By Jennifer Kaberi
Last week I had am opportunity to mentor child leaders. The first three days of the week were children from the Kenya Children Assembly. It was very interesting to listen to children perspective of leadership.
The KCA children who come from the 47 counties in Kenya, felt that we as adults needed to model good leadership. They did not consider Kenya leaders as role model. Which was reflected during the parties primary election, where foul language was used by leaders on national TV, corruption and bribery was reported and losers refusing to concede. The children asked, is there a chance of having clean, fair and free elections in Kenya. The answer to this question lies with our political leaders.
In the middle of the week, I decided to participate in the primaries, when I got home, My daughter who just turned seven asked me “Mommy are girls not supposed to be president”. I asked her why, she told me President Kenyatta is a boy, Mr. Odinga is a boy, President Obama is a boy and President Trump is a boy. (She watches a lot of news). I reassured her that a girl can be whatever they want to be including a president. I went ahead to mention girl presidents including the former President of Malawi Joyce Banda and Chancellor of German.
I thought I had settled that questions, only for the question to come up in a conference for future political leaders supported by global give back circle. The delegates who were girls only, wondered why there are few women in political leaders. One of the girls asked why don’t we have a woman vying for president? why dint women apply for the chief justice position?. As a woman and as a mentor to this young leader I could not help having this sinking, no answer feeling. Hence the need to start to critical re-looking at gender equity in politics. The young girls want to be leaders but don’t have role models to look up to. The sad bit they are growing up in a society where women gender roles are defined and concentrated at the household and not on campaign trails.
The girls have been made to believe that women empowerment has led to breakage in marriage and family, Women can not be leaders and home makers, women don’t support each other to get leadership position.
Gender equality in politics should go past the gender equality bill (Thank you President Kenyatta for prioritizing it), it should go to deconstructing the way women and girls are viewed as leaders. It should not be women being spoon fed with leadership but men and boys being empowered to realize that having a woman leader is okay. It is not just 1/3 gender rule but telling that girl to campaign for her class representation.
We need to challenge the gender stereotypes on women and leadership. We need to see women in leadership being role models to young girls, mentoring them on what being a woman leader of integrity. Women should bot compete to be like men leaders, but work towards being women leaders by sharpening the women leadership saw.
Jennifer Kaberi is a child development specialist, who has a passion on empowering children to transform Africa
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