"Kama sio sasa, ni sasa hivi"

BREAKING THE BARRIERS: The Voice of a Mother who has defied all Cultural Odds to run for a Political Seat in a Male Dominated Society in Northern Kenya

Date: Monday, May 22, 2017

Kenya breaking

Sky is the limit for Abdia Gole, the first woman to run for the Member of County Assembly (MCA) for Gaorbo Ward, Marsabit County. “The council of elders from Gabra community have asked me to step down for a man” said Abdia. 

Gabra community is one of the 14 pastoral communities living in Marsabit County. The community is highly patriarchal and women have no space in any governance structures let alone an elective position. To them, Abdia going for an MCA seat is an abomination and unheard of.

Marsabit County, located in the Northern part of Kenya, is characterized by sporadic conflict which results to deaths, loss of animals and livelihood. Communities here are mainly pastoralists rearing camels, cows and goats. From 2016 to 2017, the county has been worst hit by drought. This exacerbated communal war as competition for water and pasture heightened.

Communities in this area are characterized by intermittent conflict driven by search for natural resources including water for both human and livestock. The effect of climate change has caught up with the county being the worst affected region in Kenya by drought.

This has been the case for years where communities attack each other in turns.  So to the Gabra community, any leadership position therefore should be given to a warrior – a man. Someone who can finance and lead a war. Women are never regarded as warriors in this community, nor as leaders.

Electoral political seats are normally negotiated by the men-only Council of Elders across all communities. Hon. Abdia is not ready to accept any call to resign from running for MCA. The elders have in many times asked Abdia to ‘Wee kaa tukikosa mtu tutakushugulikia’ – move out of politics we will get you something else.

Working together to support women candidates

Community Initiative Facilitation and Assistance (CIFA Kenya) supported by UN Women Kenya in the frame of the Strengthening Electoral Processes Project (SEPK) is working with elders to break these cultural barriers and to change attitudes of elders to ensure they accept and support women candidates and leadership. CIFA is currently training women and elders to ensure women inclusion within the councils of elder’s decision making table.

“I am going door to door campaigning, to urge women and youths to vote for me. That our time is now or never” said Abdia. According to Abdia, women only require support to ensure their inclusion with the Council of Elders structures and decision making tables.

The CEO of CIFA, Mr. Adan Wako, is starting discussions with the chairman of the council of elders for them to support women vying for spaces in leadership positions and more so, to support Abdia. “The Idea is to convert the councils from the top before calling for the meeting with women to discuss the way forward in involving women in the council’s governance structures and processes. This will help break the barriers that women in Abdia’s community have experienced over the years relegating them to second class citizens in their own country. It is time to celebrate women heroines like Abdia who through their efforts are paving way for an inclusive society where future generations will embrace the girl child and women leadership in society.

Abdia Gole is graduate of Business Management from one of the leading Universities in Kenya. Abdia, a mother of one and a youth declared to run for the Member of County Assembly (MCA) for Gorbo Ward in 2015. This was seen as a jokeinvoking the anger of Council of Elders who hold absolute right to divide all political and leadership positions, albeit to men only. Women place in this community is reproduction and house hold related chores. It is a taboo for women in this part of the country to hold any leadership position and worst of all, to compete with men.