On Sunday the 8th of march, during an event to mark the International Women’s Day, the TNA nominated Member of County Assembly Hon. Fatuma Nchizumo informed the gathering that she has developed a Bill in the assembly to curb the pornography and same sex relationships. The proposed law comes hot on the heels of the recent hullabaloo about young men alleged to be having sex with fellow young and older men in Diani Beach and Ukunda township.
If this Bill becomes law, Ms Nchizumo will go to the annals of history as a woman leader in Kwale who made a difference-a moral difference for that matter. Whether or not the Nchizumo Bill will sail through depends largely on the vote of the male dominated assembly. But I want to believe that Ms Nchizumo has all it takes to convince both male and female MCAs to see the logic in the law she is coming up with. In fact, I doubt if there is a single soul in the assembly who supports the barbaric act that gained prominence recently in the social media, but which until now, has seldom received the condemnation it deserves among the local political leadership.
But Ms Nchizumo’s hitherto noble cause doesn’t reflect the broader character of the Kwale woman, if what transpired during yesterday’s celebrations is anything to go by. Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organization which organized the event at Nyumba Mbovu in Juma Maone’s Kinondo Ward, is apparently a divided house. While a team led by the organization’s Msambweni Chairperson, Zeituni Bakari Semayote was holding a meeting at Nyumba Mbovu, another faction of MYWO allied to Kwale Couty Women Representative, Zainab Chidzuga was allegedly being ferried in mini buses to Baraza Park in Kwale town, where a similar celebration was taking place.
Although Msambweni and Matuga are two distinct sub-counties, meaning there was no harm in the leaders from the two areas organizing their IWD celebrations independently, observers read mistrust and disunity among women leaders in Kwale. That the county’s senior-most women representative in the national assembly chose to take sides during an occasion which was meant to showcase solidarity among women worldwide, Ms Chidzuga’s leadership skills and of course, ability to unite and inspire the womenfolk in Kwale was put to test.
Which brings me to question what interest Ms Chidzuga has in the politics of Maendeleo ya Wanawake-where she is the immediate former County Chairperson. Those whose political eyes were open in the 1980s and 1990s will remember that the oldest women organization in Kenya is perhaps the most used-if not misused outfits by political leaders to achieve their selfish interests. For a long time, MYWO was literally a women’s wing of the then ruling KANU. But with the falling from grace of the KANU regime, it was thought that Maendeleo would also grow with the democratic space achieved in the post KANU era. This does not seem to be the case, nearly twenty years since the disastrous fall of the jogoo party.
The question Kwale women leaders must now ask themselves is three-fold:
Do they see any reason for independence in the 21st Century ?
Do they think they have a political role to play in the devolved Kwale ?
If they can’t converge at a central place and deliberate on issues affecting them during an international occasion, do they ever hope to realize their aspiration of being considered equal partners with their male counterparts in building Kwale County ?
The women organization’s apparent crack contradicted this year’s theme “Make it Happen”- a slogan which was seen by many as a way of steering women leadership to greater heights.
Division among womenfolk in Kenya and Kwale in particular has been cited as the major reason women have failed to win elective positions over the years. Out of the twenty electoral wards in Kwale County, there is no single elected woman. Apart from Ms Chidzuga, the only other woman who has been elected to parliament was Ms Marere wa Mwachai nearly two decades ago. The ten women in the county assembly are beneficiaries of the affirmative action courtesy of the new constitution.