- Title: Women candidates face curses and worse in Kenyan elections.
- Date: 4th August 2017
- Summary: KAJIADO, KENYA (RECENT) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT ASPIRANT FOR KAJIADO EAST, PERIS TOBIKO HUGGING MAASAI WOMEN AS THEY WELCOME HER / TOBIKO DANCING WITH MASAAI WOMEN MAN TAKING PICTURES WITH HIS PHONE VARIOUS OF TOBIKO DANCING SURROUNDED BY MAASAI MEN MEN LOOKING ON
- Embargoed: 18th August 2017 13:51
- Keywords: Women politics elections 2/3 majority gender rule violence
- Location: KAJIADO, NAIROBI AND DOLDOL, LAIKIPIA, KENYA
- City: KAJIADO, NAIROBI AND DOLDOL, LAIKIPIA, KENYA
- Country: Kenya
- Topics: Government/Politics,Elections/Voting
- Reuters ID: LVA0016SQR3H3
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:Kenyan Member of Parliament Peris Tobiko is on the last stretch of a campaign to retain her seat when voters go to the polls on August 8.
Running under the ruling Jubilee Party in Kajiado East, a county 80 kilometers south of the capital Nairobi, Tobiko is one of few female MPs in a national assembly dominated by men.
Winning the seat in 2013 made her the first Maasai woman MP in history.
She fought a tough race against her opponents that included threats and curses from Maasai elders saying it was against tradition for women to take up leadership positions.
This time Tobiko is campaigning on a proven track record.
"The manner in which funds have been utilized in Kajiado East has amazed everyone. People ask me if the government has given me extra money compared to what other constituencies get. I did not get any extra money, I have only managed what was allocated to me, and made sure it serves you well," she said.
Tobiko has been lauded for introducing a number of development projects, including drilling boreholes to provide water for residents of the semi-arid area, as well as empowering women and the youth.
The 42-year-old mother of four grew up in a community where educating girls is not always a priority and parents marry off their daughters at a young age.
She says her own experience gave her the resolve to become a lawmaker.
"In my father's third attempt to marry me offâ€¦ I was going to be a fourth wife to a man who is my constituent today, and he has three wives. I was going to be the fourth wife. It's not easy. Women don't have a say and I thought I could become a voice and encourage others to come out and speak and encourage them to really make their free choices and also be able to give direction to society. We don't always have to be given direction, we can also provide very sound decisions," Tobiko said.
Kenya has East Africa's lowest female representation in parliament - at 19 percent - and women have struggled to make gains in the face of violence, intimidation and sexism.
In East Africa, nearly two-thirds of Rwandan lawmakers are women, and in neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania women make up more than a third of legislators.
In Kenya, a fifth of lawmakers are women - the same proportion as Saudi Arabia.
Since entering politics, Sarah Korere has been insulted, shot at, slapped by a colleague and cursed by tribal elders.
That hasn't fazed her. She currently holds a seat reserved for women, but is running on the ruling party ticket to take the place of a male opposition lawmaker in her native Laikipia, an arid region in northern Kenya plagued by violent clashes over land.
Korere's experiences are symptomatic of a wider hate campaign against women candidates in Kenyan politics, women representatives say.
While campaigning, she cracked jokes about her opponent Mathew Lempurkel, who she has accused of violently assaulting her in a cabinet office, paying tribal elders to curse her and recruiting youth to disrupt her rallies.
"He calls me a skirt, at least I can wear both dresses and trousers, so I wore trousers today hoping to see if some of these men would come in a skirt because the roles are about to change," she said to laughter.
Korere said that since becoming a legislator in 2013 she had been shouted down and called a prostitute at public meetings.
"It has been four years of very rough and very tough times for me and at times I was even threatened. My vehicle would be shot at and actually one time my vehicle was shot at, at a place called Dol Moran but that has not yet stopped me," she said.
She now pays for up to 100 men to accompany her to public events, in addition to her armed government bodyguard.
Women usually lack the political clout and money to get nominated by the main players in primaries, where voters choose party candidates, often amid violent clashes.
Hopes for better female representation were raised in 2010 when the constitution guaranteed women a third of seats in all political offices, but the male-dominated assembly has repeatedly frustrated efforts to pass a law to enact the quota.
Activists are hopeful that following Tuesday's election, there will be more support in parliament to pass the law.
"When you now look at who is offering themselves for elections now, you will see most of the women who weren't in the affirmative seats are actually offering themselves for election. Because once they get there, they get empowered. They get to realise they can actually run for constituency seats. This is what we are saying that given an opportunity in leadership, whether through nomination or top up mechanism, these women will eventually grow bolder and stronger to now go and be able to say I want to be a leader. And this we have seen in the last five years. We have a lot of women who have migrated from the country women seat into constituencies," said Josephine Wambua Mong'are chairperson of the Federation of Women's Lawyers of Kenya (FIDA).
Public opinion has been mixed with some saying that the law should not favor women because of their gender.
"Women shouldn't just be given things for free. If we have people who are vying for governor, who are vying for senator, I think women we should just be more aggressive. If we want something we should just go and get it. I am not saying that the two thirds rule shouldn't exist. I am just saying that if women more proactive, it would exist. Not because it's a position given to them for free, there's supposed to be a woman representative. But it's because of your policies and because you are aggressive and compete with the man and people say yeah she can do it, not because she's a woman," said one Nairobi resident, Rose Munohe.
"If women have the meritocracy or women are given the opportunity and they are given the space, this is something that should come out naturally. We cannot force 2/3 gender rule on the law. What should happen is that there should be created an enabling environment for women to participate more in our politics, in our business, so that at least you have that thing coming out naturally. But if you want to legislate it and force it down on people, it's not going to work," said Nehemiah Oyunge.
Women make up only 16 percent of the 10,910 candidates competing in next Tuesday's elections, the electoral board said.
None of the presidential candidates is a woman.
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