Kenya’s 2017 General Election, despite being the second after the promulgation of the new Constitution, ushered in a number of firsts in the political arena. It was the first time that a presidential election results had been annulled. It was also during this election that Kenya got its first set of female governors.
Apart from Charity Ngilu who had won the Kitui gubernatorial race, the other two female governors, Anne Waiguru and late Dr Joyce Laboso, were not considered political heavyweights. They were only mastering the ropes of politics at the very top with the win being Waiguru’s first attempt at politics and Laboso starting on a new path having only come into politics as her sister’s successor.
Dr Laboso, who recently passed on has always been at the forefront of Kenya’s power ground championing for empowerment and encouraging women to set out and achieve their goals. As a pioneer female governor, she highlighted a number of challenges that comes with the role including minding ‘the length of your skirt.’
Delivering on expectations
With the first crop of governors in Kenya all being male, the entrance of the three female governors meant that they were the new kids on the block and all attention was drifted to them. They automatically became the litmus test for what women could do and how well leaders perform. On top of that, as women leaders, they are tasked with managing public expectations on a daily basis.
“People will relate more with women leaders and they are able to share a lot of things that they would ordinarily not even think of sharing with a man. The feeling of motherliness and the feeling that she will understand drives the public to us. At the end of the day, this can be daunting as everybody is having expectations of the things you should be able to do for them, and that you should be able to understand because you are a woman, a mother.” Dr Laboso had explained during an interview.
Tackling challenges head on
As a female leader, the duty of setting the right image rests on your shoulder and this includes living a life that sets the right precedent for the younger generation. For the female governors, it boils down to the manner in which they carry themselves around including how they dress. Being a county boss upcountry, Laboso said, she was moved to be conscious of her dressing at every one time. “In an upcountry setting, I have had to really be careful about the length of skirts and so on. You do not want people to focus on your dress rather than the content you are sharing.”
Talking about her election win, Laboso did not shy from admitting that a number of people took her to be a joker and thought she was not serious about her decision to run against one of the political bigwigs in the region who was also the incumbent Bomet Governor, Hon Isaac Ruto. She had to stand her ground and do what she believed in despite all the belittling.
Being a politician comes with a number of responsibilities and one of them is being strong enough to counter those who want to bring you down. As the late governor would note, one amasses more distractors as they climb up the political arena. In her case, noted that she got herself more distractors as a governor compared to those during her tenure as the national assembly Deputy Speaker and as Member of Parliament for Sotik. “It is not about being a woman. I am selling myself as a leader. What is it that a leader does?” She challenged.
Word for women leaders
According to Laboso, women’s greatest undoing is their aversion to public scrutiny. She urges that women need to develop a thick skin and get over the fear of being harassed, called names in public and ridiculed. She uses herself as an example and encourages women that “If I can be a governor today, then a lot of women can be.” She adds that once you have set your target on something, set out to achieve it and do not back off out of fear.
Source: Standard Media