Kampala, Uganda — Martha Karua, Kenya's former female presidential candidate has asked women to actively demand for their political space rather than sit back and expect to receive it. She made the call while addressing women at the Interparty Organization for Dialogue- IPOD Women Conference at Mestil hotel in Kampala.
Karua, who also served as a High court advocate, legislator and Justice Minister in Kenya, says women need to appreciate that they live in a patriarchy society where men are fronted beyond women and hence need to fight for space.
"Patriarchy plays out at all levels in society," she said. Karua narrates how, as a member of the Law Society in Kenya, she was ignored while her male counterparts were given platform to speak at functions.
She once decided to walk to the pulpit and demand for a microphone. The same tendencies played out in parliament when male parliamentarians were invited to speak despite coming late to the meeting.
Karua says she refused male dominancy and demanded that her rights be granted. According to Karua, she was called names behind her back, but says that she didn't join parliament to please perpetrators but rather fulfill a vision.
Karua shared her experience when she was offered second positions just because she was female. Karua was one of the key pillars in the formation of the National Rainbow Coalition-Kenya (NARC-Kenya).
She became party leader in 2008 but was almost excluded when the general elections approached. The men suggested their colleagues to be flag bearers ignoring her efforts, experience and qualifications.
Again, Karua demanded that is if they wanted to run in the general election, they go for primaries. Knowing that they couldn't wrestle down Karua, they endorsed her. Karua ran for presidency in 2013.
The male dominated media also went against her politely. "She is a good president but she cannot win, were the statements propagated by the media,' she explained. She noted that these became believable in the minds of many.
She says in her career as a politician and activist, she has witnessed men gang up against her despite her abilities and role in developing political institutions.
"They would rather lose to each other than a woman" she said. They easily regrouped from different parties just to defeat a woman. Karua says it takes a person with managerial skills and leadership ability to run a family and so women should not be undermined.
Dr. Miria Matembe, who was also a keynote speaker at the conference, says that while women are left to compete for political offices, the environment is still hostile for them. She says the actions of violence against opposition politicians have scared away women from participating in politics.
Matembe however says that women should continue fighting for their rights. The conference was organized under the theme "enhancing effective participation of Ugandan women in political leadership & decision making".