Songs Of Change; the revolution maybe sung By Samwella Lerno

Election Safari Program Correspondent at Siasa Place- Samburu County

In African communities, songs form a powerful tool of expression, there are songs for every occasion and it is no different in Samburu community. The Samburu people are close but distinct from the Maasai of Kenya, and their culture is among other things rich with songs which are crucial component of their nomadic pastoralism life. They use songs to tease one another, to rebuke misdeeds by others and largely for praise.

Traditionally girls praised morans for their bravery as the official community protectors in the conflict prone county, women also sung for various reasons mainly as form of prayer, petitioning gods for rain. Though women are the family’s backbone in this community, they are still at the periphery of socio-political decision making; hence they have resorted to singing for entertainment in political rallies while lacing their songs with political agendas.

The seasons for clan based political endorsements in Samburu are characterized by merry making and intensive blessings from the elders (men). As the men move around in their favorite politician’s campaign trails ditching blessings, women have been left to singlehandedly run the family errands (ramat) but they seem to defy their traditional place and are singing issues that matter to them.

Though they are not free to roam throughout the county like their husbands, they have organized themselves into informal groups and are making their voices heard in their localities through songs. A closer listening to what these women say in their songs and you discover they are eloquent orators, who have crafted musical tunes that speak of the issues affecting their community. Ranging from education, security, food shortage, poor leadership they have lyrics that suit any political gathering. On girl child empowerment, a group of women in Suguta Marmar had questions they needed answers from their leaders and men in the community.

They sang; “As a community we had agreed that education is important, we have taken our girls and boys to school all the way to the university level. We have put a particular emphasis on the girl child education, we call the police to arrest anyone who tries to marry them off. It is equal opportunities for all. But when it comes to political leadership, girls are still told they cannot be elected because they are girls. We are asking our men to tell us why so, because our girls are brilliant and equally educated like the boys, what then is it with the obsession of their bodily features? Can we try and see if they can actually be leaders? We, their mothers have taken care of our large families and by extension the community without an education, can we give our girls a chance to lead us?”

These are women who had stayed at the back too long and now have decided to speak out, this can be attributed to the expansion of liberties in the context of shifts from traditional authorities, authoritarian to slightly more liberalized regimes brought about by devolution and most importantly the emergence of new autonomous women movements. These women empowerment movements mostly being spearheaded by the elite women in the community through Non-Governmental Organizations, the national and county government are changing the face of the Samburu woman.

It is no surprise they notice any minute development brought by the government since they bear the brutality of all kinds of calamities in this arid land as mothers and home makers. They are therefore not just critics of Governor Moses Lenolkulal’s government, they appreciate what he has done for them like provision of water, securing their villages from banditry attacks through deployment of Scouts manning conservancies and the Kenya Police Reservists who have been recruited throughout the county, and fair distribution of bursaries, scholarships to their children among others.

These, they express in music, singing their hearts out for everyone who cares to listen. In Baragoi a group of women sang to the county assembly speaker Steve Lelegwe who is a senate aspirant; “Speaker Lelegwe when you go to senate please push for the formation of more conservancies in the county prioritizing all our county’s border points, starting with the plains of Sikira and remember to create job opportunities for our children who did not secure jobs in the current government” While encouraging him not to shy from leadership because he has their blessings and his fellow youth look up to him.

Other than the women representative, there is no any other elected woman in Samburu County and there has never been any since the history of the Samburu people. It goes unsaid that this is a man’s community as far as its leadership is concerned. Thankfully this time women have joined the campaign trail albeit in songs to advocate for alternative leadership, a leadership that includes women.

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We need a fluid System of Information Sharing by Andrew Letting

Election Safari Correspondent Bomet County

Everybody waited anxiously for the ballot paper tender ruling; nobody expected such a historic ruling! The high court reaffirmed that our constitution values public participation and that it’s a mandatory requirement in any matter touching on Kenyan Public!

The tender was annulled on basis that it lacked public input on the decision to award the Tender. Paraphrasing the judges, “ Public participation is not in the constitution for cosmetic purposes neither for lofty aspirations, it must be carried out to ensure the public have input in decision making process”.

Most of the time public participation is never a consideration in making decisions both by county and National Governments, in some counties their County Integrated Development plan is subjected to a bit of public participation, but fail to go to the ground or remote areas to get views of the wanainchi.

As a result it is done merely as a public relation exercise or just patchwork just for the sake, it does not meet the constitutional threshold expected. The High Court therefore set out a good precedent by ensuring article ten of the constitution is enforced.

