As we continue with our general elections, it is delightful to note that the country has largely been peaceful despite a few complaints about the validity of the vote. What has come out as a complete departure from the past is that the electorate has made it clear that any aggrieved leader should go to seek justice in the courts. This is very different from the past when people took to the streets and fought. We are maturing as a democracy and setting an example for other countries, especially African ones, to follow suite.
Another very encouraging outcome of the elections is that Kenyans have chosen more women to represent them. An example of triumph in women leadership is Nakuru county whose electorate has picked an all women team to lead them. We are looking at Gladys Wanga for Homa Bay, Anne Waiguru in Kirinyaga, Wavinya Ndeti in Machakos, Kawira Mwangaza in Meru, Cecily Mbarire in Embu and Fatuma Achani in Kwale. We also have 22 women MPs. We may not be there yet, but this is a huge leap in the right direction. Our wish is that the elected women go forth and deliver on their promises to citizens so that we are not just seeking women leadership for nothing.
The fact that there has largely been peace does not mean there were no incidences of abuse and harassment though. For instance, Liz Njue was attacked by her competitors at the party primaries level. They assaulted her by tearing her blouse and pulling her hair. Because of this, she did not manage to cast her ballot and this led to her losing the opportunity to vie. This is exactly what proponents of electoral gender violence want. To chase women away from trying their hand at leadership. Nothing was done to the perpetrators even after she reported the incident to the police.
After the debate between Martha Karua and Gachagua, there were some derogatory remarks targeted at Martha with the reference Shosh which means elderly woman. She was photoshopped with a walking stick and the user asked “what leadership can this grandmother possibly offer”. This was online, which has since become a notorious avenue for abuse against women due to the anonymity it offers.
Still online, Millicent Omanga has always been body shamed and yet her body size has nothing to do with her as a contestant or leader. Some horrible remarks that have been made about her are such as this one, “Millicent Omanga is just an overrated fat unhealthy woman with nothing upstairs, she has no ideologies no loyalty only hyped by thirsty boys on social media. She should make good use of the free premium Gym membership offered by Senate before her nomination term expires in 2022”. This is clearly an attack on her as a woman and not as a human being.
On Facebook, someone asked people, “what do you like about Sabina Chege”. This question is clearly framed to bring out trolls to discuss her as a woman. And they came. Some of the answers were too vulgar to put on here and some people body shamed her, once again calling her fat like they called Omanga on Twitter.
As much as some people say that it is only social media and is harmless since there is no physical damage, abuse comes in various ways, and being trolled on social media can be very damaging psychologically. These are some of the things that keep women off vying for elective positions, off campaigning for fellow women and off trying for opportunities as election of officials. These few cases that are left need to all go away.