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OpenEdition Books Africae Africae Studies Where Women Are “During Elections They Do Not Ref...

Where Women Are

Nanjala Nyabola
Marie-Emmanuelle Pommerolle

“During Elections They Do Not Refuse That We Exist!” Urban Borana Women, Structural Violence and the 2017 Kenyan Elections

Wangui Kimari


Often silenced within the broad category of ‘woman’ are other dynamics such as class and ethnicity. In this paper, I examine how Borana women who live in Kiamaiko ward in Mathare, one of Nairobi’s most marginalized constituencies, participate in electoral politics. As part of an ethnic community who have to struggle even to get national identity cards, I am interested in tracking their ideas about and practices for the 2017 elections. Three main questions guide this work: What do Borana women in Kiamaiko think about elections and mainstream political processes? What spaces do they use to intervene in both constituency-based and national politics, if at all? How do situated experiences of poverty, patriarchy and ethnicity impact their political practices? The answers to these questions can inform future scholarly and policy work directed towards enhancing inclusive electoral practice and representation. This chapter brings to the fore voices of a demographic often made invisible by categories such as ‘woman’ and ‘North Eastern, ’ in order to convey their political agency within and beyond normative electoral spaces, and the impact this has in their marginalized urban communities.

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Urban Borana Women

I am sitting with Mama Amina and Rahma in the latter’s house in the far end of Mathare constituency, close to where Outer Ring road is being developed to become another of Nairobi’s superhighway arteries. Both are key members of the Borana community in Kiamaiko ward, and I am lucky to have found them available and amenable to my inquiries. This is my second visit in a few days, and I arrived knowing that I would be drinking cups of kahawa (coffee) as surely as the neighbours who would drop in to socialize, gossip, share resources or just deliver a friendly hello. To come here I have navigated the goat slaughterhouses and markets owned by Mathare’s Borana community. This is the place, it is rumoured, where the best and cheapest goat meat in Nairobi can be found; an enterprise that bridges numerous businesses, histories and kinships along the dusty road that runs from Moyale to Nairobi.

Situated at the far eastern corner of Mathare constituency, for over forty years K...


Is an urban anthropologist affiliated with the African Centre for Cities at the University of Cape Town. Her research work historicizes the connections between urban planning, violence, subjectivity and ecology in Nairobi.

© Africae, 2018


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