Aisha Jumwa cool International Women’s Day message

Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa at a past event

Ladies and gentlemen,
I am glad to be present today at this auspicious annual occasion aimed at recognizing and appreciating women’s social, economic and political achievements over the years.

But why celebrate women’s achievements in several spheres? Perhaps founding father of India Mahatma Gandhi answered this question when he said:
“Woman is the companion of man, gifted with equal mental capacity…If by strength is moral power, then woman is immeasurably man’s superior …If non-violence is the law of our being, then the future is with women.” Today, in contrast to past decades, we find women literate, educated and liberated with the zeal to not only lead but also act as agents of change.

Ladies and gentlemen,
This celebration dates back to 1909 when the first National Woman’s Day was observed in the United States. The Socialist Party of America in honor of garment worker’s New York strike in 1908 where women picketed and marched to demand improved working conditions and equal rights.

At the same time, back home here in Giriamaland, Mekatilili wa Menza was leading a revolt against the British Colonial rule against forced labor, hut taxes and forced recruitment of locals to the army to fight in World War I. Mekatilili was captured, deported and imprisoned in 1913 in Kisii, hundreds of miles away from home. This did not break her will and in a few days, together with Wanje wa Mwadori, they were back home to continue with the fight against oppression.

Ladies and gentlemen,
This occasion comes at the right time giving an opportunity to us to reflect on the place of women in the affairs of our country. The celebrations come only a week after two major setbacks to Kenya women: the defeat of the Third Gender Rule Bill and the expulsion from ODM of Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa Katana. Be they little or insignificant, these two events are likely to define the pace of women empowerment in Kenya in matters politics, economic, social and leadership.

Ladies and gentlemen, 
Kenya is at its lowest in matters women empowerment as we mark these celebrations this year. The two incidents should neither be ignored nor bashed as insignificant. They mean a lot to me as an elected woman leader from a community that is predominantly patriarchal.

I learnt with bitterness, while on an official trip in Italy, the flopping of a bill that was not only an opportunity for women of Kenya but also an avenue for more female voices of wise counsel to the leadership of this country. The passage of the gender bill would have opened more opportunity to many women with leadership aspiration. That dream was shattered.

This should not be the end to the journey of struggle for empowerment of women in this country. We need to inculcate the virtue of mutual support to our men counterparts to initiatives that would make our country a better place to leave. Such initiatives as women empowerment must not be seen from the lenses of male chauvinism, if we are to progress as a nation.

Ladies and gentlemen, 
This, perhaps, calls for redefinition of the term empowerment that has increasingly taken feministic connotations. Our men counterparts will work with us once they realize that indeed empowerment means: 
a) Being given authority and power to do something.
b) Becoming stronger and confident.
c) Becoming aware of one’s rights and privileges.
d) Controlling one’s life in a more meaningful and fulfilling way.

Ladies and gentlemen, 
To me this occasion marks a moment of soul searching to rediscover myself as a woman in the leadership of this country and our belief in the various freedoms in our constitution. For the past one week there has been an increased echo of a number of unanswered questions that have been lingering in my mind for about a year. As a country: 
a) Are we really democratic in our politics?
b) Are we honestly fair to our women?
c) Do we genuinely believe in gender balance, gender equality and equity?

I still have doubts despite standing as a testimony of the functions of our constitutionalism following my unfair expulsion from my party ODM. My doubt will remain as long as the process exonerated a man and vilified me, a woman. Did this happen to me just because I am a woman? That question is for you to answer not me!

Ladies and gentlemen, 
As I conclude, I ask all women in Kenya to stand firm and gather enough courage to fight for space in the leadership, political and economic spheres. Your contribution to the power men brandish all over is immense. Remember if one of us falls, we all fall. If one of us stands, we all stand. Unity of purpose and direction are all the weapons we need to achieve all this. Although we have a long way to expand the place of women in leadership, I do believe it is possible for it has happened in Rwanda.

I know despite what I am going through at the moment, when history books shall be written, I believe that the future generations will read that there lived a heroine, Aisha Jumwa, who stood for genuine handshake. They will read that Aisha Jumwa stood for true building of bridges. They will read that Aisha Jumwa practiced true spirit of togetherness. Above all, they will read that Aisha stood against hypocrisy, against ethnicity, against gender dehumanization and against political party extremism.

God bless Kenya, God bless the people of Kenya.

May justice be our shield and defender.

‘We Shall Overcome’

Thank you.

Facebook Comments