By Carol Mango,
Chief writer, CCW
“Even though it has been about 11 months since the last elections, we continue to see numerous surveys where voters think their elected leaders have been sleeping on the job, while others continue to succumb to the list of ‘mute MPs’. How do you rate your Woman Rep in bunge and on matters ‘constituency services?”-CCW
They have traveled very different paths and faced many difficult challenges, but today, they are true beacons of hope for thousands of women and girls at the Coast.
Though they hold different political opinions and represent various political parties and interests, they are united under one critical belief-that the SIX Coast Counties can flourish!
On August 8, 2017, Kenya voted fo4r change, especially at the local grassroots level.
Consequently, well over 70 percent of incumbent governors, Members of Parliament and Women representatives lost their seats at the ballot box.
Many incumbents failed to win their party nomination primaries and a whole lot more failed to stay in power for a second term under the new constitution during the 2017 elections.
That said, close to 80 percent of County women reps failed to win another term in what was highly competitive races last year.
Bottom line?-Kenyans yearned for better leaders, they yearned for change and this, they illustrated when they voted out dozens of elected leaders.
Similar to other Counties, Coast voters utilized their political voting power to oust those who disappointed in office.
A set of SIX new Women reps- Three of them ousted their predecessors in highly competitive races and three others filled in vacant seats (Mombasa, Taita Taveta and Kilifi) after the holders vied for parliamentary seats and came out victorious, except Joyce Lay.
That makes all the six women reps, the new faces in the game of politics and all eyes are now on them.
– Asha Mohammed’s second contest for the Mombasa Woman Rep seat, was worth it and with a popular vote too, to become the influential women rep in County 001. She took over from her predecessor Mishi Mboko who is the current Likoni MP.
-Getrude Mbeyu holds the Kilifi mantle which was left vacant by her predecessor, the tigress Asha Jumwa who shattered the glass ceiling to become the Malindi MP by an overwhelmingly popular vote.
-In Taita Taveta,
Lydia Mnene carried the day after massive grassroots campaign, proving to be the worthy one amongst all who vied.
-Zulekha Mohammed came out victorious in Kwale County, with a clear and popular win, beating her worthy opponent Zeinab Chidzuga with thousands of votes.
–In Tana River,
Out of a record 12 contestants, strong in their own ways and coming from various influential clans, Rehema Hassan took the prize home.
-In Lamu County, the humble and little known Captain Ruweida Obbo, impressed many by her style of grassroots
campaign, and warmed the hearts of thousands of voters, to beat seasoned politician and immediate former Lamu women rep, Shakila Abdallah.
Victory celebrations are over and there is no time to waste.
Coast Focus: Five years will easily fly by because there is a lot to be done.
The new SIX women reps do have a huge task ahead of them to fulfill all the promises they made to the electorate during the campaigns.
It is one thing, to promise to do something for someone and its an entirely different thing to actualize that promise.
Voters are still fresh from the election campaigns and the fact that they voted out the past leadership, means that they are waiting to see the fulfillment of what they were promised.
They have very high expectations from their new representatives and they are depending on them to present their agenda in parliament.
From early marriages, to gender based violence, to protecting the girl child and the proper use of the Affirmative Action Fund are some of the top issues on the table of each of the six women reps.
Today, the girl child at the Coast remains disadvantaged. Girls are doing more work at home, denying them time to concentrate on their studies.
Other critical issues include empowering women through the Affirmative Action Fund, while at the same time protecting the girl child and especially their education.
The Coast women reps also need to prioritize healthcare in working closely with County governments to improve healthcare and consequently reduce the mortality rate..
Whether it is a fact that their predecessors were incompetent or that they performed far way below average, the focus for the new women reps at the Coast must be to empower women and youth in a region that has suffered for decades from historical injustices and marginalization.
They must work hard, to provide the poor, the marginalized and the minorities, with sustainable development programs that will advance women and youth issues-CCW
As they continue their five year terms, the new leadership must be alive to the sole reason, as to why the Constitution of Kenya 2010 created the position of Women Rep to the National Assembly.
