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Kenya’s Past as Prologue

Christian Thibon
Marie-Aude Fouéré
Mildred Ndeda
et al.

Luo Women Voters/Aspirants and the New Constitutional Dispensation in the March 2013 Kenya Elections: The case of Siaya and Kisumu Counties

Mildred Ndeda

Texte intégral


  • 1 Remarks by UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet at the Australian Parliament House, Austra (...)

1Women are slightly over fifty per cent (50%) of world population but occupy only twenty per cent (20%) of political positions. According to Andrea Wikham, they are less than 10% of the world’s leaders and of the 193 member states of the UN, only 21 have either a female Head of State or of Government. Hence despite decades of enfranchisement, only a small fraction of political representatives around the world are women (Wickham, 2013). Given this state of affairs it is clear that women’s participation in politics as either voters or aspirants is crucial because first and foremost everyone should have the right and opportunity to be a political representative. There are also a number of benefits that could accrue with female participation in politics. For instance given their nature as primary caregivers in households and communities they have the capacity to advocate strongly for both women’s and children’s issues. Wikham asserts that in countries with more women in parliament and government there is a tendency to have more equitable laws and social programmes and their budgets also tend to benefit women, children and families better (Ibid). Further evidence shows that countries with greater gender equality (in all spheres, labour, politics, education etc.) have higher GNP (Gross National Product) per capita. This is like the impact of women’s leadership in the corporate world in terms of improved business performance. Empirical evidence also shows that greater female representation in parliament lowers the level of corruption. As Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women stated: “When more women are leaders, decisions better reflect and respond to the diverse needs of society. As I have learned: When one woman is a leader it changes her. When more women are leaders, it changes politics and policies”.1

2In most African countries, the marginalization of women has continued since pre-colonial and colonial era. As Parpart and Staudt (1989) point out, the state served as a vehicle for elite male interests and in the process enhanced and extended men’s power, leaving women with limited avenues for participation in politics. Similarly Chazan (in Parpart and Staudt, 1989) asserts that the state policies towards women remained discriminatory and coercive as a result of which women have played minimal roles in statecraft in Africa. Due to their exclusion, the constitutional and legal status of women’s participation in all levels of governance is regarded as key indicator of the level of any country’s democracy. The gendered quality of such a country would be marked in its institutions, such as the cabinet, parliament, judiciary, army, and civil service. This exclusion leads to the conclusion that women constitute a historically oppressed and marginalised group despite their value as individuals with creative solutions, contributions and whose concern for cohesiveness in society would contribute to the quality of life (Mama, 1991).

3The participation of Kenyan women in leadership and governance has a long history. Since Kenya’s independence in 1963, women have tried to effectively participate, alongside men, in governance and decision-making in all aspects of public life. But in the first five decades since independence, progress towards women’s access to formal political leadership positions was slow due to structural obstacles which include: the deeply embedded patriarchal socio-cultural values; undemocratic institutions and policy frameworks and low levels of civic and gender awareness.

4In 1963 the long-standing issue about gender resurfaced in Kenya with the key question on the role of women in the new political dispensation. Women’s issue was captured during the second Lancaster House Conference of 1962 by Priscilla Abwao (2002: 7) who intimated that Kenyan women were “not asking for a special position for ourselves” but that in the new dispensation they would be “treated as equal partners in the new society which we are creating, as well as the endeavours to create that society” (Ibid). But Kenyatta’s government did not fundamentally change the colonial system and its structures (Savage and Taylor, 1999: 70) that overlooked women’s participation in governance and leadership. That government did not address issues of gender and failed to integrate women’s issues into the national agenda. Women were therefore denied the chance to develop initiatives and gain political voice. Instead the political culture of Kenya in the 1960s and 1970s comprised violence, intimidation, detention, and police harassment causing most women to keep off politics (Nasongo and Ayot, 2007: 164-196). The majority only participated as voters, dancers and mobilisers during campaigns/elections, in preparation and distribution of food in meetings and leafleting (Kabira and Wasamba, 1998). Thus, between 1964 and 1969, there was no woman Member of Parliament (MP) in Kenya. In November 1969, the first woman was elected into parliament and one more nominated (Waiyego, 2004). Therefore, of the total number of elected legislators between 1969 and 1974, women formed 0.56% and 5% of nominated members (Ibid).

5In the 1970s, public awareness of the importance of women’s issues increased, partly fostered by the United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985) which culminated in the United Nation’s Women Conference in Nairobi in 1985 and other International Women’s Conferences (Mexico, Copenhagen and Nairobi Women’s Conferences). During that decade the number of women members of the Kenyan parliament increased. Julia Ojiambo became an Assistant Minister for Culture and Social Services, the highest office in the government ever held by a woman since independence. Other women members of parliament included; Phoebe Asiyo, Winfred Nyiva Mwendwa, Grace Onyango, Eddah Gachukia, Jemima Gecaga, Philomena Chelagat Mutai and Anarita Karimi (Wamalwa, 1991: 245-253).

  • 2 Weru, G. “Special Report” Daily Nation, Nairobi Kenya, August 23, 1995 AWC, “A Journey of Courage”
  • 3 Ibid.

6The wave of democratization in the 1990s opened up political spaces and Kenyan women, led by the women’s movement seized this political opportunity (Ibid). This period also saw the formation of new gender based lobby groups (Nzomo, 1997: 97) that influenced political parties to integrate gender in their agenda and programmes. But given that Kenya’s multi-party politics was characterised by ethnicity (Choti, 2005), most women identified themselves with their communities rather than gender.2 Despite this, the first multi-party elections in December 1992 still reflected the big effort of the women’s movement to empower female voters and candidates. Over 40 women were elected councillors in 1992 as compared to 20 in 1983 while 6 were elected to parliament compared to 2 in 1983.3 Three years later, in May 1995, Nyiva Mwendwa was appointed to head the Ministry of Culture and Social Services. She was the first female full cabinet minister in independent Kenya.

  • 4 The 200 members House.

7During the second multi-party elections in 1997 women were more prepared and visible than they had been in 1992 but still only four women were elected to parliament4 and five were nominated out of a total of 12 seats, which was only 4.0% representation (Ibid). Most women voters at grassroots level remained susceptible to manipulation and this undermined their freedom of choice in the elections. The 2002 elections in Kenya were significant because they were the first transitional elections. The election year was characterised with much political activity and women also engaged in this hence in 2002, 44 women were nominated out of the 1,037 parliamentary candidates. At the local government level, only 380 women were nominated out of the 7,008 candidates competing for a total of 2,093 seats (Ibid).

