*By Doris Mugambi – Program Associate, Innovation in Leadership Program

Every country deserves to have the best possible leader and that means women have to be given a chance to compete.  If they’re never allowed to compete in the electoral process then countries are really robbing themselves of a great deal of talent.” Madeleine K. Albright, Chair of National Democracy Insititute (NDI) and Former US Secretary of State.

Any person who hears such words will most likely be quick to note how women are under-represented and discriminated in any political and other leadership spheres. According to United Nation’s data,  women representation in Kenya stands at 19.1%. These figures are way too low and discouraging for any democratic country. In the just concluded second devolution conference, women challenged the government to keep the promise in the constitution that provides for a 2/3 gender rule to create space for women in political leadership. However as we speak, parliament is pushing to postpone the August 27th 2015 deadline of fulfilling the 2/3 gender rule saying that the rule should be achieved progressively.

But what exactly prevents women from participating in leadership position not only in Kenya but globally?  One would argue it is how women are socialized. That women are socialized not to be leaders but to be mothers and wives. As Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie a famous writer and a feminist would say, “We raise girls to cater for the fragile egos of men, we teach girls to shrink themselves, to make themselves smaller. We tell girls you can have ambition but not too much, you can aim to be successful but not too successful otherwise you will threaten the man”.

In our recently concluded young women community leaders workshop,  we trained 36 young women from various counties across Kenya on Transformative leadership, Political Parties, Devolution, Constitution and Responsible Citizenship. This training was aimed at equipping the young women with skills, information and knowledge in key aspects that every aspiring leader in any sector whether political or corporate should possess.

This workshop was culminated by our first edition of Dada Dialogues which focused on barriers and challenges that women face in political leadership and how to overcome them.

We heard from Kenyan women leaders who have made it politics; they shared their stories and personal journeys which served as motivation for our participants to continue in their political and leadership pursuits but also served as a challenge for them not to give up on their journeys.

Hon. Millie Odhiambo emphasized that leadership requires passion, will, determination, discipline, hard work and commitment. Women have no choice but to take up leadership positions and claim their spaces. They need to ensure that their voices are heard and not  wait to be handed platforms that others see fit for women.  Hon. Naisula Lesuuda pointed out that our culture has taught women to show cowardice as opposed to being courage. She encouraged women to show resilience and know they are not pushovers  in any forum when they have an opportunities to lead.

In sharing on her own leadership journey, Hon. Tia Galgallo said that leadership starts by doing something small in a great way; only then, will one be noticed as a community leader which in most cases translates to national leadership.