AGENDA OVERLOOKED

Flawed media coverage deters female aspirants

There is undue focus on their age, marital status and appearance

In Summary

• Forum called out double standard in how women, men are portrayed by media

• Tough women like Ngilu, Karua are termed 'Iron Ladies' while tough men are not

MePAW programmes director Olive Gachara during the Women in Politics media engagement webinar on October 12
MePAW programmes director Olive Gachara during the Women in Politics media engagement webinar on October 12
Image: COURTESY

Women in politics are asking the media to help them change gender stereotypes in politics to increase the number of women in the profession.

According to the Mechanisms to Promote the Advancement of Women (MePAW), women’s age, marital status, appearance or place, or marriage are focused on more than their political agenda.

MePAW programmes director Olive Gachara said aspiring women politicians shy away from politics because they are afraid of these negative stereotypes surrounding the profession.

She was speaking during a Women in Politics Media Engagement webinar for Western region on Tuesday, hosted by MePAW, Mzalendo Trust and the Ministry of Gender.

“When women politicians are seen first as wives, mothers or sex objects before they are viewed as politicians, then they become demoralised,” she said.

Gachara said there is a double standard that women are forced to endure as their male counterparts are not portrayed in the same way.

The most common gender stereotype of women politicians, Gachara says, is that of the Iron Maiden, where women are described as Iron Ladies.

“Women such as Martha Karua and Charity Ngilu are referred to as Iron Ladies simply because they are tough. However, men are not called Iron Men for being the same way,” she said.

Politicians attending the webinar expressed the need for women to band together and help increase their numbers in politics.

When women politicians are seen first as wives, mothers or sex objects before they are viewed as politicians, then they become demoralised
Olive Gachara

Busia woman representative Florence Mutua said women should strive to campaign like women and not like men by keeping it clean and respectful.

“We should be there for each other instead. When a woman stands on a podium to insult another woman, it brings us down,” she said.

Gender CAS Beatrice Elachi urged aspirants to believe in themselves and go for elected seats instead of waiting for nominations.

She also urged the youth to get registered as voters to help vote in more women to office.

“If we can get 400 women MCAs elected, then we will have achieved the 2/3s gender rule,” she said.

A report done by Mzalendo Trust in July found it costs women an average of Sh23.9 million to run for woman representative, Sh21.2 million to run for MP, and Sh4.1 M to run for MCA in the Western region.

Nominated Senator Naomi Shiyonga said women’s political aspirations should not be crushed due to lack of finances.

She asked political parties to help women aspirants equally financially with their male counterparts.

Gender CS Margaret Kobia’s senior policy adviser Elizabeth Adongo said there is much to be celebrated in regards to women’s participation in politics.

“We need to celebrate and appreciate where we have come from. Women are getting more media coverage than before,” she said.

“We have 23 women vying for gubernatorial seats in Kenya. This is truly something to celebrate, although there is still much to be done.”

Adongo urged women to centre their political agenda on issues such as election and gender-based violence as well as teenage pregnancies.

“These are issues that people call soft issues or women’s issues, but that is not true. These are critical issues that plague us and we need to solve them as urgently as we can,” she said.

Edited by T Jalio