Lindy Wafula is the Founder and Executive Director of Project Africa – a nonprofit organization established in Kenya to promote gender equality and empowerment of women. She is also a social entrepreneur and community organizer who is a passionate advocate for the advancement of women in leadership and decision making position in every social, economic and political spheres of life.
Lindy’s commitment to the empowerment of women from the grassroot-up steered her into politics where she contested for the office of Member of Parliament in 2010. She was also elected to the National Executive Council of the Labour Party of Kenya where she is currently the Leader of the Women Congress of the Labour Party of Kenya (LPK). She also serves as the Secretary General of the Women’s Academy for Africa (WAFA) which seeks to empower African Women politicians who subscribe to social democracy with tools for winning elections through training and mentorship. Lindy Wafula is aspiring for a parliamentary seat for the Makadara Constituency in Nairobi the the 2013 General election in Kenya.
A champion for young women, Lindy Wafula has successfully spearheaded programs under the banner of Leading Ladies Circles to ensure the education, empowerment and engagement of young women in leadership. The Global Women Leadership Network recognizes her commitment to the inspiring challenge of advocating for the representation of young women under than 40 in political process in local, national and global levels.
In addition, The Nile African Development Organization recognized Lindy Wafula as one of the African women making a difference towards ending poverty. Her contributions towards achieving MDG 3- promoting gender equality and empowerment of women, earned her the prestigious 2010 African International MDGs Achievers Award.
Lindy is an inspiring and eloquent public speaker who has been featured in several conferences both locally and internationally including the Aspire Women’s Conference (London, UK), TEDx Women Conferences, Leading Ladies Conferences amongst others. She is also a TV Host to her own Leading Ladies Show.
Following through the journey of the emancipation of women that the African women’s movement has journeyed , the African Women Decade presents a new opportunity for women to demand the realization that women rights are human rights. In my opinion, African Women’s Decade should not be a time where African women wait passively for our male counterparts to agree to our call for action because there lacks political goodwill. It is time for African Women to act. We must take action towards ensuring that legislation in its letter and spirit guarantees equal participation of women in leadership and decision making. We must take action to support women to run for election and appointive positions and we must take action to offer civic education especially to women to understand what the power of the vote means for our collective empowerment , peace, security and national development of African states
There are a myriad of issues that hamper the promotion of gender equality and the holistic process of the empowerment of women. However, let me concentrate on the particular case of women participation in politics. First and foremost, I believe that in most African countries, women make at least half of the population and also the majority of voters whenever elections are called. But there is denial amongst the patriarchs of our political system that women have the skills and abilities that warrant their equal participation in politics and democratic governance of African nations. These systems have created a culture that describes men as destined to rule and women doomed to servitude thus alienating women only to the periphery.
The primary actions to take in response to this inequality in the political participation of men and women is, first and foremost , to secure by law the rights of women to vote and to equal representation in political leadership and decision making positions that determine how democracy and good governance must be realized in Africa. Women have strongly and effectively participated in leadership at the grassroot where African traditions have defined as the private space where women belong. It is time that more women leaders need to be ushered to the public arena where national issues are discussed and public policies made not just as bystanders but as equal stakeholders. After all whatever decisions are made affect women who are half the population.
It is true that in some African countries , the constitutions grant women same civil and political rights to men. For instance in Kenya, the Constitution offers the two thirds gender rule which provides that any one gender should hold not more than two thirds (2/3) of any appointive or elective leadership positions. However, there has been heated debate on how this would be achieved without infringing on the rights and privileges that the same constitution in other of its articles gives to all Kenyans.
With the current constitutional framework in Kenya , more mechanisms other than the quota system should be pursued to increase the participation of women in politics. I am not opposed of quotas but I think the quota system should be a temporary measure to catapult women into leadership Otherwise , a long overstretch of quotas do women more disservice than good. In the spirit of the African women’s Decade, women must raise leaders from the grassroot and what other way is best than to ensure that there is an increase in the numbers of women that engage actively in politics in democratic issue based political parties. If more women are active within political parties, then over time women candidates will naturally emerge to run for elective office or seek appointive positions based on merit.
In my opinion, the quota system currently allows political parties most of which are run with the control and manipulation of political godfathers to impose leaders instead of allowing a natural birthing of women leaders from the bottom of political parties up to the national assemblies and other national public service vacancies. Investing in strong political parties that support women participation in the governing councils and support of women wings of political parties is a long term process but is it not better to let women emerge naturally as leaders and get quality than to impose from the top down by nomination only to get women leaders who fall victim of manipulations of the masters that nominated them to office?
Another intervention that must be undertaken to ensure equal representation of women in politics and public service is governments ensuring that all elective and appointive hiring processes are open to the public thus allowing transparency. In addition, as far as election and voting are concerned, a leveled playing field should be enhanced by not allowing impunity of those who break electoral laws. I believe that if the lection playing field is leveled many women are up to the task of public service.
