Three women were last evening poised to be elected to the powerful governor positions after making historic gains in the August 8 polls in what experts say heralds a political breakthrough for Kenya’s male-controlled society.
Charity Ngilu (Kitui), Joyce Laboso (Bomet) and Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga) become Kenya’s first crop of female governors after beating incumbents in the Tuesday polls.
Kenya has East Africa’s lowest female representation in parliament — at 19 per cent — and women have struggled to make gains in the face of violence, intimidation and sexism.
Mrs Ngilu scored 162,069 votes on a Narc-Kenya ticket, or 47.55 per cent of the provisional votes counted beating outgoing Kitui Senator David Musila (107,453) and incumbent Julius Malombe who garnered 71, 350 votes.
Ms Waiguru, former Devolution minister, won the Kirinyaga seat with 158,494 votes (54.13 per cent) against Martha Karua (119,409) and the incumbent Joseph Ndathi (4,616).
Ms Waiguru resigned from the Cabinet in November 2015 amid allegations of corruption.
Ms Laboso, the deputy parliamentary speaker, won Bomet for Jubilee with 175,932 votes against the sitting governor, Isaac Ruto who received 85, 863 votes.
The results are based on votes transmitted by 5.30pm.
The holder of the influential position oversees budgets worth billions of shillings.
Only six women vied for the gubernatorial position in 2013, out of 237 candidates, and lost. The counties get about 20 per cent of national revenues and since 2013 have received more than Sh1 trillion from the Treasury.
They can also raise money through local taxes. In return, they must provide most health facilities, pre-school facilities, and local infrastructure.
“We have stepped up this year,” Laboso told the Thomson Reuters Foundation weeks to the polls.
“Society must stop thinking that women are mere flower girls.”
Women usually lack the political clout and financial backing to get nominated by the main players in primaries, where voters choose party candidates, often amid violent clashes.
Hopes for better female representation were raised in 2010 when the constitution guaranteed women a third of seats in all political offices, but the male-dominated assembly has repeatedly frustrated efforts to pass a law to enact the quota.
“Women have proved that they can be good leaders who want to change the lives of their people,” Ms Ngilu, who was Kenya’s first female presidential candidate in 1997, told Thomson Reuters Foundation.