Vision of Hope as Women are elected “Nyumba Kumi” Leaders in the Coast
Blog by Dorcas Amakobe, Community Liaison Coordinator Moving the Goalposts
Kilifi and Kwale counties have occupied top media headlines nationally and internationally for insecurity reasons. This week the Kenyan public is still grappling with media reports of the recent killings in Mpeketoni which have been associated with terror attacks in the Coast. One of the measures that the Kenyan government suggested in the "war on terror" is the "Nyumba Kumi" (the households initiative), a government initiative where the Kenyan public is involved in securing their own communities. Leaders of these 10 household are elected through a democratic process and have the responsibility to promote good neighborliness and security by providing useful information on suspected cases of insecurity in their areas.
As Community Liaison Coordinator in Moving the Goalposts Kilifi, an organization that empowers girls and young women through sport, I was recently invited as speaker in two community meetings to sensitize the community on women empowerment through sport. While I sat in the meetings in Rare (Kilifi County) and Dima (Kwale County) I realized the community members' commitment to promote security in their communities. It became obvious that change is inevitable in these communities. As the lists of the elected leaders of the Nyumba Kumi initiatives were read out by the village elders it was one woman's name after the other that was mentioned. More women than men were elected. I realized this was not a coincidence since the meetings were held in different Mijikenda sub tribes in different counties. I felt a rare excitement which raised my interest to find out if this is the situation in more locations in Kilifi and Kwale counties and in more parts of the country.
The position of women in leadership roles got a boost in August 2010, when Kenyan women's long journey to a progressive Bill of human rights was realized with the promulgation of the new constitution. From then on the Kenya National Women's Charter ensures effective representation of women in leadership. Despite a number of challenges, the 2013 elections were successfully held. The elections became an awakening for Kenyan women. The results saw many women elected on women representative posts, however very few were elected as county assembly representatives or Members of Parliament. No woman was elected as senator or governor.
But the good thing is that something is happening in our backyards as the community meetings in Kilifi and Kwale show. Women are taking up leadership roles at grassroots level. This will immediately women's positions in their communities.
I left these two meetings with a desire to share these facts with development partners in Kenya and in the world. Kilifi and Kwale, two communities that might not be known and where the role of women is still determined by traditions, seem to be ready for change. The communities have taken giant steps in my view. Steps that should be amplified!
I hope that what is happening in Kilifi and Kwale is a breakthrough of women being elected in leadership positions. It is an opportunity for organizations, such as Moving the Goalposts, working with (young) women in leadership to support the elected 10 household leaders, particularly women, to effectively explore the opportunities that come with this responsibility. Leading Nyumba Kumi initiatives will enable women to grow into other elected positions leading to female senators and governors.