The challenges standing as hurdles against women in politics or those aspiring for elective political office in Kenya include; the control and manipulation of patriarchal political power structures that influence political party nominations and primaries to favour male candidates, negative socio –cultural attitudes that believe the place for women is the private space of their homes, electoral violence instigated against women candidates, high levels of poverty that allow tokenism of the electorate especially women who make at least 50% of the electorate and lack of finances and other resources that would allow women candidates to organize effective campaigns.
Women aspiring for politics and public service often struggle to receive legitimacy in the eyes of the media and further the public. Many times women politicians are held liable of the faults that their husbands and children commit yet male candidates are not held accountable by the same standards. The media and the public ask women questions such as “now that you are running for office who will take care of your family”? They also describe them in ways and words that emphasize the traditional role of women as home makers and care givers. In Kenya, Like elsewhere in the world, the media and the general public focus on women candidates’ physical appearance, dress code and use words like “beautiful” when addressing women candidates and words like ‘ able’ to refer to male candidates. As we approach an election period in Kenya, politics has been likened to a game of football with the players likened to male top scoring players in the European football leagues. These are just a few examples of how politics by design takes masculine characteristics that stir a negative effect on women candidates.
I have been an advocate for women in politics and as a candidate I stand on the fore front to correct misrepresentations that I suffer as a woman candidate. For instance, in a recent event held in my community to promote education in public schools, the Master of Ceremony introduced me as the beautiful candidate seeking the elective MP seat but when I got a chance to speak I thanked him for noticing my beauty but explained to the Parents gathered that I not only embody beauty but embody intelligence in my brain with which I will use to initiate impact oriented ideas for our community development. At times, it is about taking the bull by the horns.
Men must be encouraged to take on traditional roles that have from time immemorial been delegated to women such as homemaking and child care giving. That way they will have more respect for home making as a key responsibility for the wellbeing of families.
Women must advocate for the inclusion of equal household responsibility between men and women in the family law. May be even encourage paid paternity leave so men can be encouraged to stay at home and more women to venture into public service.
I am an active member of the Labour Party of Kenya (LPK) which is currently under the leadership of a woman, Hon. Prof Julia Ojiambo. I am also the Women Congress leader of the Labour Party of Kenya and given the mandate to ensure that women participate actively within our party structure and even nationally as they seek elective and appointive positions.
Nationally, I am proud to have conceptualized the idea to mobilize young women under 40 to engage actively in politics. Through the Forum of Young Women Politicians (FYWP), I called on other young women politicians who had the experience of running for office that we may come together and offer peer -to -peer mentoring to other young women who would like to run for office but do not know how or where to start. I also host Leading Ladies Brunches that offer a platform for mentoring between seasoned leaders in politics, business and civic society and young upcoming leaders.
At continental level, I am the Secretary General of the Women Academy for Africa (WAFA) This is an organization that was established by women politicians from Socialist, Social democratic and Labour parties in Africa to champion the participation of women who subscribe to social democracy in politics. WAFA draws members from Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Ghana, South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe. We are committed to ensuring that women embrace the principle of social democracy and steer change by working actively in making and influencing policy. The Academy empowers women training and skills to run for office and win elections.
Finally globally I am a member of the Women’s Democracy Network (WDN), Global Women’s Leadership Network (GWLN) and the Women in Public Service Project (WPSP). I have made it my commitment to use my place in these organizations to speak boldly about the need to increase participation of women in politics and Public service.
My personal commitment as I run for parliament to represent Makadara Constituency in Nairobi county in Kenya is to engage in issue based politics. Key on my agenda is the need to promote youth development and women empowerment by creating opportunities for both the youth and women who are counted as the most vulnerable e groups in Kenya, to access education , employment, health care, enterprise development and ICT for development and leadership. Already I have initiated community development projects the aim to promote gender equality, empowerment of women and youth development, Such includes the Lady Mekanika Project which provides vocational training in automobile mechanics skills introducing young women in a career that has long been dominated by men I am also a mentor to many girls in my community and in the country and I hope that as I run for elective office, my life will stand out to be a role model to the girls and boys in my community that we can turn our pain into power. My campaign slogan is ideas, innovation, solutions, together. I believe in a participatory bottom up approach to development and am empowering my constituents to understand that a better Makadara Community will be built by the contribution and participation of each one of us.
Well we have always been told that the youth are leaders of tomorrow but that leadership journey starts today. Young women must come out boldly, believe in the God given abilities of feminine leadership and get engage actively in politics. This is how I reason, what will Africa be like if the continent will be led by 53 women presidents? I think we will see an end to war and conflict, end to corruption, victory against poverty and other catastrophes affecting the continent today. It will take young women leaders engage in politics today to change the state of Affairs in Africa. Power will not be given to us on a silver platter, we must fight and work for it.