To increase the voice of women in parliament, articulate their views on laws and interrogate decisions that affect them (women) apart from over sighting the national government and county governments in ensuring that they perform on issues concerning women and the youth are some of the critical roles that come with the seat.
The Coast women reps must remember that the electorate is watching expectantly to ensure they continue making progress.
Progress they say, does not come easy-no true progress ever does. However, embracing the commitment to never stop striving towards a
truly equal society is important.
Our six women reps must work together across party lines, on issues that are important to their respective Counties like early child marriages, protecting the girl child, violence against women, and especially, through the Affirmative Action fund, empowering women and addressing generally, the common problems at the Coast, dating back to historical injustices and the impact that continue to affect communities.
The new SIX must be prepared to cross the boundaries of their respective political parties, ethnicity and religion, to meet their objectives.
They will have to identify non partisan issues on which women politicians from all parties at the Coast come together despite extreme political tensions to form some sort of platform for improving women’s political participation from all the six counties.
Tackling poverty reduction and service delivery should be areas of primary importance to their respective constituents and supporters.
They will begin to feel the pressure to work harder to prove themselves in their role, but we also expect them to introduce more legislation and participate in policy debates.
We expect them to work out compromises, while keeping the Six County governments honest and standing up for what they believe in, while representing the interests of those who put them in power.
They therefore have a responsibility to represent women’s interests and advocate for other members of society.
The new SIX must remember that their representation in the six Counties are an investment in provision of clean drinking water, health and education issues, like reducing the gender gap in school attendance.
“The positive impact of women in politics is undeniable. He noted that study after study has taught us, there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women, “-Koffi Annan.
The Coast women reps must work together in order to solve the myriad of problems in their respective counties at the coast, in order to meet development goals they preached during their campaigns.
Their winning shots during campaigns that propelled the new SIX to power….
In Taita Taveta County, woman rep Lydia Mnene’s top of her agenda is to champion for increased allocation of the National Government Affirmative Action Fund (NGAAF) so that it can adequately cater for the many women and youth groups in that County.
The Jubilee woman Rep’s focus is also on improved education, health, the perennial water shortage problem and women empowerment through
In Kilifi County, Getrude Mbeyu’s key agenda is on how she would utilize the annual Sh49 million NGAAF, through an all inclusive approach especially of special interest groups that have been side-lined for years in matters development.
Improving the lives of women and youth is a matter that cuts across all the six Counties.
In Kwale County, Zuleikha Hassan has huge plans for the people who elected her including building a cashew nut processing factory in the
In her mission to uplift Kwale County which is ranked fifth richest county among the 47, but continues to languish in poverty, the ODM woman rep seeks to utilize opportunities to set up a cashewnut factory that would massively change the lives of the locals for the better.
She also seeks to invest heavily in empowering women and bring to an end the water shortage problem in affected areas.
In Lamu County, little known Ruweida Obo’s struggle, passion and work inspired voters who elevated her to power through a popular vote.
The Jubilee woman rep’s goals to improve women’s access to health care, achieve gender parity in schools and her top priority to support women and youth economic independence is crucial.
In Counties like Taita Taveta, accessibility of water in all parts of the County, attaining gender parity in the provision of maternal healthcare, infant and child mortality among other issues.
Women who continue to trek for more than 30 minutes to fetch 20 liters of water are hoping that Lydia Mnene, will provide permanent solutions
to the situation.
In areas like Kilifi and Kwale Counties, the girl child is missing out because they are still being seen as the solution out of poverty, unfortunately by parents and guardians, consequently, making the child sex tourism to thrive, as pedophiles perpetrate pornography rackets.
The importance of school for some girls is over shadowed by their parents’ desire to get some cash by marrying them off early, yet the country needs these girls to contribute to development once they are empowered with education.
Empowering the children with knowledge through school is a lifetime investment. The nation look up to such children to take up leadership roles in future and how else can they qualify to be leaders if they are not prepared now by going to school? The answer to such questions lies in the hands of the new women reps in proving their worth to the electorate in less than four years.
The new SIX must be more vigilant in their efforts to serve the people at all times.
Our women reps must realize that they are in charge of public funds and must utilize them responsibly in accordance with the law and with the people’s interests foremost.