.”

Demystify

The Ni Mama Movement was started to demystify the perception that women are their own enemies. Several accusations have been levelled against women that they do no support each other in elective political processes.

“Many people don’t understand that women have been socialised in the same process as men and the political process has been very adversarial, but unfortunately a lot of women end up being caught up in it without understanding why it’s important to have more women in leadership and decision making,” she reiterates.

In an interview with the Kenyan Woman, Amdany notes that “many women fall prey to ethnic balkanisation and ethnic mobilisation which is our politics today”.

Launch

Launched on March 10, 2017, in an occasion that saw over 4,000 women aspirants from across the country attend, the Ni Mama Movement realises that while our politics is ethnically mobilised, people still want to discuss issues that affect their day to day lives and have them addressed.

“There is a lot of dissatisfaction and disaffection with the kind of leadership that we have. The Ni Mama Movement is aimed at achieving the two thirds gender principle. It’s also about mobilising women to support women politically while realising that women need to be supported financially and in the nomination process,” says Amdany.

Many women, it’s noted, wait to support women at the ballot yet many women die at the nomination stage because the processes are so unfair to them.

“We are telling women to support women of their choice not only at the nomination stage but also to the end.”

Operating under the tagline Tupendane Mpaka Kwa Debe (Let’s love one another up to the ballot box), the Ni Mama Movement reiterates support for women being all the way to the finish line.

“We have been supporting women to join political parties and mobilising women to vie for mainstream seats. We are now having county engagements, mobilising women at the grassroots to engage with political processes and to engage with female candidates, support them and be their champions all the way to the ballot.”

The Ni Mama Movement was started in October last year during which time it identified women aspirants in 12 counties and began talking about why the two thirds gender principle is in the Constitution, what it means to them and the issues women should address as well as why they need to engage with the political process.

Says Amdany: “A lot of women don’t understand the party process, they are just being led by men even though they know that their interests are not catered for.”

Through the Ni Mama Initiative, the women were shown statistics and their attitude towards politics has completely changed. “In the 12 counties, we asked women leaders to mobilise the other women into political capital so that they can push for space within political parties as bona vide voters and stakeholders,” explains Amdany.

Dominance

According to Amdany the political process has zoned the country where in one place one finds one party is dominant, and because of its dominance everybody then believes in it.

“We are telling the women to get into these political formations and we will support them there as women, campaign for them and tell the people to vote for them,” says Amdany.

She adds: “We are also auditing political parties to see whether they are actually practising the law because all of them have the two thirds gender rule mainstreamed in their manifestos from the national level to the grassroots and a lot of them are not in practice.”

Space

Amdany says they are also having conversations with political parties to ensure that women have their space and the two third gender principle is met.  “We have made recommendations to the Regulatory Framework that were passed by Parliament and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC).

“We have been doing a multi-pronged approach and will be meeting secretary generals of political parties to have things move from law to practice,” explains Amdany.

With all these actions in place, the Ni Mama Movement is set to change the political environment in Kenya and hopefully more women will be elected come the General Election on August 8, 2017.