In Kenya’s male-dominated political landscape, women face many barriers to political participation, especially when seeking elective office. Aspiring women politicians often struggle with discrimination and lack of coverage by top media outlets, which makes it difficult for them to gain public exposure and support.
Earlier this year, as political parties were selecting candidates for Kenya’s March 4 elections, NDI helped 96 women aspirants promote their candidacies through live radio talk shows, which gave them a public forum to highlight their qualifications and platforms. It also gave citizens the chance to ask the aspirants questions about their candidacies. Of these women, 45 were nominated by their political parties and nine were elected. After the elections, NDI talked with two of the women find out how the radio shows affected their prospects and what their plans are now that they’ve been elected.
Priscilla Nyokabi, elected as the Nyeri county women's representative
NDI: How did the radio programs help your campaign?
Hon. Nyokabi: The program with Inooro FM gave me a first in a lifetime opportunity to sell my policies to the electorate just in time for the party nominations and the March 4 general elections. The radio show was aired live in the evening, which enabled me to reach many people, and the fact that it was aired in the local language was a plus since I was able to reach out to both the literate and illiterate [those who spoke the local language].
Unlike political rallies where we are only given a minute to wave to the public, the radio show gave each one of us enough time to engage with the public and even respond to questions that were streaming in during the live broadcast. I would never have been afforded this opportunity otherwise, since it is very expensive to have a live broadcast, especially with a popular station like Citizen.
NDI:Why did you decide to run for office?
Hon. Nyokabi:With my legal background and having worked for Kituo Cha Sheria [a human rights organization in Kenya] as executive director, I witnessed firsthand issues of women abuse and marginalization in terms of property ownership. I felt solutions for these problems would come through leadership. I felt that if I could get an opportunity to be in leadership then I could positively influence key policy issues that would reduce marginalization of women in our society today.
NDI:What challenges did you face during the campaigns?
Hon. Nyokabi:My biggest challenge was financial. The logistics of running for a political office are very costly. I couldn’t afford to hire a campaign manager or security personnel; I was basically doing everything on my own. Another challenge was the issue of age and culture. Because I am a young person and a woman, many people did not take me seriously since the political arena is for the men and the old who know how to play the game. Because this was my first time to run for a political office, I was on my own and did not have political advisors to guide me through choices of what political party to join, how to develop a manifesto and all that pertains to a campaign. I struggled on my own and it was not easy!
NDI: What are your goals for your new position?
Hon. Nyokabi: I have a passion for debating, and I intend to utilize this in my new position. I hope to actively participate in the legislative process through parliamentary committees and to push the women’s agenda at the county level. I hope to use my position to advocate for laws that will liberate women who have been marginalized for years, especially on issues of property ownership. I am intending to work with my county governor to secure allocation of resources specifically to cover women’s issues in my county.
Getrude Mbeyu, elected as the county representative in Mombasa County
NDI: How did the radio show help you?
Ms. Mbeyu: The radio show equipped me with knowledge and skills on how to air my agenda to the people; this is because before the show began we were taken through a brief training on how to engage with the public, issues of decorum and how to sell our agenda to the people. This was very helpful to me since I had never been on a live broadcast before. The radio show played a key role in popularizing me as an aspirant since many people reached out to congratulate me after the show.
NDI: Why did you decide to run for office?
Ms. Mbeyu: During the last development survey conducted in Mombasa, my ward was rated the lowest in terms of economic development. Infrastructure is very poor, a water shortage has become rampant and food insecurity is on the rise. Women in my community have been marginalized over the years and they feel helpless because they have no voice in the community. I have been working with widows in my community for the last five years and their suffering pushed me into vying for a leadership position where I believe I can make a difference in their lives.
NDI: What challenges did you face during the campaign?
Ms. Mbeyu: Vying for elective position as a woman comes with its consequences; I suffered character defamation, especially from my competitors who went around soiling my name, hoping that I would step down. When women vie for public office their private lives are usually attacked as a way of intimidating them, but I overcame that! Finances were a challenge since it is not child’s play when it comes to handling logistics of campaigns.
NDI: What are your goals for the new position?
Ms. Mbeyu: I intend to concentrate on education in my county; many children are dropping out of school because they don’t have the school fees. Education is key to the success of any nation. If this is ignored then we cannot fight the poverty that has become so rampant in our country. I hope to play a key role in advocating for government scholarships for needy students in my community so that they remain in school and achieve their dreams. Food insecurity is also a big issue in my county; I am going to work with my governor to make sure farmers have access to fertilizer at subsidized rates.
- Official Kenya Election Results Are Consistent with ELOG's Parallel Vote Tabulation»
- Leadership and Campaign Academy Prepares Leaders for Kenya Elections»
- Forum Brings Kenyan Youth Together Across Party, Ethnic Lines»
Published May 16, 2013