I like Aisha Jumwa. I like her vim. I like her sassiness. Heck, I even like her deep, baritone voice.
But most of all, what I love most about her is that Jumwa carries herself with the self-confidence of a woman who has never met her match.
Jumwa, Laikipia Woman Representative Cate Waruguru, Kirinyaga Governor Anne Waiguru and Mbita MP Millie Odhiambo are part of a growing class of self-assured and self-confident women in the Kenyan political scene.
When Waruguru is not confronting senior police officers and spending a day in jail, Jumwa is daring enough to take head-on an entire political party, while Waiguru makes history as the first female governor alongside veterans like Charity Ngilu, Joyce Laboso and Margaret Kamar.
Last week, when Jumwa came face to face with ODM secretary general Edwin Sifuna, she was on the receiving end of a fair share of opprobrium and vituperation; with many criticising her for “lack of respect” and lack of “decorum” for a woman of her stature.
It so happened that Sifuna, while addressing the crowd, veered into party politics, presumably an open attack on Jumwa, who was also in the crowd. Not one to take such things lying down, Jumwa grabbed another microphone and chimed in, in her lovely deep voice, no less.
She told off the young politician and asked him to sit down if he did not have something constructive to say. A humiliated, Sifuna took his seat, only to be called back by Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi to finish his speech under the watchful eye of the governor.
But today’s piece is not really about politicians humiliating each other publicly, it is about the strong women in our politics and why we need such women in our national politics.
Jumwa might not be everyone’s cup of tea. Call her mannerless, uncultured or even graceless, we all know the real reason why we love to hate Jumwa is because nothing scares and terrifies our society than a woman sure of herself, who does not care about what people think and is not afraid to speak her mind.
Given the dirty nature of our politics; in which dishonour thrives over grace, politics over policy and backstabbing over loyalty, Kenyan politics is naturally designed to lock women out. Women in Kenyan politics face, among other challenges, a lack of funds to drive their campaigns, insults, jeers, malicious rumours and sometimes even violence from their male counterparts.
For a woman to make it in Kenyan politics she has to more or less behave like the men; to be rough, tough, crude and rude. You have to be made of steel, be tough as nails, ready to take punches — and give punches as well — for you to even see the doors of Parliament in this country. You have to learn to not only take insults, but to deliver a retort because in Kenyan politics that is just how the system operates.
Jumwa in particular has been endlessly insulted, harassed, and has been the subject of numerous crude jokes and even received threats.
She has been publicly humiliated — including in last week’s incident when a party official stood up with the intention of embarrassing her. Did we except her to just sit pretty, take in the humiliation like a nice flower girl? Jumwa, like the veteran Martha Karua, was simply standing up for herself, and giving back the same energy she was receiving from the male politician.
Sifuna asked for it, Jumwa delivered it; cold, calculated, with equal measure of venom. Don’t hate Jumwa, hate the game!
On a more serious note, we have got to stop expecting our female politicians to remain docile, passive and meek like little girls in a church pew. They are strong, sassy and aggressive women and we must appreciate them for who they are, their strong personalities and sky-high confidence levels notwithstanding.
This is a new generation of young, female leaders. They are not intimidated by any man — doesn’t matter if you were an MP while she was still in diapers. She will stand up to you, talk back and put you in your place — even if you are a police boss.
You can throw her in jail for all she cares, bully her on social media and tell malicious stories about her, but still, she will rise.
What more can I say, except, Viva, to our female politicians.