In Summary
  • Jubilee Party Mombasa Woman Rep primaries loser Margaret Ambasa said lack of awareness also contributed to their loss.
  • Ms Mboko said the greatest challenge women aspirants face is financial constraints.

The number of women vying for various positions in this year’s General Election at the Coast has dropped compared to 2013.

This has triggered alarm among women leaders and gender activists, who view it as a step backwards.

It is seen to work against the quest by gender activists and other civil society organisations to have more women in leadership.

In the 2013 elections, 49 women candidates plunged into the men-dominated career.

While 30 of them fought it out among themselves for the woman representative position that is reserved for them, 19 others faced off with men for the posts of governor, senator and member of Parliament.

However, that number has been dramatically whittled down to only 27 candidates, 15 of whom are poised to fight it out with men for the governor, senator and MP positions.

Two women, Ms Jacinta Mwatela and Ms Sophy Kibai Wali, both from Taita-Taveta County, tried their hand in the governorship race and lost.

This year, Ms Mwatela, a former deputy governor of the Central Bank, is the only woman candidate for governor in the region, a position she is contesting on an Amani National Congress (ANC) ticket.

Political observers attribute this decline to a violent political atmosphere — whether real or perceived — that is likely to be witnessed this time round, a fact that is disadvantaging women.

Add to this increased cost of funding and managing campaigns and other logistics and women candidates have found it prohibitive to vie for the various positions.

At a meeting in Mombasa, women aspirants claimed they were asked for sexual favours, intimidated and bribed and discriminated against by their male counterparts during the political party primaries.

They urged the government to ensure women politicians are protected during the August 8 election.

Local Capacities for Peace International director Millicent Otieno said women aspirants still faced challenges in politics from their male counterparts.

“The women aspirants have confessed that when seeking the elective positions, they are usually asked for sexual favours by men,” Ms Otieno said.

“However, they should not yield to the demands.”

She however blamed the women for failure to report such cases to the relevant authorities for action.

“There are others who have been assaulted but they are too ashamed to come out and report such cases,” Ms Otieno lamented.

“Our political arena is patriarchal; men feel they are more deserving than the women, hence women have to work extra hard to get party tickets.”

Speaking during a station-to-station peace caravan spearheaded by NTV journalist Lolani Kalu, Old Town Ward aspirant Aisha Omar wept as she narrated the tribulations she went through during the nominations, mainly due to her gender.

“I was also rigged out due to lack of money and being a woman is also a weakness. But we will never give up as women.

“I will not leave my party due to what happened but one day we will have a woman president in Kenya,” Ms Omar said.

Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Mombasa woman rep aspirant Asha Mohammed also called for peace ahead of the election, as did the incumbent, Ms Mishi Juma Mboko, who is the ODM candidate for Likoni Constituency.

“The greatest challenge women aspirants face is financial constraints. Most of them do not have the kind of money that men have to mobilise voters and facilitate campaigns.

“The other one is violence meted out on them by their male opponents or their agents," Ms Mboko said.

"Men are most of the time too rough; they intimidate women, even use derogatory language on them and hire goons to send the women opponents into submission.

“I, for one, I have been intimidated so much, left, right and center. But I have grown enough shock absorbers; that is how I have managed to reach where I am.”

Jubilee Party Mombasa Woman Rep primaries loser Margaret Ambasa said lack of awareness also contributed to their loss.

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