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Kenya set to make history with first female governors

Male dominance in Kenyan politics is receiving a shake-up with several women set to win governor positions in August elections.
Male dominance in Kenyan politics is receiving a shake-up with several women set to win governor positions in August elections.

Female politicians are poised to make history in Kenya's upcoming August elections.A handful of women have made it to the gubernatorial ballot -- and a win will mark the first time women have held Kenya's powerful governor positions. 


For years, women have struggled for equal political representation in Kenya, which has East Africa's lowest rate of women in parliament at only 19 percent.

They often lack the political clout and money to run a campaign, but they also struggle to mobilise support given how politicians campaign in Kenya.

“They tend to push women out because they are not able to rely on the same mobilise violence to mobilise support,’ Nanjala Nyabola, a political analyst based in Nairobi told RFI. “That's not to say that there haven't been some women able to play the game, but for the most part you see women politicians shy away.”

Ther has been some progress. The 2010 constitution declared that women had to be guaranteed a third of all seats in Kenyan politics.

While this has boosted female roles locally, the law has yet to be properly enforced at the national level.

“What the law seems to suggest is that parliament must provide legal roadmaps so that is achieved… but it’s a little tricky because it isn’t as clear as some people want to believe.” Herman Manyora, a political scientist at the University of Nairobi told RFI.

Female candidates poised to make history

A number of women have made it through parliamentary elections in the race to become governors – if any are elected, it would be a first for Kenya.

One county, Kirinyaga, even has two women looking to unseat the current governor -- Anne Waiguru, running on the ruling Jubilee party ticket and Martha Karua, running under her own party.

Waiguru is a former minister for devolution and planning under President Kenyatta. Despite being previously accused of corruption in a scandal about the disappearance of government funds, many analysts say she has a strong shot at winning.

Her opponent, Martha Karua, has been in politics for years and is known as a strong defender of women's rights.

“If there’s any woman in the current cohort of Kenyan politics who’s built their own identity and brand it would be Martha Karua,” said Nyabola. “It’s obviously very hard to call who will win...but the upside is you end up with a female governor either way.”

Other candidates to watch include Jubilee politician Joyce Laboso, the deputy parliamentary speaker who is looking to take over in the western county of Bomet.

Former minister Charity Ngilu is also running under her own party and - like Karua - has previously run for president.

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