Gladys Wanga: We Are Not Scared Of Chauvinistic And Misogynistic Men

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Homa Bay County Woman Representative GLADYS WANGA spoke to HAROLD ODHIAMBO about misogynists obsessed with the marital status of women leaders, the  chama women MPs formed and politicians who walk around with hired goons.

How did you feel when Raila Odinga named Martha Karua as his running mate?

We were elated. We were excited as women. It was a moment in history and for us who are upcoming women leaders; a true sign that everything is possible. We witnessed history and it was exciting.

 

Do you think her appointment will influence the women’s vote?

It will influence the women’s vote in a big way. Just the other day, I was meeting some young women who work in a beauty parlour and they seemed very uninterested in politics. They did not know the difference between Azimio and Kenya Kwanza, but they said that the only reason they are going to vote is because of Martha. Many people who were disillusioned about politics are now having hope because of Martha.

 

There are people trolling Martha Karua on social media on account of her marital status. How does that make you feel as a woman?

As women who have been in politics, we have become battle hardened. We are no longer scared by chauvinistic and misogynistic men who want to troll you not by the content of your character but by looking at things like your marital status. For women, it has always been a problem. If you are single, it is a problem. If you are married, it is a problem. If you are divorced, it is a problem. But for Martha, I think she has demonstrated that she is not intimidated by such mindless attacks. She has proven that these things are irrelevant and not tied to leadership.

You are running for Homa Bay County Governor. What can a governor do at that level to elevate women issues?

Access to clean water and healthcare services, poverty and Gender-Based Violence (GBV) are serious issues that must be addressed at the local level by dedicating time and resources to tackle them.

 

 The Homa Bay Referral Hospital is in a deplorable state. How will you fix it if elected?

The referral hospital is a high priority in my agenda. First of all, as a person who has worked in the health sector, I am very committed to improving healthcare services. The infrastructure at the facility is not enough for it to be a Level 5, so we will make an effort to put up a facility that can accommodate our people and guarantee better services. We will work with the national government and development partners on that front to improve the facility. We also have the Babacare healthcare plan which states that there has to be a Level 5 hospital in each county and we intend to take advantage of that pledge to ensure that all our Level 4 facilities are done up to required standards.

Rural access roads in Homa Bay are also said to be in a pathetic state. Why in this time and age?

It is unfortunate. We do not have a lot of tarmac roads within Homa Bay and they are far less than those in other counties. We are looking at embarking on a number of road projects that can open up Homa Bay County. First of all, one of the roads we are keen on is the Lake Victoria Ring Road which will open the county. We are also looking at the Gor Mahia Ring Road which we intend to tarmac to help open Homa Bay to trade. We will work on a plan to ensure that murram roads are maintained after every rainy season.

There seems to be a war of the sexes between young men and women today. What is driving this toxicity?

 I think people feel there is too much attention given to the girl child and the boy child has been ignored. I think as leaders, we should also pay attention to the boy child. The boy child may be quiet but they are also going through a lot of issues and they should be nurtured emotionally so that we can have strong men who can take care of their families and not emotionally weak men who can batter their wives or kill them. Personally, as a mother of a boy, I know it is important to also pay attention to boys. They are not necessarily as expressive as their sisters but it is important that we pay attention to them

What is your advice to them?

Boys should know that they are all important. As leaders we should ensure that the boy child is also taken care of.

Do women MPs have a chama?

 Yes, we have a collective union called the Kenya Women Parliamentary Association. That is our Chama. At smaller levels, women MPs have come together to have smaller chamas where they give each other money and support each other.

There are suggestions that woman reps should not seek re-election, but should use their single term exposure to vie for MP, governor, etc. Your views?

I think this has been discussed before and I believe it should cut across all Affirmative Action positions. Leaders in those positions should not go for more than two terms. One term is a bit short but after two terms, people in affirmative action positions should go for other positions. This is because it is meant for exposure where you can prove that you can lead and leave the space for other women to also grow.

 What compels politicians to walk around with goons?

Personally, I do not walk around with any goons but I think it is only politicians who do not want to seek votes and want to intimidate people into voting for them who are doing that. Security agencies should ensure that campaigns are not based on how many goons you can hire but on your agenda. So, if any organised goons are walking around with a politician, action should be taken against them and their employer or master.

It is said that women are their worst enemies; that they fight their own. Is this fair comment?

I do not think it is a fair comment. If we look at women who have been elected, for example, people who support them most are actually women. Even me, I am actually going to be elected as the Governor of Homa Bay on the 9th of August because of the women’s vote. Women have said they are tired and want to try a woman with the position of a governor. Generally, the argument is not true. Women support their own.

What is the most painful thing you have ever encountered as a woman and a woman leader?

There are very many painful moments. For me, however, when we had the RESIST movement was the most painful experience I have had. We saw the way police were killing our people in cold blood. And how our young people came out and sacrificed, how they would cover our vehicle and say ‘Mheshimiwa, stay down, they are shooting’ as bullets flew by. They would cover the vehicles with their own bodies. They were unarmed and had no protection and some of the bullets would hit them. That was the most painful experience for me.

Any views as we head to the August 9 General Elections?

 We must insist on peaceful campaigns. We must sell an agenda, not vitriol and violence.

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