Silantoi during her campaigns in Nairobi.Photo Credits: Silantoi Lengewa
23 year old Lengewa Silantoi Suzanne from the nomadic Samburu region defied all odds when she decided to vie for senatorial position in Nairobi against the incumbent and veterans who have been in politics for much longer.
Her story is one of hope and inspiration to the youth who make up majority of the population and mostly young women. She describes herself as a passionate Kenyan, in pursuit of justice and empowerment of the youth.
“It wasn’t an ‘aha’ moment for me but the constant exposure to the ills of the society played a great role in my political aspirations. I wanted to be in a position to effect change to the society.”
My focus was on to ensure efficient oversight of the county government so that the good laws and the policies the constitution brought with it are reflected on the ground through proper implementation; to narrow the gap between policies and implementation.
The youth agenda has not been driven enough, with the high unemployment rate among the youth that leaves them destitute. It really matters to have more women in leadership, we cannot continue being one half the population and at the same time underrepresented. Our say matters and leadership is that platform.
Throughout her journey, she faced several challenges with funding remain the major one and not being attached to any political outfit did not make things easier.
The mainstream media was really helpful in pushing my agenda which was their point of focus with bloggers choose negative criticism by focus on sexist comments, age and even gender in pushing down my senatorial aspirations.
“These are some of the issues women need to be aware of when vying for elective positions in Kenya, the political landscape is harsh towards women compared to men and this is more reason why we need to give up but soldier on.” She further added
More efforts still needs to be put in place from development partners and even the government in order to achieve the two thirds gender rule. There is need to raise awareness on the need to have more women in leadership positions in order to change the mind-set of people for a complete buy in.If the electorate does not buy in the idea of women leadership then the challenge will still be there
“A lot of times we would be drawn back by our fears of the implications, the financial muscle to match our aspirations and societal perceptions of us as women. My advice would be to just be bold and do it, be who you are and do not feed into the societal stereotypes attached to us as women; those are the very stings that hold us back.”
The 2017 general elections saw 23 elected women MPs, and 47 Women representatives with still there being need to nominate 47 more women in Parliament to make a total of 117 women. The Senate, saw entry of three women were elected as senators with 16 more women Senators to be nominated as per the constitution to reach the 2/3rd rule.
Kenyan politics is still polarized with voting done along tribal lines, and being a woman does not make it any easier which brings the need to work towards objective politics.
Lost the election but has been an inspiration to the youth and specifically young girls. She reiterates that she would still vie again as she holds social justice and empowerment of the youth close to her and would advocate for it in any forum.
The United Nations provided technical and financial support to the general elections through the Strengthening the Electoral Process Project in Kenya (SEPK), a donor basket fund managed by UNDP. UN Women focuses on the component of increasing women participation in election. The SEPK program aims at strengthening and developing sustainable and just election institutions, systems, and processes capable of delivering a free, fair, just, transparent and credible 2017 General Elections.