8The overall performance for women in Kenya however, improved during the same period as shown in table 1:

Table 1: Women in parliamentary elections since independence

Women representation in Parliament,


Women elected

Women nominated










































60 37

Source: Ministry of Gender and Sports, February 2008.

  • 5 Women’s Shadow Parliament—Kenya 2008, 9; Commonwealth Observation Mission 2008, 16.
  • 6 Women’s Shadow Parliament—Kenya 2008, 9.

9In relations to Table 1, women’s performance in parliamentary electoral politics in the first decade of independence was marginal but there was a gradual increase in the number of women MPs up to 2002. 1997 elections were the only exception to this trend marked by a drop in the women’s performance in electoral politics (Nzomo, 2003: 17-33). In 1997 only nine women were elected out of the 220 members of parliament (MPs) (Njenga, 2007). In the 2002 elections the number of female MPs increased to 18 out of the 222 members of parliament. This still fell below the United Nations target of 30% representation of women in politics and the Beijing Platform for Action (in 1995), where all governments ratified equal participation of women and men in decision-making bodies (Ibid). During the 2007 general elections of the 2,548 candidates fielded 269 (10.56%) were women.5 Of the 210 elected members of the National Assembly 15 (7.12%) were women.6 The number of women in the tenth Kenyan parliament was 22 or 9.8% of the 224 members. Evidently the gender imbalance in Kenya’s political playing field continue to widen given that the male political ideology continues to define the standards of evaluation of women’s political performance and participation.

  • 7 Kweyu, D. “Why Kenyan Women Perfom Below Par in Elective Politics”, The Nation, March 23, 2013.
  • 8 Ossmann, K. Kenyan Elections 2013: Peaceful Prevention and Community Reporting Project

10In the first General Election under the 2010 Constitution it seemed that the space could be opened for an increased number of women to vie but finally, of the 290 MPs, only 16 women were elected. Granted, the Constitution provides for 47 women representatives from the counties. Women’s performance in the 2013 polls cannot be discounted, given that it accounts for some 25 per cent of the 67 women who have been elected to Parliament since 1963.7 The 11th Parliament, therefore, brings on board the largest number of women to have ever sat in the House. This was an improvement over the previous parliament which had only 9.85% (one of the lowest in the region) but a far cry from the minimum one-third called for in the new constitution. Both the Carter Centre and the European Union’s Observer Mission highlighted the disappointing number of women candidates in their preliminary reports on the election.8 The vast western region of Kenya elected only six of the 16 women MPs – four of them from Rift Valley. Out of the 47 counties, no women were elected as governor or senator. In the 2013 general elections women winners upped the proportion in that body to 64 out of 349 seats or 18.3%.

11It raises serious questions about why almost 30 years after Kenya hosted the third UN Conference on Women and nearly two decades after the famed Beijing conference, Kenya continues to perform so poorly in the vital area of women in political leadership. Nyanza and Western provinces performed particularly badly, sending only two women to the National Assembly, namely the former nominated MP Millie Odhiambo, who won the Mbita seat, and newcomer Mary Emaase of Teso South. Even with the guaranteed 47 women representatives, Kenya has not met the constitutional threshold of no more than two-thirds of public office holders being of the same gender and as stated in Kweyu’s (2013) article. “… we are far short of the 117 [women required] and we are aware that the House shall be unconstitutional”.

12Given that women account for slightly over 50 per cent of the voters, why do they continue to lag in elective politics? Why does Kenya lag behind East African Community partners like Tanzania that has 126 women in their 350-member Parliament; Uganda (135 out of 386); Burundi (32 of 105 Lower House and 18 of 41, Upper House); and Rwanda (45 of 80, Lower House and 10 out of 26 Upper House)? Kenyan women have come a long way in penetrating the political male-dominated world. Kenya’s political history has recorded great women who went through many difficult and humiliating conditions to fight for equality and participation in politics at both the local and national levels. Thus to respond to these issues a local level situation has been chosen to analyse women as voters and aspirants. The two localities of concern are Kisumu and Siaya counties.

  • 9 Dane, L. Risks more Kisumu County Facts and Details, My Aspirant my Leader: your County edition.
  • 10 Ibid.

13Kisumu County covers an area of 2,085. Sq. Km and has 5 Local Authorities (Municipal Council of Kisumu, County Council of Kisumu, County Council of Nyando, County Council of Muhoroni and Town Council of Ahero) whose administrative capital is Kisumu Town.9 It is famed for its association with Lake Victoria which contributes a very large part to the economy given its support of the fishing and fish processing industry.10 Agriculture is also a common economic activity with sugar and rice irrigation industries. Kisumu County borders Vihiga to the North, Nandi County to the North East, Kericho County to the East, Nyamira to the South, Homa Bay to the South West and Siaya to the West. The population of Kisumu is 968,909, (Male – 48.9%, Female – 51.1%). The number of constituencies is six (2010) (Kisumu Town East, Kisumu Town West, Kisumu Rural, Muhoroni, Nyando and Nyakach). The registered voters in 2013 were 336, 174. Jack Ranguma, Anyang’ Nyong’o, and Rose Nyamunga were elected as governor, senator and women representative, respectively in the Kisumu County during the 2013 elections.

  • 11 Town Councils of Bondo, Ukwala, Ugunja, Yala, county councils of Siaya and Bondo and Municipal Coun (...)
  • 12 Alego-Usonga, Ugunja, Bondo, Gem, Rarieda and Ugenya.

14Siaya County on the other hand covers an area of 2,530.5 Sq. Km. It has seven Local Authorities11 whose administrative capital is Siaya town. It has a population of 842,304 (Male – 47%, Female – 53%). The number of Constituencies (2013) is five.12 The number of registered voters was 285,696. The existing resources include agricultural land, fisheries, indigenous forests; rivers, timber and the main economic activities/industries are subsistence farming, livestock keeping, fishing, rice farming and small-scale business. The elected leaders during the 2013 elections are Cornel Rasanga Amoth (Governor), James Orengo (Senator), and Ombaka Christine Oduor (women representative).

Women and politics in the new constitutional dispensation in Kenya

  • 13 Ossmann, op.cit.

15Until the March 2013 general elections women’s political representation stood at 9.8% compared to Rwanda’s 56.3%, South Africa 42.3%, Tanzania 36% and Uganda’s 35%. However, the new constitution, approved in August 2010, enshrined within it women’s rights captured mostly within the Bill of Rights section. The Bill of Rights guarantees the right to equal treatment for women and men. This includes the right to equal opportunities in political, economic, cultural and social spheres; the right to be free from discrimination on the basis of sex and several other characteristics. The Bill of Rights also specifies that “the State shall take legislative and other measures to implement the principle that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective or appointive bodies shall be of the same gender”.13

16The new Constitution had various gains for women in Kenya which included the entrenchment of the principle of Affirmative Action, the 1/3 representation of either gender in elective positions, 47 women each elected by registered voters of the counties, 12 nomination special seats for youth, People With Disabilities and Workers, a third (6) of which would be for Women Representation in the National Assembly (Rugene, 2013). This Constitution (2010) recognizes women’s social, economic, cultural and political rights in all institutions of governance including political party structures and other organs of decision making. It has ensured that women would no longer be marginalized in the public arena.

