Where are the youth and women in Western Kenya politics?

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By Alexander Opicho

The major political parties in Kenya recently re-organised themselves for electoral competition next year. This is so given that next year will be one of change in political leaderships in Kenya through a general election. Candidates and flag-bearers for different parties and regions as well as communities have been identified.

The two main political parties are, for all intents, in a shape for a fierce competition for State House. They have already identified presidential candidates and their running mates. Unfortunately, all the candidates are men. No women have shown interest of participating in the election as presidential candidates or as running mates. The reason is rather obvious; a persistent culture of strongly entrenched social patriarchy.

The most conspicuous in this regard is the western region of Kenya. It is a region where women and the youth are most excluded from participating in mainstream politics. Ironically, it is also the most populated; it is estimated to be the home to about twelve million people out of the total population of forty million Kenyans; youths and women make three quarters of its registered voters.

The current position is that this region has made politics and governance to be the reserve of old rich men from specific families, a patriarchal aristocracy of some kind, thriving on social injustice to the masses. This is palpable when one considers that more than half of current political leaders have been in power for at least three decades.

Also, most elected leaders come from families that collaborated with colonial governments, or that served in the governments of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi. The regimes of Jomo Kenyatta and Daniel Moi supported social patriarchy and planted the spirit of marginalisation of women and the youths. This is evident in the current political groupings – they are dominantly a group of rich old men with a focus on making money from politics, not using political power to fine-tune Kenya’s governance towards inclusivity and sustainability.

Economic, political spectators

Western Kenya is among the poorest regions of Kenya, and women and youth are the most affected by poverty – not because they are lazy, but because of social patriarchy. Old men are the owners of land, animals, commercial buildings and any system of economic production. To a large extent, youth and women are spectators or servants that are never paid, or given hand-outs.

Social patriarchy has also held devolved governments that make the youth and women captives in very many perspectives. For instance, it is rich old men from the region that determine who is to get a certain job or wins a certain tender. Obviously, these have economically excluded young men and women from unknown families.

As a result most youths have had no option but to go to the city – either to Kampala or Nairobi – to take on menial jobs to earn a living. These youths are so unfortunate to extent of being estranged from their land – land that lies unused by their old parents in the villages.

Kenya subscribes to Social Development Goals, its development blueprint, Vision 2030, as well as the Constitution, which all aspire, to empower youth and women. They promise to support sovereignty of the people, foster gender inclusivity and mainstream of women and the youth into significant social, political as well as economic processes.

But political leaders have left these pledges undone because they would like to keep these two groups in mental and economic captivity. Which is why we must understand the social reality that oppressors cannot wilfully or voluntarily give freedom to their victims, unless the oppressed fights for the freedom. The youth and women of western Kenya must consciously rise against this entrenched social patriarchy. All they have got to lose are the chains of prescribed poverty.

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