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Woman defying cultural barriers to win senate seat

For many years, senior political positions have been a preserve of men among the Turkana community.

However, Jane Apetet is committed to break the cultural barrier as she seeks to be elected as the first woman senator in the county in this year’s general election.

Apetet is vying on Maendelo Chap Chap party against James Lomenen of Jubilee party, incumbent Prof Malachy Ekal of Wiper Party, UDAs Benedict Lokamar, Pius Ewoton- Independent, Ekalale Imoni of ODM and Philemon Ong’ao among others.

In the last two general elections under the devolved system of governance since 2013 women have confined themselves to the woman representative seat as they shun other elective seats.

Former Petroleum and Mining Cabinet Secretary John Munyes and incumbent Prof Malachy Ekal are the only leaders who have occupied the seat in 2013 and 2017 respectively.

In 2017, Leah Nachere made history by being elected the first member of the county assembly for Lake Zone ward.

In the 2013 county assembly not a single woman was elected as MCA although a few had shown interest in the seat. The assembly ended up with 29 nominated female MCAs to meet the two thirds gender rule.

The UN Women has been at the forefront in advocating for election of women leaders. The organization has held a number of meetings in the county to sensitize the public on the importance of women involvement in elective politics. Their efforts seem to have borne fruit if the number of women in the 2022 race is anything to go by.

Turkana Woman Representative Joyce Emanikor has thrown her hat in the Turkana Central constituency contest leaving her current seat which is reserved for women only.  A number of MCAs have also joined the race to be elected MCAs.

Apetet says her decision to vie as a Senator is anchored on a call to serve Turkana County residents, through better representation.

“I wish to represent the voice of women and youths in the governance of this great country.  Participate in legislation of policies, laws that ensure safe space for women and girls. And of course champion for inclusivity in the leadership spheres,” she said.

Apetet is an experienced social scientist who has served in top management levels, with an experience of over 15 years in both public and private sector.

A scholar of international great repute, she has a Master’s degree in Devolved Governance and studied Strategic Management at International Law institute, Washington DC.

Apetet believes her education background has equipped her to discharge her roles as a senator and will help her do better legislation to further devolution which has really impacted lives positively.

“To improve the lives of electorate, I will work together with national, county and private sector to ensure the people I represent, their needs of quality education, Quality health care, better infrastructure, Food Security and Water needs are achieved. As senator I will ensure better representation and oversight to ensure the fruits of devolution are felt to the grassroots,” she says.

To ascend to the coveted seat, Apetet says she has to contend with the rough and tough terrain, coupled with insecurity while competing with men who are well endowed financially.

“Striving to prove that women can lead in a male dominated position is a challenge on its own. The patriarchal mindset is real, it is believed some seats are reserved for men, she adds.

She holds the view that party primaries only help entrench the perception that politics is a dirty game. However she believes that party allegiance helps a candidate a great deal.

As she goes on the campaign trail day in day out, she seeks solace in Margaret Thatcher’s words, “If you want something ask a man, if want something done ask a woman.”

Only time will tell whether the candidate who describes herself as a strategist, team player,  self-motivated,  inspired and a transformative leader will make history by being elected first woman senator in the county.

By Peter Gitonga 

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