  • 14 Rugene, N.“Record number of women”.
  • 15 Ibid.

17According to this constitution the devolved government must have female representatives for the National Assembly, the Senate and County Assembly. The National Assembly has a total of 349 members i.e. 290 elected members, 47 women county representatives and 12 nominated members. Within the Senate, there are 18 slots for women, 12 nominated by political parties according to their proportion of the Senate, 1 representing youth and 1 People with Disabilities, i.e. 18 women of 67 members is 26.9%. Included are also 7 Members appointed by parliament from among its members of whom at least 2 must be women, 1 nominated by political parties and 1 woman experienced in public affairs but not nominated by Members of Parliament.14 The County Assembly includes 47 elected members from each of the counties and nominated members appointed by the parties. In fact political parties were required to ensure that for every three party members presented to vie for political office, one had to be a woman, and if she failed to be elected, a woman must be nominated by the party.15

18Evidently this Constitution opened the space for women to participate in leadership and decision-making, through the provision of minimum gender quotas for all elected and appointed bodies. The use of constitutional or legal quotas has proved effective in advancing women’s political participation in regions like the Scandinavia and Latin America. Perhaps that is why Chief Justice Willy Mutunga emphasized: “With this initiative, Kenya joins other countries in the region using constitutionally reserved seats to enhance women’s political participation”. These new provision were put to the test during the March 2013 general elections.

  • 16 Ossmann, op.cit.

19Despite these provisions, the previous parliament failed to pass measures to implement the principle that at least 117 (one third of the 349 seats) members of the new parliament would be women and instead voted to delay the implementation until 2015. Although logically the goal seemed unattainable while still maintaining the rights of political parties, candidates and voters, this was a disappointment for Kenyan women.16 Moreover while the constitution allowed for nomination of women through the party list only a few political parties had entrenched the criteria for nominating women and determining their ranking on the party list by the time of the March 2013 elections. The process of deciding who to include in the party list could easily be abused by party officials by selecting their cronies or accepting favours as a basis for inclusion and ranking on the party lists. It was therefore significant for parties to develop rules and regulations for identifying and nominating deserving persons to the party lists. Otherwise political parties would face many disputes if inclusion on the party lists is not participative and/ or seen to be fair.

  • 17 Ibid.
  • 18 Rugene, op. cit.

20The 4 March 2013 election implemented the devolved government defined in the constitution through a new county structure. Some power and resources thus shifted from a centralized national government to the new 47 counties. However since the elections the power shift has been contested vehemently by the various centres of power. Each county has a governor, a county assembly with representatives from each ward, and a senator in the newlycreated national Senate. Seven women candidates vied for a governorship in an effort to make history as the first governors of their respective counties and all were defeated. In the Senate race, all 19 women candidates seeking to be among the 47 elected to the House lost their contests.17 About 300 women competed for the 47 seats reserved for them in the counties, while 156 battled for constituency parliamentary seats against male opponents.18 This was a sharp fall on the 269 who contested the last ballot in 2007. A total of 16 women were elected as Members of the National Assembly in the general elections despite a myriad of challenges to their candidatures.

21Most of the women elected to the 11th parliament were in the Jubilee alliance and they included Rachael Nyamai (Kitui South), Joyce Laboso (Sotik), Mary Wambui (Othaya), Grace Kipchoim (Baringo South), Mary Emase (Teso South), Alice Wahome (Kandara), Naomi Shabaan (Taveta), Cecile Mbarire (Runyenjes), Terris Tobiko (Kajiado East), Esther Murugi (Nyeri Town), Alice Wambui (Thika Town) and Esther Gathogo (Ruiru). Those elected through the CORD Coalition included Millie Odhiambo (Mbita), Jessica Nduku (Kibwezi East), and Regina Ndambuki (Kilome).

22Some of the hurdles that faced women in the 2013 elections included social culture. It was perhaps the greatest setback given Kenya’s patriarchal society with most communities still clinging to the traditional perception that men are leaders with women portrayed as lacking vital leadership qualities. Such long-standing cultural beliefs have been held by men and women alike. The colonial system with its patriarchal tendencies strengthened the African structures by introducing the public and domestic sector that emphasised women’ domain as the domestic sphere particularly in the rural areas while men became part and parcel of the public sphere where they were used as labourers in the urban and settled areas. Colonialism thus dictated that women’s place was in the home and were therefore not expected to indulge in activities that removed them from the domestic sphere, and women who were considered independent women created by the very system through the process of urbanisation and schooling, who tribal associations sought to control. This paradigm has been used by male chauvinists to frustrate women’s efforts to aspire for political leadership. Such stereotypes have specifically been used to lock women candidates out of parliament. Many Kenyan communities, including the Luo, still believe that men should lead and so men have control over all social, political and economic spheres. Even among the more educated and cosmopolitan youth, these attitudes are deeply engrained. As one aspirant Risper Akinyi Pete who contested for Deputy Governor’s seat in Kisumu County noted, “Stereotypes that women cannot lead still reigns in the region and a time has come that this must be changed in order to achieve vision 2030. Emerging from a region where men are believed to be the only leaders, it is hard to win the confidence of the electorate to vote for women” (Gwengi, 2013). Any woman who goes to the contrary is viewed as rebellious, one of loose morals and is often alienated by the community.

23Culture change does not happen overnight. With passage of the new constitution it is clear that Kenyans’ vision for the future includes greater gender equity. For women who vied for political office it is painfully clear that implementation of that vision is a distant reality. As one woman observed, Women were disadvantaged in the concluded elections because of cultural barriers and financial constraints to mount campaigns. There was also propaganda used by some male aspirants to the effect that women should not be given positions because they had the women representative seat.

24She added that since political parties in Kenya are ethnic based instead of ideological, some women, new to politics, started their campaigns too late because of confusion over the political parties to run on. Combining politics and ‘child-rearing’/family life has also been a challenge because most women cannot balance both private and public life. Women candidates, running campaigns and shouldering domestic responsibility are particularly overworked and likely to burn out in addition.

  • 19 Njenga, op.cit.
  • 20 Ossmann, op.cit.

