Gender has become a major consideration for gubernatorial and presidential hopefuls in their choice of running mates as the clock ticks towards the August 9 General Election.
At least three women running mates have been named by presidential aspirants, with scores of others named as running mates by male gubernatorial hopefuls. Contestants are eager to win come August and are leaving nothing to chance.
In the 2017 General Election, only seven women became deputy governors in the entire country. They included Yulita Mitei (Nandi), Fatuma Achani (Kwale), Adelina Mwau (Makueni) and Cecilia Mbuthia (Nyandarua).
Evalyn Chepkirui (Narok), Susan Kikwai (Kericho) and Delina Mlagui (Taita Taveta) were also elected alongside their bosses. They were later joined by Dr Joyce Wanjiku (Kiambu) and Dr Caroline Karugu (Nyeri), who got their positions after deputy governors James Nyoro and Mutahi Kahiga assumed the governorship role after the impeachment of Governor Ferdinand Waititu and the death of Governor Wahome Gakuru respectively.
Surge in number
However, the number of women deputy governors could rise in August after many male gubernatorial aspirants nominated women as their running mates.
Former Rift Valley regional commissioner George Natembeya has nominated Philomena Bineah Kapkor. Announcing her nomination, Natembeya, who is vying for the seat on a Democratic Alliance Party of Kenya (DAP-Kenya) ticket, said Ms Kapkor had set a precedent that women’s empowerment and role in society are viable and achievable.
Taita Taveta Governor Granton Samboja has picked his former gender adviser, Priscilla Mwangeka, in his re-election bid.
“Mwangeka has been an astute administrator, especially on development matters and issues of gender equality at the grassroots since her stint as Voi mayor,” said Mr Samboja when he unveiled her.
Mr Samboja and his current deputy, Majala Mlagui, fell out about a year ago, and Mlagui has since declared interest in the Mwatate parliamentary seat. Samboja, a journalist-cum-politician, will face off with some 11 aspirants.
In Nakuru, Governor Lee Kinyanjui dropped Deputy Governor Erick Korir and named former Nakuru West parliamentary aspirant Franciscar Kamuren as his running mate.
Mr Kinyanjui broke with ‘tradition’ by nominating Kamuren, a woman from the Tugen sub-group of the Kalenjin community. Since the advent of devolution, a member of the populous Kipsigis community has been holding the deputy governor slot in Nakuru.
The governor described Ms Kamuren, 47, as an accomplished grassroots mobiliser with a passion for community development. She is a former member of the Nakuru County Public Service Board.
Kajiado governor aspirant Katoo ole Metito (UDA) has also picked youthful Judy Muthoni Pere from the populous Kajiado North constituency.
Former Bomet governor Isaac Ruto of Chama Cha Mashinani settled on 29-year-old Doris Chepkoech from Sotik constituency as his deputy. Mr Ruto is seeking to recapture the seat he lost to Dr Joyce Laboso in 2017. Dr Laboso died in 2019.
In Kwale, former PS Hamadi Boga of ODM has picked Safina Kwekwe, a former Principal Secretary in charge of Correctional Services.
Most gubernatorial candidates in the Mount Kenya region have also picked women in a bid to sway the women’s vote.
In Kiambu, all the four male gubernatorial aspirants have picked women as their deputies. The incumbent Governor, Dr Nyoro, who is defending his seat on a Jubilee Party ticket, has nominated Dr June Njambi Waweru. She hails from Kiambu east and has extensive experience in the medical sector and has worked vastly with the youth in community service.
“I’m confident that Dr Waweru has the perfect attributes and together, we will steer Kiambu to the next level. It’s a balance between politics and professional experience. By her choice, inclusivity and regional balance have been achieved in both Kiambu east and west,” said Dr Nyoro during her unveiling.
Former Kiambu Governor William Kabogo, who is determined to reclaim the seat he lost in 2017, has picked his former Education and Social Services executive Esther Ndirangu, who is from Kikuyu in Kiambu west. Mr Kabogo hails from Ruiru in Kiambu east. They running on the Tujibebe Wakenya party ticket.
The former CECM is credited with uplifting early childhood development and education (ECDE) and vocational training centres and initiating the Uji (porridge) programme for ECDE pupils when she was in charge of education.
Thika MP Patrick Wainaina wa Jungle, who is running as an independent after losing in the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) nomination, has settled on former Kiambu Woman Representative Anne Nyokabi Gatheca, a cousin of President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Ms Gatheca was also vying for the governorship under the Jubilee Party but lost the nomination ticket to Dr Nyoro. UDA’s governor nominee Kimani Wamatangi unveiled Ms Njeri Kirika, an entrepreneur from Gatundu South as his running mate.
Gatundu South MP Moses Kuria, who is running on his Chama Cha Kazi party ticket, has picked youthful real estate entrepreneur Faith Mwaura.
In neighbouring Murang’a County, Farmer’s Party candidate Irungu Nyakera, UDA’s Irungu Kang’ata and Jubilee’ Jamleck Kamau have all picked female deputies.
Mr Nyakera picked former Nominated MCA Catherine Mugo, who later served as a member of Murang’a County Assembly Service Board.
Dr Kang’ata, who hails from Kiharu, has named Dr Winfred Njeri Mwangi from Gatanga. Ms Mwangi has been a lecturer at the University of Nairobi (UON) and has 20 years of experience in land administration.
Mr Kamau, a former Kigumo MP, has chosen Dr Naomi Kagone, who boasts of vast experience in public service and administration.
Nyeri’s Dr Thuo Mathenge of New Democrats and Meru’s Mithika Linturi of UDA have also named women as their deputies.
Linturi has nominated youthful female lawyer Linda Kiome as he seeks to capture the seat currently held by Governor Kiraitu Murungi.
Ms Kiome acted as president of the Law Society of Kenya early this year. She is the current chairperson of the Mt Kenya LSK branch caucus.
Gender and political experts say the move to nominate women as running mates in presidential and gubernatorial races is good for the gender equality push.
Sustainable Development Goal 5
Ms Eva Komba, a gender and development expert, terms it a good pointer to the realisation of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 5 on gender equality, particularly on women inclusion and participation in politics.
“This means we will have more women at the decision-making table which is good news. They will be able to put on the table issues affecting the vulnerable groups, including women, in society,” she says.
Ms Komba adds that Kenya will now act as a role model to the neighbouring countries, which are still doing badly in terms of women inclusion in political leadership.
Psychologist Gladys Chania, an aspirant for the Kiambu County Woman Representative position on a Jubilee Party ticket, in an interview with Nation.Africa, concurs, terming it the best trajectory for the country.
“This move shows society has now accepted women leadership. The power of women leaders can never again be underestimated. As we speak, it is becoming evident how the nomination of Martha Karua as the running mate of Azimio La Umoja presidential candidate is turning the tide in the Mount Kenya region,” says Ms Chania.