The court was very categorical that the lack of a legal Framework is not and should not be a an excuse for failing to carry out public participation, it this lacuna in the law that has been exploited to visit injustice on the masses by failing to involve the public to give their views on matters affecting them.

Through public participation decisions are more implementable and sustainable because the decision considers the needs and interests of all stakeholders including the vulnerable, marginalized populations and stakeholders are more invested in outcomes.

The Sustainable Development Goal no 16 best acknowledges public participation, by calling for responsive, inclusive participatory and representative decision making at all levels of Governments. There is greater need to include the public in decision making county assemblies for example can carry out ‘mobile committee’ meeting regularly across the counties which will enable greater public participation, this can allow the communities to follow progress and be involved in creating solutions with the governments.

Going forward counties should adopt a form of liquid democracy where the public is accorded time to vote on matters directly affecting them, this will be a great form of public participation. Simply establishing a portal which residents of a particular county or ward can easily access and vote on projects they want can do this.

This will ensure projects or policies formulated by counties meet the needs of the people, rather than the executive making decisions in Boardrooms. This will ensure transformation is people driven and sensitive to needs of the citizenry.

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Women’s Leadership Is Still In Crisis by Diana Korir

Contributor of the Election Safari Program At Siasa place
Kericho County.

Is there hope for female politicians in Kericho? Will the county ever have a female Governor, a Senator or even a Member of Parliament? The answer to this question tilts towards the pessimistic side based only on statistics. This is also the case in most parts of the country and it seems that the fate of the country is tied to every single county, as traditional views on female leadership still rule the day.

Kericho is doing poorly as compared to its neighbour Bomet County that is usually presumed to be more traditionally inclined than the former. Bomet County has had a record of three women on the top positions namely; Beatrice Kones, The late Lorna Laboso and Joyce Laboso deputy speaker of the National Assembly who is currently vying for the Bomet Governor seat. These powerful women have risen from just being representatives of Bomet to having had their voices bring change in the country.

I recently attended my Aunt’s funeral service. She was a leader both in the church and at the community level. After mass, a middle-aged woman grabs the microphone and called on women to gather around. I move towards the crowd. She introduces herself as Marsella, a volunteer Community Health Officer her main agenda being; Obstetric Fistula Awareness. She goes on to explain the symptoms associated with the condition and urges them to contact her for free medical assistance.

It was interesting that a majority of the women in the crowd fished out their phones record her contact details. The men around me murmur in low tones. “Marsella couldn’t keep her husband now she has come to destroy our marriages”. From this incident it is important to note that in women’s quarters, natural leaders have emerged to take up the task and their fellow women identify them as their unofficial yet respected leaders and heed to their advice. They are opinion-shapers.

Chamas started out as investment groups, which encouraged savings through merry-go-rounds. Today they also serve as social gatherings where women interact and share. Chamas have gone a long way in empowering economically and politically. These groups of highly organized women with powerful leadership structures have taken over the county. If you take a walk around my village you are likely to come across a water tank built by a local women’s group to cater for their needs and those of their families.

These women are genuinely concerned about development as compared to elected leaders. But a majority of men are against such social gatherings as Chamas. My neighbour had this to say, “Hawa wanawake ambao hawana mabwana ndio wanaharibu wengine. Huyu bibi yangu nilimkataza asikuwe marafiki na wao. Hii maneno ya chama pia nilimkataza ” (The single women are a negative influence to our wives. I cannot allow my wife to join a chama).

Out of 290,458 registered voters in the 2013 General Elections, 139,090 (half) are women. Chakwani ng’o chebioset? (But who will vote for a woman?) Mr. Koech, a friend had this to say. “I would vote for a woman, but they tend to break when under attack by the opposition. They are emotional and this hinders them from effectively carrying out their duties. We have witnessed many who dropped out of the race just because they couldn’t handle pressure from the opposition. They are poor decision makers”

There is a Swahili saying that goes, ‘Adui wa Mwanamke ni Mwanamke’, which loosely translates to; A woman’s enemy is a fellow woman. Despite the numbers, the women themselves don’t believe in the ability of a woman to lead or rather are afraid to vote contrary to the norm. If they can’t get support from their own then who will vote for them? Wives dare not go against their husband’s political stand. I asked my friend Pamela if she reads newspapers or watches the news.