25Apart from society’s negative attitude towards women’s leadership, the financial resources required to launch a competitive campaign automatically exclude many women from participation. The financial constraints that many women interested in politics face compared to their male counterparts bar them from contesting, thereby making their political potentials go unnoticed.19 But even for those women able to pay the prohibitive nomination fee, a host of other hurdles present themselves (Gathigah, 2013). A member of the E.U. Observer Mission mentioned in a newspaper interview that all female candidates indicated campaign financing was a significant issue. They received little or no support from their political parties. Additionally, a spokesperson for the Coalition of Violence against Women in Kenya argued that “the risk to women in the search for public office was still very high”.20

26Their financial constraints began with qualification for the party nominations, which required payment of the equivalent of 1,700 dollars. In addition to this, finances are crucial in political campaigns at all levels. A campaign team right from the preliminary levels needs transport (getting vehicles, fuelling them to facilitate mobility, and branding), food, regalia and insignia that profile the candidate. They also need t-shirts, pens, pencils and caps. Running a campaign in a rural constituency is very expensive since the constituencies are huge and not well served by roads, telephones, electricity and other infrastructure available in the urban areas. Then there are the expectations for hand-outs from the electorate. According to Achieng’, hand-outs given by politicians will always create a lot of insecurity and economic constraints: “It is unwise to exchange one’s vote for as little as KSh. 50. We should think of long term issues”.

27Awuor who was running for the senatorial seat in Siaya responded to the challenges she would face as follows:

  • 21 Awour, “Senate Aspirant of Siaya & Diaspora Representative Speaks!”, July 30, 2012, Jamhuri Team.

The biggest challenge I see is probably not having the needed financial resources to get me to be able to get my message to all expected 400,000 plus voters. The other challenge some people have told me several times is that I’m going to fight Oburu and Orengo who are said to be unbeatable and the favourites. The challenge in this case is not these two candidates but to get the voters to understand that the elections are not about the two leaders but about them. To understand that I’m not interested in fighting the two candidates and that my energy will be directed toward fighting poverty, hunger, illiteracy and diseases in Siaya County and Kenya. The other challenge is that as a woman many say this is impossible. The best thing that ever happened is to see the Mission Impossible movies. Every step I make I approach it knowing this is not an easy task. I approach it knowing they are tasks that have to be done for the families whose children do not get secondary education to aspire to be like these men and have to get education that these men have not provided them the last 5 years. In one year after election I will lead the goal for all children in Siaya and Kenya to have 12 years of education.21

  • 22 Njenga, op.cit.

28The political parties’ structures are also male-dominated and therefore discriminative against women. It becomes challenging for women to voice themselves or to take leading positions. Most of the parties nominate men to vital positions during elections meaning that limited numbers of women politicians hit the campaign trails and those few who do so rarely address public rallies because such campaign rallies are often male-dominated.22

  • 23 AWC, A Journey of Courage

29Given that an individual’s education level is a crucial determinant to one’s engagement and participation in a democratic process, the women’s inability to read and write has been one of their weakest points.23 Some communities have also failed to educate the girl child; she is often married off early as the boy child goes to school. Consequently, most women are not just ignorant of their rights and what belongs to them but they are also not economically empowered. Such ill-educated women grow up with the mentality that generally women are not good enough hence it becomes impossible for a woman bearing such perceptions to support another qualified woman, including voting for her.

30Media coverage on the successes of women politicians and potential contenders is limited compared to their male counterparts. Women politicians expressed various challenges that they faced when dealing with the media. According to Media and Communication specialists from Maseno University Naomi Senda, women felt discriminated by the media because they often did not understand the operations of the media. Moreover for the aspirants to gain the confidence of the media they needed to package their message well. However, women expressed fears that their opponents sometimes used media to destroy them. They also noted that media sometimes solicited money from aspirants in order to publish or broadcast stories (Gwengi, 2013).

  • 24 See also Jabatiso, J. “Women candidates fall to gender bias”, East African Standard, December 27, 1 (...)

31Few women in Kenya harbour illusions of entering politics due to widespread use of violence. Given that a great deal of the election outcome is determined by bribery, outright hostilities, harassment, intimidation, blatant discrimination, threats and intimidations, an uneven playing field and a largely unsympathetic public, women invariably fail to secure the kind of support that is won through violence (both physical and psychological) and coercion (Gathigah, 2013). Moreover, men campaign and lobby at night. A woman is not expected to do so hence a woman aspirant might go to bed thinking that her position in the party is secure, only to wake up to new realities in the morning after men have kept their night vigils. Women who defy these political traditions face threats of rape, and other forms of bodily harm, verbal abuse and derogatory words. This violence on the campaign period and Election Day made many potential women candidates to keep off politics.24 There were instances when the candidates were attacked together with their supporters. In some cases the supporters were even raped (Oywa and Wangui, 2007: 6). Violence against women in the Western region of Kenya is rampant even without the elections. It is only enhanced during the elections.

  • 25 (CREAWs UN Women project and launch of the updated Women Candidates in Kenya training manual)
  • 26 Ossmann, op.cit.

32Professor Jacqueline Oduol, a former aspirant, described the negative judgements made when women moved into the often judgmental public eye of politics. She said, “You will be made ridiculous. You will be made invisible, and you will be burdened with guilt and shame. Expect double punishment, and to have information withheld from you”.25 Women politicians also alluded to this when they stated that the campaign period was most challenging and most unpleasant part of the electoral process because that was when their femininity and gender identity was questioned. For example women candidates were questioned not on their ability or capacity to lead but on their moral aptness for political office. For women the focus would be on their marital status, sexuality, to the whereabouts of their children and husbands. Marital status is an issue commonly used for penalizing women in politics worldwide. As one American Senator, Barbara Mikulski, lamented, women who run for office can never win on this issue “If you are married, you were neglecting him. If you were widowed, you killed him. If you were divorced, you did not keep him. And if you were single, you couldn’t get a husband anyway” (Branden, 1996: 6 in Choti, 2005). The Kenyan Human Rights Commission documented examples of “youth shouting obscenities at women [candidates], manhandling them, and tearing their clothes, stones being thrown”. They further stated that those who support the women candidates also faced intimidation and sometimes “their husband’s wrath”.26

  • 27 Gathigah, M.“Women Navigate Political Minefield”.

33Male-dominated parties interfered with the political space offered to women by Article 81 (b) which stipulates that not more than two-thirds of the members of elective public bodies shall be of the same gender. This means that environment of the 2013 elections was still not enabling because women remained under attack from male opponents and even society. When Vesca Kangongo presented her bid to vie for the gubernatorial seat in Uasin Gishu County in Kenya’s Rift Valley region, her rivals swore that the governor of the region “would be anything but a woman”.27 This statement was echoed across the country and consequently only a handful of women run for tickets of top seats.

