Dada Dialogues – Bomet Edition

* By Cynthia Muhonja – Akili Dada Alumnae

On 30th May 2015 we set off for Bomet county, the former Riftvalley province, for the second edition of our Dada  Dialogues. The dialogues create a space for young women to engage each other in conversation around the issues that affect them. This edition sought to explore the role of young women in leadership and more specifically their participation in the political arena. The dialogues challenged the young women to take up the leadership positions available within the county and in the country as a whole.

The dialogues gave us an insight into the challenges women this region face, some of these include;

  • Lack  of  support – there is a general lack of support from the community and more specifically from the women themselves. The general perception on the ground is that women are generally unqualified for leadership and this stereotype becomes a barrier to female aspirants as they are disqualified, not on the basis of their abilities but on the assumption that their male counterparts are automatically better suited for leadership. This was particularly disheartening given that women are the majority in the county, meaning that they could shift the face of leadership if they stood behind a worthy female leader.
  • Marital status – The ability of a woman leader in the region is also often pegged on her marital status. It is assumed that if one is married they have the ability to manage their own homes and this reflects on their ability to manage the constituency that they seek to lead.
  • Lack of civic education – In this  region, as reflected in the rest of the nation and across Africa, the decision on who or who not to elect to leadership remains a household decision that is dominated by the male leadership at the household level. This means that the  men  make  all the decisions and the women follow.
  • Lack of education – This remains an impediment to women’s leadership in the region. Girls and young women often do not get to go past primary education and instead are forced into early marriages and income generating activities for the homes while education is left as the preserve of their brothers giving the men an unfair advantage over the women.
  • Fear -Women are afraid of the unknown. They have a warped view of leadership and are afraid to break out from the small cocoon the society  has put them in.

The young women drew some lessons from the dialogues that we believe if actioned will change not only their own attitude towards leadership but also serve as a motivation to see more young women enter the leadership arena but also thrive as worthy and capable leaders. A sample of these lessons include

Vying for political leadership – don’t wait to have leadership handed to you!

The young women encouraged each other to take on a baby step and hard work approach to leadership. They encouraged each other to vie and compete with their male counterparts on the basis on merit and build on their successes and track record to pursue more challenging positions. They emphasized the importance of building up ones courage to compete and using each other success to encourage more young women to pursue leadership effectively building a support base for women’s leadership not just from themselves as women but from the community as well.

Facilitating civic education.

By actively engaging in civic education women will get a chance to know and understand their rights as voters. The ripple effect would be that when the time comes for them to elect leaders they would stand behind those that have integrity and the track record to lead (including women leaders).

Actively taking advantage of opportunities at the county level including applying for job opportunities and funds.

The young women encouraged each other to seek ways in which they can build their independence, so as to not only support their families, but to give them room to pursue education. By taking advantage of opportunities such as the Uwezo funds, the women would not only be able to start their own businesses but also be able to start their own initiatives that would benefit the community and contribute to them building their own leadership track record.

Exercising their democratic rights by getting Identifications and Voters Cards

Most women do not exercise their democratic rights because they lack identification and voters cards that can enable them vote and therefore elect leaders they believe in. Lack of  identification cards also limits their ability to access opportunities such as Uwezo funds that would allow them to initiate community projects and allow them to build their leadership track record.

Starting small.

In order for one to take up leadership, the women encouraged each other to to start small, by looking at what they can do for their smaller communities before expanding and pursuing higher leadership positions. For  instance, one can start by vying for a chairmanship position of  their women’s group  and then venture out to other positions.

The  Dada  Dialogue  was  finally  concluded and from there we went  to Moi Girls Siongiroi  for a  mentoring session .The  interaction  with the  students  was  very good.  Akili dada as  an  organization  believes  in  nurturing  young  women to  be  servant  leaders who  believe  in identifying problems in the  society  and solving them .We  passed  all  this information to the young leaders  and  helped them identify  their  goals  in terms  of   what  they think  they  can  do  after  they  clear their  high  school. The young  girls  had questions to the mentors and the  mentors  answered them .The mentors  also  encouraged them to  work  hard  in their  school  work so  that  in the  end  they  can achieve  their goals. The  day  was  now  over and we  all  left  Bomet  feeling  fulfilled and  encouraged.

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