KARUA: Redefining women leaders solidarity in political participation in Kenya

This is an article written in Citizen Digital by a Guest Writer

The original article can be read here

Solidarity has been defined as “unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest: mutual support within a group ” (online free dictionary).

Wikipedia on its part defines solidarity as “an awareness of shared interests, objectives, standards, and sympathies creating a psychological sense of unity of groups or classes.It refers to the ties in a society that bind people together as one”.

For women in Kenya and indeed anywhere to have solidarity they have to be aware, be conscious of their shared interests, objectives and sympathies that in turn creates a unity of purpose.

Mirroring on my own journey as an unapologetic women’s rights and human rights activist, I am conscious that as people born in a patriarchal society, we all have a measure of patriarchy in us imbibed from our social, setting, our environment.

What is patriarchy? A system that prioritizes men over women, a system of male privilege.

We all have to travel our journey of self-discovery, self awareness, locating women’s groupings.

We all have our stories. It is by self discovery, self awareness that we can appreciate our common goals, our shared interests as women which will result in our unity of purpose.

We sometimes are blind or oblivious to the daily practices that discriminate against women on basis of their gender, the sum total of which constitute the barriers that hinder women’s empowerment.

Right from the family setting, girls are expected to help in household chores while their brothers play.

Theses differentials are replicated in the workplace, in school and they become part of us. We cease to notice even when we are in an obvious manner treated differently.

My first term in parliament when we were six women in a House of 189 members, we successfully got a constitutional amendment to outlaw discrimination on basis of gender.

We also got another providing for equal sharing of nominated slots in parliament and local authorities equally between men and women, by having a unite voice of women both in parliament and outside of parliament.

In the 2005 referendum women fell to divide and rule but in the runner up to the 2010 referendum and during the referendum itself, women redefined their solidarity which resulted in the gains in the 2010 constitution.

In politics and decision-making, it is now becoming the trend that women are expected to deputize the plum positions occupied by their male counterparts: women are expected to do the leg work and fight battles, but not participate equally in sharing the gains.

What if women in parliament and political parties in one voice demanded actualization of the gender principle?

What if in one voice women demanded from their parties equal share of nomination to contest winnable seats?

Our voices would certainly be heard and respected. There is strength in numbers: unity is strength. United we stand divided we fall.

It’s time to leverage on our numbers, our clout to demand our rightful place our rightful share. This we can do collectively by identifying ourselves with the course and committing to unity of purpose in all the spaces we occupy. In parliament, our political parties, our families and any other spaces available to us. We have to walk the talk. Her Story is very key in our self awareness and as an enabler to understand women’s struggle. Get to know her story from your family perspective: from the neighborhood, from our communities, from our country and from the world over, and by the time you are done, you will sign up for sisterhood.

Yes! Sisterhood, because our brothers have an understanding of brotherhood that is activated automatically when male privilege is threatened. The demand for equality is seen by some with the exception of feminist males as a threat. This is what informs the hostile reactions from some in parliament, the executive and many others spaces to the demand for inclusion. Our game plan should be to minister to ourselves first and have as many of us if not all on the same page, even as we seek the support of our brothers who happen to be our fathers and partners as well. Once we are self aware, we will need no reminder to direct our efforts towards a common goal -the goal of gender equality in all spheres of life.

We will deem it our duty to stand in solidarity with fellow women knowing that a culture of disrespecting and excluding women affects all us albeit in different spaces and times.

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