  • 28 Njeri, “Women aspirants”.
  • 29 Ibid.

34The culture of violence and rigged elections has persistently interfered with women’s participation in electoral politics, especially in Nyanza. Because of retrogressive cultural practices, the two Gusii counties of Kisii and Nyamira have never elected a woman to Parliament since independence. And in Luo Nyanza, no woman has been elected MP between 1997 and 2012, a situation attributed to violence during party nominations and elections. The fear of violence and lack of resources and voter education had conspired to ensure that only five women were running for the various positions in Siaya County. This was evident when a majority of the men who spoke to the House Committee on Implementation of the Constitution in Siaya, Migori and Homa Bay on ways to ensure election of more women in the 4 March elections opposed the gender balance requirement. They stated to the committee chaired by Mandera Central MP Abdikadir Mohamed in Homa Bay that “Women are yet to show by action that they are capable leaders beyond verbally saying that ‘they can”,28 Mrs Margaret Omondi, who sought the ODM endorsement for the Ugenya parliamentary seat, wanted the party leadership to “walk the talk” and support women leaders by ensuring clean nominations free of violence. Mrs Omondi, a former Nairobi director of education, and secretary-general of the Kenya National Commission for UNESCO, was pitted against Mr Steve Mwanga, lawyer David Ochieng and businessman Chris Karan.29

  • 30 It should be noted that during the 2010 referendum women electoral registration was lower in Nyanza (...)

35Women had the potential to utilize their numerical advantage and mobilization skills at the community level to garner seats as MPs, Governors, Senators and County assembly representatives in the general elections.30 One of the challenges was the type of information that grassroots leaders had, for instance that women could only vie for the reserved women representative seats and not for the competitive and the ‘most-eyed’ seats for governors, senators and county assembly representatives. It can be stated that the power play and the yearning for resource control in the political parties which are controlled by men made it hard for women members. This led to apathy among voters who lacked interest and concern on issues relating to women and surprisingly these also included women who are sometimes viewed as their own enemies. Voters have not made the situation any better. On the campaign trail they demanded bribes which made it difficult to address the real issues. Such rural women continue to be viewed as housekeepers and homemakers by their societies and the thought of them leading is ‘absurd’.

  • 31 Njenga, op.cit.

36In the light of these challenges what can be done for women? According to Anne Njenga the success of women in politics in Rwanda, Liberia, Sweden and South Africa shows that there are many strategies women can use to gain power. She states that women in Kenya could call for the implementation of affirmative action to increase their participation in decision-making bodies and should also unite and actively participate in nation-building activities.31

37One of the most tried and tested ways of increasing women’s participation in the political arena is quotas. Quotas can be effective at three levels (Wickham, 2013). The first level is political candidacy – quota systems at this level mandate that from the pool of aspirants, a certain portion must be female. The second level is nomination – quotas (either legal or voluntary) ensure that a certain percentage of nominated candidates on a political party’s ballot must be female. The third level is election – certain seats in a political body are ‘reserved’ and can only be filled by women (Ibid).

38Wickham further intimates that the nations that rank top in terms of female representation in government use some form of quota system to ensure female participation. Rwanda is a striking example of such nations. In 1995, Rwanda was ranked 24th in the world in terms of female representation but in 2003, after introducing a quota system it took first position. Countries such as Argentina, Iraq, Burundi, Mozambique, and South Africa have also experienced similar improvements in the participation of women. Although quotas have their shortcomings given the huge barriers to women’s participation in the public sphere, quotas alone can close such gaps as one of the simplest ways to begin to level the playing field. However their effectiveness may also be determined by the improvements in education for girls and women, better access to healthcare and childcare for mothers and families.

39Without taking quotas into account the creation of Women’s Rep positions in Kenya might mean that women will tend to vie for that position and are therefore less likely to compete for other roles. This trend can only be averted with the creation of support programmes that tackle issues of culture, access and education. The quota system should be merged with the increase in confidence for women and transformation of cultural features that have led to the subordination of women. It may be of particular importance that all the features of the modified electoral system was understood and party leaders equipped on how to implement some new provisions in the constitution and legislation. Effective voter contact strategies needed to be taken into account with the candidates and managers, to ensure that each team understood the importance of voter identification and conducting other related activities prior to Election Day. Hence the 2013 quota system had counterproductive effect because apart from the women representative vote and nominations, the number of women aspirants was lower than in 2007.

40With all of these gains in store for women of Kisumu and Siaya counties and given that the 2010 Constitution was not yet fully implemented, were women and particularly at the grassroots aware of the opportunities presented? Did they know how they could be vigilant and proactive in the monitoring and implementation processes, which would have made it possible for women to win by their votes? But what was the opinion of grass roots women voters regarding women participation in leadership and the barriers to women’s running for office? Would women vote fellow women? Were there risks that women would face? Were the campaigns of women leaders issue-based, especially around performance, accountability and delivery of services that impact on the welfare and empowerment of the most vulnerable sectors in their communities?

Women voters and aspirants in the 2013 Elections in Kisumu and Siaya counties

  • 32 Leo Odera Omolo, “Kenya: More women leaders in Nyanza will contest the March 2013 general elections (...)

41Before the 2013 elections it was common knowledge that Nyanza and Western provinces had the highest number of women who had declared interests in various elective positions, which included vying for senator and governor for their respective counties. This was reiterated just before the 2013 general elections by Leo Odera Omollo32 when he reported the possibility that more women leaders in Nyanza would contest the elections against seasoned male politicians. He stated that for the first time in Kenya’s political history Luo-Nyanza witnessed several high profile women leaders take their men compatriots in several parliamentary, senate, county and civic positions during the March 2013 general elections. A new political dimension, which seemed to favour women representatives, was slowly cropping up. The ground seemed to be getting fertile and yawning for a change in favour of women over men.

42Among these women was the Nominated MP Millie Odhiambo who was aspiring to be the MP for Mbita; Adhiambo Odinga (sister to Prime Minister Raila Odinga) aspiring to be Kisumu governor; Agnes Awuor (a former Nun) the aspiring senator in Siaya County; and Professor Collete Suda, a senatorial candidate for Migori county. The women leaders in the region who appeared to be the favourites of the electorate included those who had excelled in the academic fields, past exemplary services to the community.

43The women leaders tipped to clinch seats included Mrs Rose Buyu – a Nairobi based business woman who in 2007 gave the incumbent Kisumu Town West MPJohn Olago Aluoch a run for his money and almost ousted the outspoken Kisumu lawyer. Popularly referred to by her peers as “Dwasi” (female cow) Buyu seemed favoured to win the election in the newly realigned Kisumu Town West, which covered most parts of Kisumu rural locations, and which exclude Kisumu Central constituency which covered the Central Business Distinct (CBD) and peri-urban areas of Nyalenda, Pand-Pieri, Airport, Kibuye, Industrial Areas and Milimani Estate.

