After 20 long years of struggle for a new constitution, we have finally crowned the Second Liberation with a clear win. This has not come easy. It has come through blood and sweat, eating of teargas, sleepless nights and many anxious moments in our checkered political history.
Without doubt, most Kenyans, some more than others, have played a role to make this happen. But as with the first liberation struggle, I am afraid that after the dust has settled and the curtain closes on the celebration parties, one crucial sector of the society that played a very key role to make this happen may soon be forgotten, as battle for power and recognition takes centre stage Kenya-style. Who am I talking about?
I am talking about the more than 52% of the female gender that has not only been in the trenches with the men, that have also struggled for this legal and political moment to happen. But they have also been the ones that held this society together, during those periods of the struggle when our men decided to turn our country into a battlefield. They are the ones who made sure even when the economy was almost brought to a standstill, still put food on the table. They are the ones who nursed back to health the wounded soldiers in the battlefield and they are the ones that made sure that the children and the youth stayed healthy and went to school despite everything.
These are the real heroines for constitutional reform in this country. And lest we forget, they have real names and real titles, just like the men, we are so easily recognize and pour accolades to incessantly in the media and elsewhere and call them the “makers of the nation”. These gallant women include our very hardworking farmers who put bread on all our tables, the home-makers who not only carry and bear our babies and nurture them to maturity but also make sure there is a happy and warm home to every day come to for the rest of us. They are the factory workers and public servants, many of whom work in low-paying labour intensive jobs and still have to find time to be mothers and farmers and in some cases also fathers as is the case with so many single parents. The heroines of this constitutional struggle are also the women in educational institutions that have sacrificed their academic careers and promotions in order to contribute to the larger good of educating all Kenyans on human and gender rights. There are many women who work in Civil Society organizations and with meager resources have made a huge difference in spreading, multiplying these resources to educate women and men countrywide about this new constitution so that they can vote as wisely as they did on August 4th. The heroines of this constitutional struggle have also been our women political leaders who though only like a drop in the ocean in a parliament made up predominately of men, they have been gallant fighters in that House for gender and human rights and for constitutional reform. They have been gallant political torch bearers and for that we should all be proud of them.
Yes, all these women have real names just like men who participated in this struggle but I am afraid like has happened during the first liberation, they may soon be the gender without a name, the ones who are only remembered vaguely and very soon when political history books start being written, they will be at best a vague memory which some “kind” historians may be struggling to remember even a few names. In case you are in doubt about what I am saying: how many of you remember more than two or three names of the courageous amd gallant women who for several weeks, undeterred by police violence and brutality, set up tent at the Freedom Corner at Uhuru Park demanding the release of political prisoners who had been held in Moi’s detention cells without the benefit of a trial. The mothers of political prisoners not only went on a hunger strike but also thing the one unprecedented thing which was to strip naked not for purposes of being obscene as they were decent women of integrity but rather to send a very strong political message to the dictatorial moi regime
In his ruthless dictatorship and opporession of Kenyans, he was behaving like the proverbial naked emperor who went through the streets of his kingdom quite oblivious of the embarrassment he was visting on himself simply because a few psychophants made him believe that he was dressed when he was stark naked and so the mothers of political prisoners through this act were not only total defiance to the oppressive status quo but they were also telling the regime in power that his days of dictatorship were numbered and that he was exposing himself to total ridicule by failing to recognize the wind of political change and the need not to be caught on the wrong side of history.
How many of you remember that in January 1992, immediately after the return of Kenya to a multiparty state that it was the women of Kenya mobilized by women leaders in civil society that organized the first ever national convention to set out a women’s agenda in a multiparty and democractic Kenya. It was at this convention that women coined the phrase the now rallying call for national cohesion “Unity in Diversity” in recognition of that fact that all women in their diversities rural and urban, rich and poor members of various ethinic communities and religious faiths had one thing in common: their oppression and marginalization which could only be overcame through unity in diversity. It was at this convention that women of Kenya called for the overhaul of the existing legal framework as one of the fundamental institutions that stood in the way of meaningful democratization, equality of rights and social justice. This convention attended by representatives of women from all walks of life then resolved that democracy in Kenya would remain unfinished until meaningful constitutional and other reforms were effected to make room for democratic development.