“Baba Kiprop ameiva hii maneno ya siasa. Yeye ndiye ataamua mwenye tutapigia kura.” She states with a chuckle as she peels potatoes. She goes on to confess that the nine o’clock News finds her washing the dishes after supper or taking her kids to sleep. Pamela represents a section of housewives who are not conversant with the politics because their husbands are the one’s who decide who she’ll vote for anyway.

Even as we talk about democracy at the national level we fail to notice that it’s the simple things that matter. Change must begin from the bottom of the pile. Gender Democracy should begin at the ward level and thus rise to the national platform. We should get rid of the stereotypes about women being weak and therefore unable to hold a position of power.

If the likes of Marsella, my aunt and the leaders of Chamas, who promote development projects voluntarily, could get more support from their fellow women then Kericho would have better leaders and that is when real progress would have been made. Among the issues emphasized by the electorate in Kericho is the decline in agricultural output (Plight of Tea Farmers).This issue directly affects them as it is the women who cultivate the tea farms. They should support each other and take it upon themselves to educate themselves on politics.
So, is there hope for Kericho? Will a heroine rise to take charge of the issues affecting the county? Only time will tell.

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Youth Must Synergise For results By NG’AYU

Contributer Of The Writer’s Podium At Siasa Place

Stemming from the general analysis of the situation on the ground in Kenya, I see a nation torn by its own challenges as well as its opportunities. Unfortunately very few have caught onto the train called progress and we, habitually and with shocking persistence, digress from the only road that leads us there.

When there was the Westgate Siege, Mpeketoni or the Garissa University attack, we were all united and connected both virtually and in reality; keeping tabs on the story, giving what we could, constantly talking and praying about the situation… Times like these, ironically, brought us closer than we have ever been as a people and by their remarkable effects, confirmed just how much we can accomplish when we come together for a cause.

Now, let’s move past the feelings and start to take combined efforts to actualize our ideal nation. This year, 2017, is the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development as declared by the United Nations. Placing emphasis on Sustainable Development Goals that were laid out in a bid to mitigate the negative aspects of climate change, poverty, hunger, gender equality, education among others which continue to be felt worldwide. They go a step further to try and very possibly resolve the causes by replacing old practices with sustainable ones.

The UN and all its member States think this is a viable global project to embark on because back in 2000, they met and penned down Millennium Development Goals. The MDGs were goals that aimed to half the extreme poverty rates, halt HIV/AIDS and provide universal primary education. By the time they got to their deadline, 2015, the MDGs had achieved most of their targets excellently which inspired the SDGs. January 2016 was the official launch of the SDGs and we have now, the next 13 years to make our world sustainable to avoid the impending chaos up ahead.

Sadly the youth, who are heavily engrossed in social media, and by God’s grace who will be running this country come that year, are out here busy on all platforms but those that seriously matter. We waste so much time on social sites trying to be like others that we don’t have time to work on ourselves to get there. Platforms like government seminars, entrepreneurial forums or even motivational sessions are very poorly attended by the youth. The same cannot be said of concerts and entertainment events. We barely graze the surface if ever we try to understand these life-changing opportunities and frankly, just as we do school, we consider it a bore and a waste of time.

The SDGs have the same expected deadline as our Kenyan Agenda: 2030. The plan is already laid out for us. All we have to do is get the blueprint, internalize it, apply all our ingenious ideas and implement immediately. We are up against climate change, poverty, hunger, gender equality, sanitation, health, among many other challenges and I see huge opportunity in both public and private sector for brilliant minds to occupy.

These are extremely big objectives that need an uprising of revolutionaries who believe in the vision and are ready to put in the time and effort necessary to guarantee the successful attainment of the set goals. We must begin to transform ourselves by the renewing of our minds. We must quit and renounce that herd mentality and decide to take appropriate action to secure the future we want. We must individually decide to take 100% responsibility for our lives and pick a sustainable or National Agenda goal we are passionate about, throw ourselves completely on it and rely on and trust each other.

Thankfully, all is not lost as there are some pioneers who are consistently and constantly advocating for change and charting a new course with new ways of doing things. As stakeholders of this world, we must all rally behind worthy and noble causes that push the boundaries, challenge doctrines and provide results. Because whether we like it or not, we have a responsibility to our world which will be occupied by our children one day. And when they ask, for they will most certainly ask, what will you tell them your role was in creating their world at 2030?

For us to thrive, not just survive, our love for each other will have to improve. So, before we think of tribe or race, let us remember that we are human first and that we all love our lives then let us agree to combine all our uniqueness and create a masterpiece. We can do it. I believe in every one of us.

“Ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country” – John F. Kennedy

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