44The newly created Kisumu Central constituency did not seem to favour the incumbent John Olago Aluoch. The MP was also a stranger in the choice to defend his seat in Kisumu Town West constituency due to several factors. Although actively participating in parliamentary debates and contributing a lot on most issues of national importance, Aluoch appeared to have burned the bridges between him and the Town’s population, especially those who voted for him in 2007. He was blamed for having favoured non-indigents and appeared to have side-lined members of the indigent Jo-Kisumu people. He also faced myriad of accusations that he had filled all the important posts in the CDF (Constituency Development Fund) with outsiders, especially people from Southern Nyanza and Siaya regions.

45Mrs Buyu hailed from around Holo market in Kisumu West location and was a member of the influential family of the late Mr Radiak, a former sales and marketing manager with the Kenya Breweries Limited. Her home of birth is Sakwa, Bondo and her late father, Mzee Patrick Onyango Ochang’ was not only a close friend of the late Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, but also one of the first African pioneers in big businesses in Kisumu City long before independence. Due to their long-standing family tie with the Odingas dating back to 1950s she was commonly referred to as the Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s sister. By the time of the elections she had made major inroad in nearly all the rural locations, turning up with hefty donations during fund drives for important community socio-economic projects but despite all her effort she did not clinch the seat.

46Kisumu County had a number of women vying for various positions. Kisumu County also lead in the number of women who showed interest in the governor’s seat. This seat attracted three women aspirants who sought the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket, namely Ruth Adhiambo Odinga, Atieno Otieno, a lawyer, and agriculturalist Rhoda Otieno Ahonobadha. No woman showed interest in the senator’s seat (Ouko, 2012). The following women competed at the nomination level: Women Representatives Kisumu (3): Rose Nyamunga, Anyango Millicent Abundho, and Dorine A. Atieno; National Assembly Kisumu County (7); Kisumu East Constituency (2): Mary Atieno Anyango, and Irene Odhiambo; Kisumu West Constituency (2): Caren Atieno Amonde, and Rosa Buyu; Kisumu Central Constituency (0); Seme Constituency (0); Nyando Constituency (1): Mary Odhiambo; Muhoroni Constituency (0); Nyakach Constituency (2): Anyango Pollyns Ochieng’, and Olive Achieng Okal; County Reps Kisumu (16): Mary Odhiambo, Monica Aluoch, Farina, Millicent A. Mbadi, Caren A. Wema, Mary A. Mbula, Felgona A. Otieno, Monica Aluoch, Rose A. Juma, Lynette C.A. Muga, Pamella A. Milama, Millicent A. Adino, Pamella A. Omino, Priscah A. Misachi, Rose Akinyi Ngutu, and Farida A. Salim. Their entry into the political arena would have diminished the mentality that Kenyans seem to have of women leadership and encourage more women to come out in big number to join politics. However it is unfortunate that women often become their own worst enemies and pull down what they are supposed to nurture and protect.

  • 33 Standard Digital, Thursday February 14, 2013. - See more at: (...)

47The race for election of the first Siaya County women representative attracted a host of aspirants, but only three won party nominations and subsequently cleared by the Electoral Commission to run. However, according to Action Aid that hosted a workshop for women aspirants in the county, 53 women were interested in elective politics. Two of these women had shown interest in the governor’s seat but only one survived the race for a while.33

48Siaya also had her fair share of female aspirants. The following contested in various capacities: Governor Siaya (2): Nellie Okwiri, and Monica Oduor; Senator Siaya (1); Women Rep Siaya (2): Omwamba Violet, and Emilly Awita; National Assembly (5); Ugenya Constituency (3): Omondi Jane Damarice, Mary Apiyo Omondi, and Jane Omondi; Ugunja Constituency (0); Alego Usonga Constituency (1): Maslister A. Oudia; Gem Constituency (0); Bondo Constituency (0); Rarieda Constituency (1): Benter Opande; County Representatives Siaya (13): Dosline Nyakore, Grace A. Otieno, Dolrosa E. Otieno, Margaret A. Achola, Rosemary A. Ogutu, Mildred D. Atieno, Jessica A. Oluoch, Sylvia A. Migaya, Jael A. Jaoko, Dolly Edith Otieno, Rose Angule, Lilian A. Arigi, and Nadhifa Y. Hamisi.

49In Siaya, Awuor faced Lands Minister James Orengo and Finance Assistant Minister Oburu Oginga. She made it clear that “she is the bridge to the change for which Siaya County has been yearning.” Awuor, with her doctorate in political science, seemed to have what it took to join the non-level playing field but before she knew it she was out of the contest. When Agnes Awour Ogeng’o was asked, ‘why do you want to represent Siaya County in the Senate? She responded:

  • 34 Awour, op.cit..

I want to represent Siaya because I believe and I am convinced that Siaya County is in need of new leadership. I believe we need new ideas and a new debate. We cannot continue with stories of corruption and public funds that could have benefited many in Siaya had they been used wisely. When I look at Siaya community I see people with drive, focus, purpose and energy but lacking the right leadership. The few years I have been blessed to be abroad have opened my mind to see things better and more clearly and I feel it is my duty to give back to my community throughservice. LastlySiayaisagreatcountywithagreathistory, agreatpeoplewhichcanbeshapedtohavebetter schools, better hospitals and better modern settlements.34

50Women county representatives for Siaya and Kisumu who won were Ombaka Christine Oduor, and Rose Auma Nyamunga. There was only one woman elected Member of Parliament (MP) in Nyanza region namely Millie Akoth Odhiambo of Mbita. In Mbita constituency, she took part in the race against her close cousin Phares Ogweno Ratego, an executive with an NGO in Nairobi. Odhiambo who had made a name for herself as a firebrand and formidable debater in the tenth Parliament was one of Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s troop soldiers. Her rising popularity with youths and women in Mbita could have caused the Immigration and Registration of Persons Minister Gerald Otieno Kajwang’ packing to contest for the Homa-Bay County Senate seat instead of defending his Mbita parliamentary seat which he had held since 1997. The election battle between Odhiambo and Ratego in Mbita was one of the toughest election ever witnessed in the area featuring two prominent members of one family.

51In the parliament that ended by March 2013, there was no elected female MP from Luo Nyanza. In Luo Nyanza, politics for long remained the preserve of men. The only Luowoman electedin the tenth parliament was Elizabeth Ongoro and this came through Kasarani – a metropolitan constituency in Nairobi – while Millie Odhiambo was an ODM nominatedMP. Given such circumstances the recurring question was whether women politicians from Luo Nyanza would break the jinx and emerge victorious selected MPs in the 2013 elections. Was patriarchy at the forefront of hindering Luo women from holding positions of power, and specifically parliamentary power?

