“Three men attacked me as one of them kept watch. They punched my face and hit me with a wooden rod on my neck and back. I kept telling them, take the money I had but they did not steal anything from me. One of them even told me, 'Hatuna njaa ya pesa.' They later told me that 'Embakasi iko na wenyewe'," Eunice Wambui (popularly known as Nyasuguta) recounts her own terrible ordeal with goons who ambushed and attacked her when she announced her candidacy for Embakasi South Constituency."
“We are seeing a dangerous wave of electoral and other forms of violence. This, if not addressed, could jeopardize women and youth participation in the electoral processes. This is a critical year in our democracy. We must uphold peace and condemn all forms of violence, said Kagwiria Mbogori, the Chairperson of the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights
Appealing but guttural, occasionally brittle and taut throughout. That is how I would describe the tone of her voice as she gave this statement. That is how I would describe the tone of over 300 women that came out on the streets to condemn domestic and electoral violence if I tried.
We live in a country where the largest chunk of the population is made up of young women between the ages of 18 and 35. Young women that are in school studying, at home taking care of their siblings, older women running businesses, homes, even the country itself.
We also live in a country, in a continent, where women are mostly viewed as vulnerable, fragile …sometimes even weak. All a man will need to do is raise his hand as if to hit her and she’ll run like Bambi from a forest fire to do whatever he needs her to. Yes. There are the elite, the ones that have braved really bad storms to warrant them a voice and an opinion in the public, but even then they are witch-hunted for one reason or the other.
I’ll enlist help from ‘Gone with the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell to tell, in one quote, the story of one among every four women in Kenya.
“Life was not easy, nor was it happy, but she did not expect life to be easy, and, if it was not happy, that was the woman's lot. It was a man's world, and she accepted it as such. The man owned the property, and the woman managed it. The man took credit for the management, and the woman praised his cleverness. The man roared like a bull when a splinter was in his finger, and the woman muffled the moans of childbirth, lest she disturb him. Men were rough of speech and often drunk. Women ignored the lapses of speech and put the drunkards to bed without bitter words. Men were rude and outspoken; women were always kind, gracious and forgiving.”
That’s a piece that was published in 1863… 1863 people!! That’s 154 years ago! And I still can’t help but wonder how many women in Kenya can relate with it today. How many young women read it just now and felt like they knew those women Margaret was talking about. How many older ones feel like they’re reading their own story?
Women that are running for public office in this election; as Governors, Senators, Members of Parliament, Members of the County Assembly or to represent their own in the National Assembly. They are strong as iron, vivacious, sober, objective and level-headed. With limited resources and a strong will they stand in the political arena and roar in spite of the numerous poisoned arrows that shoot their way. Women that believe they can lead a nation even though the credit will go to the men, they can sing songs of freedom even though the tune will be praised on the other party, they can fight even though the trophy is likely to go to the men. These women are running for elective seats in this election, against all odds and thank God, that they have a fighting chance.
We have a great deal of young women that are on the forefront advocating for free and fair elections. They are supportive of other women that are running and men too. Their focus, is taking the country forward. They have family dinner tables to set, children to clothe and give medical care, they need water to clean, electricity to function with ease and security for their bloodlines and neighbors. They will offer civic education where needed, hold fireside conversations on politics and leadership, read books about it, and then talk about it. They are all about exercising that precious democratic right and having others follow suit.
“Exclusion of women and youth in electoral processes engineered through violence and intimidation must stop. Participation in electoral processes is a right not a privilege. Women aspirants and leaders will not condone any form of violence especially during this campaign season,” said Susan Mwongera, the CEO of Youth Agenda.
All these women have two things in common; they are leaving their own to help others take care of their own and they are sick and tired of the bullies and their shenanigans. They are stepping into the primaries, with faces brave and hearts stuck in their guts because it is a culture, a way of life, in Kenya, for them to be sexually, physically, emotionally or psychologically abused. And that’s actually a bummer. They hope that they eventually make it to the general elections, and when they do, they hope they make it out alive and well. Truth is any man or woman worth their salt will not need to resort to violence to make their pedestal higher that in itself is a loud and clear signal that something is sorely lacking
How long Kenya? How long before we bounce out of that mediocrity?
I will inform you from what I saw on Friday, that any form of violence on a woman in the coming elections, will not go unnoticed nor will it be tolerated!
A whole herd of us are watching and waiting.
To all the young women stepping up to the plate, we SALUTE you!
And if I were boy, I would never raise my voice or hand at woman that could so easily be my mother, sister, daughter or wife. It’s not right and it’s not okay. It never will.