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.
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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