Women shouldn’t be intimidated in politics, it’s time we were respected

For a woman to enter the political space, she must not only be courageous but also bold.

The little history that we have of women participation has demonstrated the paths charted were treacherous.

From the first woman to ever be elected, Grace Onyango, to the dauntless acts such as when Martha Karua stormed out of President Daniel Moi’s meeting, or Wangari Maathai having her braids pulled off in her days as an activist.

SECURITY

Back then being in politics was difficult and, unfortunately, this remains the same despite the time lapse and the influx of women in political space.

I’m tired of the endless complaints that are being made everyday about our security as women in the political space in particular and our general security in general.

I’m tired of the way it’s starting to seem like politics isn’t politics if chaos is not part of it.

COMPROMISE

I’m tired of it being normalised to intimidate a woman as a mode of engagement in the political space.

Recently, there was debate about a statement that women should stop and fight instead because politics is a male endeavour.

Of course I had a serious rant about this.

I wasn’t going to be silent when silence is the road that led us to the place where a woman’s security remains a matter open to negotiation.

INTIMIDATED

This statement not only tolerated violence against women but also publicly celebrated the violent nature of politics.

Samantha Maina, an MCA candidate for Kileleshwa ward in Nairobi, and many other women have voiced their concerns about this.

Is anyone out there listening? Women are the majority of the population yet we are the most intimidated.

Our existence is perceived to be dependent on men’s choice of behaviour. Why?

MENTALITY
Maybe I need to break down exactly what security means to a woman.

Safety to us is beyond the existence of a security officer and more to do with the mentalities we deal with.

We are raised to be careful while men are raised to be carefree.

PARTICIPATION

Security for women determines what we wear, where we go, how long we stay there, the conversations we have, how honest we get during conversations, how long we stay out, how much we can drink or not, when we get home, the means we use to get home, the type of locks on our doors, our responses to casual glances and approaches…I could go on and on. “Security” is our lifestyle.

My experience at the Nairobi gubernatorial debate remains an unfortunate revelation of the toxic environment women endure.

It was an example of many spaces where women participation is publicly suppressed.

MASCULINITY

My surprise was how the “decent” men in the room were seemingly okay with the thuggish behaviour in which some young men behaved.

I wonder if men will individually start calling out and standing up against toxic masculinity.

I remember only one man of Asian descent said “No” when a security guard tried to throw us out and I still cannot thank him enough.

ENDURANCE
No woman should feel threatened in order to be seen as worthy.

Strength of a woman cannot be measured by how much abuse she can endure.

We must demonstrate commitment and goodwill in securing Kenyan women in politics.

The writer is Programme Officer- Civic Engagement at Siasa Place @scheafferoo

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