52A close analysis of women participation in politics in Luo Nyanza showed that the last time the Luo community elected a woman MP wasin 1992 when Phoebe Asiyo became Karachuonyo Member of Parliament in the first multi-party elections on a FORD-Kenya ticket then under Jaramogi Oginga Odinga. Before that she was also elected MP in 1979 and 1988. After her retirement in 1996, there was no elected female MP from Luo Nyanza until 2013 general elections. During the 1997 elections, all MPs from the region were men and the same trend repeated in 2002 and 2007 elections.

53As already indicated since independence, Luo Nyanza had only been represented by three women, namely Grace Ogot (Gem), Grace Onyango (Kisumu) and Phoebe Asiyo (Karachuonyo). There are a composite of reasons behind poor ratings of women parliamentary aspirants in Luo Nyanza. The first major reason is the observation that women have always been considered world over as their own enemies in other words they do not vote for their own gender. It has been evident in Kenyan politics that women rarely vote for fellow women. The majority of women in the region prefer voting for male aspirants because they believe parliament and politics is a male preserve. This mind set is advised by patriarchy, a social system in which the male is the primary authority figure central to social organization and the central roles of political leadership, moral authority, and control of property, and where fathers hold authority over women and children. It implies the institutions of male rule and privilege, and entails female subordination.

54Historically, patriarchy has manifested itself in the social, legal, political, and economic organisation of a range of different cultures. The term was used to refer to autocratic rule by the male head of a family. However, in modern times, it more generally refers to social systems in which power is primarily held by adult men.

55All forms of feminism define patriarchy as an unjust social system that is oppressive to women. As feminist and political theorist Carole Pateman writes, “(t) he patriarchal construction of the difference between masculinity and femininity is the political difference between freedom and subjection” (Pateman, 1988: 207). In feminist theory, the concept of patriarchy often includes all the social mechanisms that reproduce and exert male dominance over women. Feminist theory typically characterizes patriarchy as a social construction, which can be overcome by revealing and critically analysing its manifestations (Tickner, 2001: 1197-8). Thus feminists define it as a gendered power system and a network of social, political and economic relationships through which men dominate and control female labour, reproduction and sexuality as well as define women’s status, privileges and rights in a society. It is a successful system because those who gain this privilege are often unaware of it and therefore inadvertently perpetuate the ill treatment of the people in this society whose suffering is the fulcrum upon which this society turns.

56The argument here is that the patriarchal nature of the Luo has shaped and perpetuated gender inequality to the extent of allowing male domination and female subordination in all sectors including politics. This has been fuelled by the socialization process hence to amend the situation may require re-socialisation process. Patriarchy must be seen as social construction and women must also learn how culture imprisons them. The majority have accepted the statusquo and simply recognize politics as a dirty game requiring tough qualities which, according to them, women lack. Only if such attitudes are dismantled can women aspirants continue the struggle for representation and the women voters to actually vote in women.

57Secondly, there is the problem of high-level poverty amongst women which interferes with their participation in politics as aspirants. As women voters they are easily bribed by rich candidates. The problem of buying of voter’s cards by agents of unpopular but wealthy male candidates has made it impossible for female aspirants from the region to win elections. In Luo Nyanza, few women have the kind of financial resourcestodishtothepoor. The politics of gonya, which means “pay me” or “release me with some cash”, has always worked negatively for female aspirants. The youth always demand payments before casting their votes under the pretext that once MPs clinch their parliamentary seats, they quickly retreat and do no longer interact with the public. The gonya concept was rampant in the 2013 campaigns and some campaigners were held hostages until they gave money to those who attended their meetings. Women voters in Rarieda for example moved from one campaign meeting to another because of the expectation to get some cash from the aspirants. This means that women voters voted for reasons other than the appropriateness of the vying politician for the specific post.

58The third determinant of success is the placement of the individual in the politically correct party. Luo Nyanza has been a one-party region since the reintroduction of multiparty elections in 1992. In 1992 Ford Kenya was the correct party to vie from in Luo Nyanza then in 1997 it was National Democratic Party, in 2002 it was Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and ODM in 2007. Anybody contesting in a party ticket perceived to be incorrect never even got opportunity to hold campaign rallies. It is only in 2013 that it was possible for candidates from other parties within the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) to vie. Still this means there were other party tickets that would not be acceptable in Nyanza.

59Another key problem has been the male-dominated party nominations’ fiasco in Nyanza. In the 2007 elections, in Luo Nyanza, women aspirants had to migrate to smaller and peripheral political parties in order to receive nomination certificates for elections after they were locked out in ODM nominations. The consequence of such a move is that women aspirants lost voter hype and attention when they moved to small parties which lacked popularity in the region. In the 2007 elections, no female aspirant was nominated to run on an ODM ticket, leading some determined female aspirants to contest in other parties and ended up with dismal performance. Such female candidates included Monica Amolo (Ndhiwa), Elizabeth Ogolla (Rangwe), Esther Dwalo (Rangwe), Consolata Yambo (Gwassi), Agnes Okong’o (Rongo), and Rosa Buyu (Kisumu Town West). This means that the 2013 general elections were keenly watched in relations to the position and participation of women. Moreover it was the first election after the 2010 Constitution opened political and other spaces for women. Luo Nyanza was again dominated by ODM with only a few people migrating to other parties but within the CORD Alliance. Would women be given a chance to win parliamentaryseatsandreap from what was previously a male domain? Evidently women did get the chance to vie, but in Siaya and Kisumu only the two women representatives got the chance.

60The basis for the political advancement and better representation of women is there. Women make up some 60 per cent of the voting population in Kenya which surely should provide a platform from which more women can reach elected positions. But it was uncertain whether all had registered as voters and whether those registered would actually vote in the 2013 election. Whether registered or not in the countdown to the 4 March 2013 elections, it was obvious that women would get into that polling booth and vote for men only in all the various positions. The bothersome question is the motivation behind women voting for men.

  • 35 Gemma Jones, anthropologist and J. Omondi, Kenya Decides 2013 – Part 3 – Aborted primaries muddy th (...)

