There was a time in 2016 I was volunteering for an Organisation that was training young children in primary schools on the ways to be a social entrepreneurs and why it was important for them to be social entrepreneurs. At that time I was so disappointed by the manner in which the government was running the affairs of this country and I thought social entrepreneurship was the way to go and that it would fill the void left by the government’s inadequacy. I was so sold out to this cause that I even did a video and in that video I stated how my dream was to see an Africa where politicians were so irrelevant and redundant that citizens were running their own affairs. I was onboard with the social entrepreneurship wagon and I was not going to falloff. When I lookback at this thinking, I don’t know whether to hug my younger self or give her a book. I will probably do both.
I changed my mind about politics after having a discussion that challenged the definition of Politics for me. Someone posed a question and asked, “Why are we so obsessed with the Presidential election? It is because the person that gets to occupy that seat has the power to control resources, because Politics is simply the negotiation of resources.”
It then goes without saying that when we fail to be engaged in political conversations as women and as young people, the decisions about our resources will be made in our absence, without our consent, without our knowledge.
Whenever we pay our taxes either in form of V.A.T or Pay As You Earn, it’s not just the money we give to the government, it’s our time, our energy, our emotions, our blood, sweat. If you pay a tax rate of 16 % that is 16% of your life and you have every reason to be involved in what the government does with that fraction of your life. If you will not be involved for anything else, be involved because the government has made it mandatory to invest a fraction of your life into it.
If there is anything we have learnt especially through this election cycle beginning 2017, is that all the aspects of our lives are determined by the type of politics. Everything from the price of fuel, to the availability of the said fuel, the quality, price and availability of sugar, the form one selection, KCSE and KCPE results, price and availability of charcoal the list is endless. The point here is when you look around your home, office, classroom, road everything around you is literally affected by the political environment including yourself!
If you doubt whether your existence is controlled by political forces, ask families who had to bury their loved ones simply because their community was considered a political liability. Go ahead and ask the Somalis who were rounded up at Kasarani because they were “terrorists” ask the Luo community how many bodies were thrown into Lake Victoria because they were “idle rioters” ask the families of young Kikuyu men from Nyeri and Muranga who were killed because they were part of “Mungiki” ask the survivors of the 2007/2008 post-election violence.
Voting is just one step, a civic duty but that is just the beginning, it is not where we end. The political environment is kept healthy through our continuous active participation as citizens. I encourage everyone to be active politically. Be a pain, a stubborn head ache, an annoying pimple on their forehead, a difficult to ignore itch on their skin until the next election. After you vote, repeat the cycle.
So how do you do this? I am glad you asked. The easiest representatives to get a hold of are the members of the County Assembly. They have an ability to be canny and slippery but they are reachable. Find out where their offices are and the days they meet with the people. For most wards it is usually on a Monday, but find out.
Join youth groups within your area and organize to meet your area MCA because checking authority is not a one person job, and it is not an activists job.. it is our concern and right. Ask what has been the progress, point out the promises made during the election period, point out the persistent problems you have had to survive and ask them to explain what has not been done and why. Please don’t accept empty answers. And take part in public participation forums in your area, what are in the budget plans for your area? Find out! Democratic Leadership is a collaborative process; it is not leadership if it doesn’t work for and with the people.
Written by Wanjiru Nguhi
Co-Founder of Mwafrika Mwenzangu | Lawyer | Political Strategist | Writer | Feminist