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Taita Taveta far from attaining gender parity in politics

Taita Taveta County assembly held its inauguration ceremony on September 21, 2022 at the Wundanyi County assembly chambers, ushering in the third legislative edition of the devolved unit number 006.

The atmosphere within and without the chambers was pregnant with expectations from the hundreds of spectating electorates from all the corners of the county and tens of elected and nominated members of the county assembly (MCAs).

While there were a lot of things to take away from the general elections for the voters and the elected leaders alike, the issue of Taita Taveta women’s representation in elective positions at the county and national levels roused glaring attention for anyone keen to take note.

“Yes, it is a bright day for the people of Taita Taveta County to have the new government in place. However, for women’s representation, we still have a long way to go given the numbers of elected and nominated leaders,” said Wisdom Mwamburi, the newly elected county assembly speaker.

Speaking of numbers, only one woman, Dorcus Mlughu of United Democratic Alliance (UDA) was elected to the county assembly in the just concluded August 9 general elections; pitting her against the tyranny of nineteen elected men.

“The writing is on the wall for women and numbers don’t lie. Only one woman, was elected among the possible twenty slots in the county assembly. It is down to me against nineteen elected men to represent the issues of the Taita Taveta woman and girl,” said Mlughu, MCA Rong’e ward.

The nomination of ten women by different political parties to the county assembly, while giving the fair gender a third of representation to the county assembly, does little to cure the wound of the electorates not trusting many women to champion women and girls’ issues at the legislative front in the county.

“You can say the nomination of ten women do a lot of good to the woman and girl agenda. Well, it is and it is not. What this does is merely give us a third of the county assembly representation but it does not address the open wound of more women being elected as leaders,” said Dorcus.

The issue of women not getting elected to the county assembly of Taita Taveta is not a new thing. In the previous county assembly, only one woman was elected and six others were nominated.

“This trend of women not getting elected is not new in our county. The last county assembly’s composition had one elected woman and six others nominated,” said Anisa Mwakio, Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) nominated MCA to represent special interests.

At the national Assembly and the apex legislation organ, Taita Taveta County women will only be represented by Lydia Haika Mizighi, who was elected as the county women’s representative.

For the four constituencies, Taita Taveta is represented by the male quartet of Khamis Abdi Chome, Peter Mbogho Shake, Danson Mwashako, and John Bwire for Voi, Mwatate, Wundanyi, and Taveta constituencies respectively.

“Even at the national stage, we only have Lydia Haika as the county’s women representative. All our four constituencies have male representatives,” said Anisa.

For the longest time, former four-time Taveta member of parliament Naomi Shabaan was the face of women leadership in Taita Taveta, and it remains to be seen where her political career takes her after being toppled from the seat by a debutant politician Wakili John Bwire. The senate position went to the incumbent, Jones Mwaruma, adding to the domination of men in the county and national elective politics.

According to Patience Nyange, a seasoned media, communications, and Advocacy personality who unsuccessfully vied for the Taita Taveta gubernatorial seat; the county is not ready for women’s leadership, and that needs to change.

“The county is far from ready for women leadership in the elective politics front. It was an almost perfect sweep for men in all elective positions in our county. It’s the reality on the ground, and we need to change it,” said Nyange.

On the way forward, Nyange said that society needs to see women as able leaders. She argued that the narrative that women cannot match male leaders is not only backward but also a scheme to disenfranchise women and girls from their rightful place at all levels of leadership.

“It has to change with viewing women as equal or even better leaders than men. We need to trust them and that will be good for the county and the nation as a whole,” added Ms Nyange.

Nyange’s sentiments were echoed by Clara Mwandawiro, a local agro-business person and a champion for women’s empowerment, who through smart innovations has helped women start self-help groups and pursue agricultural initiatives to generate income. She further said that women’s leadership would be a blessing to society as they, women, carry and protect the interest of everyone.

“A woman is not a lesser leader. In fact, women’s leadership is the best thing that could happen to society. Women carry the weight of the family and the community, and when they are in leadership positions they will ensure everyone moves forward,” said Clara.

By Arnold Linga Masila

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