61Luo women voters responded to situations in a similar manner to their male counterparts as reported by Gemma Jones, anthropologist, and J. Omondi, candidate for ward representative in rural Luo land.35 They state that during the nominations for the 2013 general elections in Nyanza for the ODM primaries, a new Luo saying was coined in the village: Okbichaloni, or ‘things are not what they seem to you”. Specifically, this refers to the idea of being thoroughly convinced that your understanding of a situation is clear and correct, yet finding in the final reckoning that tables have turned. The villagers were simply intimating that everyone would be affected by this okbichaloni at some point. The primaries were marred by disorganization, constantly changing deadlines and rumours of dirty tricks by some candidates. And there was general despondency even among the villagers including women. However on the election date the voter turnout proved that people were committed to voting. With this village buzzword in mind, Omondi recalled an occurrence on his campaign trail. While on his way home on the day preceding the primaries, Omondi, with his ODM party cap on, was stopped by a group of women. They greeted him with pomp and grandeur with “go sigala gala” – a celebratory cry – clapping and dancing. They presented to him their developmental issues (lack of water, matches, and small business opportunities) which culminated in their promise to vote for him because of his favourable leadership qualities. One woman inquired about his polices to which he retorted that “(s) ince you will vote for me I will give everyone here a lot of money that is my policy”. Whereas most of the women accepted this, one challenged him that in spite of financial provisions he still needed to have a plan for the future. At this point, Omondi revealed that he was aware that this group was not expecting or waiting for him because this village was not part of his ward and they were actually not familiar with each other. This was a group of women merely interested in the finances Omondi could give as a result of their seemingly verbal commitments. Omondi gave the women food for thought when he stated: “Someone like me could be your husband or son. What if they were running because they see a need and they want to help? When you lie to them, it is the same as those politicians you complain of who fail to fulfil their election promises”. He was basically stating that the women were made of the same stuff as those they chose to lead them and that for them political expediency caused them to seek money under any pretext.

62Evidently there were many different motivations for voting, which only become clear in hindsight and perhaps not even then. He concluded that discussion about policy and other issues was more of an entertainment gimmick during the campaign process. This idea was reinforced when he saw those who had sworn to vote for him lining up behind their clan-man during the aborted primaries. There are possibilities that money extensively determined who was voted for and this implied that even a “settler” in the area (non-indigene) or a mad man could be voted in if he had the cash supply. But it also turned out to be about loyalties and wrangles at the level of clan, sub-clan and even family. Evidently both men and women failed to see the intersection between voting and area development. The phrase okbichaloni has ever more resonance. Things never quite look what you think they are. From afar, this portrays a bizarrelywarped image of the day-to-day life of ordinary Kenyans. In this, the villagers coining the term okbichaloni to describe the ever-changing election story seem miles ahead in their thinking. Perhaps the women aspirants were also not expecting what they got because at the back of the mind of the women voters this concept ran strong and they were not going to break the Luo patriarchy to vote women into leadership. Women are normally the bearers of culture and for cultural change to occur women must be transformed in their thinking patterns. Patriarchy is one of the core features of Luo culture and therefore cannot be changed during the electioneering period. It is a long-term task for both men and women to undertake with great commitment before the election process will have a mixture of genders vying and winning.


63Although Kenya is a democracy with a vibrant civil society, which holds periodic and predictable, at times, controversial elections, Kenya’s performance on women’s representation has been dismal. Women have not fared well in elective politics in the successive post-colonial General Elections since 1963. Kenya’s first parliament did not have even a nominated women representative. Although Mrs Grace Onyango would be elected in the second General Election, in 1969, to represent Kisumu town constituency, women have not fared well in the successive General Elections, despite the increasing number of women candidates for both civic and parliamentary seats.

64The Constitution of Kenya 2010 spelt out a new dawn of gender equality. The implementation of the one-third gender principle was requisite for this equality to become a reality. But this gender principle was not implemented in the March 2013 elections. The national Assembly which had 16 women elected out of 290 members was well below the one-third rule. Moreover after the elections the failure to implement the principle has slowed down the gains of women. To date assessment of most appointments made demonstrates that the government is slow in attaining the one-third threshold.

65Perhaps two main reasons accounts for women’s exclusion from higher elective offices: Kenya’s patriarchal culture and electoral system. Kenya’s political contests requires an enormous outlay of social capital, yet the processes of economic, cultural and political capital accumulation still favour men more than women. Moreover, the electoral system has not only engendered an overly adversarial political contest, but also a violence-prone electioneering, which favour men. Kisumu and Siaya counties are but a reflection of most of Kenya.



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1 Remarks by UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet at the Australian Parliament House, Australia, August 23, 2012. More at: [archive].

2 Weru, G. “Special Report” Daily Nation, Nairobi Kenya, August 23, 1995 AWC, “A Journey of Courage”

3 Ibid.

4 The 200 members House.

5 Women’s Shadow Parliament—Kenya 2008, 9; Commonwealth Observation Mission 2008, 16.

6 Women’s Shadow Parliament—Kenya 2008, 9.

7 Kweyu, D. “Why Kenyan Women Perfom Below Par in Elective Politics”, The Nation, March 23, 2013.

8 Ossmann, K. Kenyan Elections 2013: Peaceful Prevention and Community Reporting Project

9 Dane, L. Risks more Kisumu County Facts and Details, My Aspirant my Leader: your County edition.

10 Ibid.

11 Town Councils of Bondo, Ukwala, Ugunja, Yala, county councils of Siaya and Bondo and Municipal Council of Siaya.

12 Alego-Usonga, Ugunja, Bondo, Gem, Rarieda and Ugenya.

13 Ossmann, op.cit.

14 Rugene, N.“Record number of women”.

15 Ibid.

16 Ossmann, op.cit.

17 Ibid.

18 Rugene, op. cit.

19 Njenga, op.cit.

20 Ossmann, op.cit.

21 Awour, “Senate Aspirant of Siaya & Diaspora Representative Speaks!”, July 30, 2012, Jamhuri Team.

22 Njenga, op.cit.

23 AWC, A Journey of Courage

24 See also Jabatiso, J. “Women candidates fall to gender bias”, East African Standard, December 27, 1997.

25 (CREAWs UN Women project and launch of the updated Women Candidates in Kenya training manual)

26 Ossmann, op.cit.

27 Gathigah, M.“Women Navigate Political Minefield”.

28 Njeri, “Women aspirants”.

29 Ibid.

30 It should be noted that during the 2010 referendum women electoral registration was lower in Nyanza in comparison with high level in Central (Kikuyu) provinces.

31 Njenga, op.cit.

32 Leo Odera Omolo, “Kenya: More women leaders in Nyanza will contest the March 2013 general elections”, in Kisumu City.

33 Standard Digital, Thursday February 14, 2013. - See more at:

34 Awour, op.cit..

35 Gemma Jones, anthropologist and J. Omondi, Kenya Decides 2013 – Part 3 – Aborted primaries muddy the local elections in rural Kenya. [archive];


Professor of history at the Department of History of Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology, Kenya.

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