Our past defines our future

I woke up to the bright glare of a flashlight in my face and a rough hand pulling me out of bed. For a split second I thought it was my younger brother pulling a nocturnal stunt of the century and opened my mouth to yell at him. But seeing the silhouette of a long rungu and the shadowy features of two other adult males present in my room made me realize that this was no childhood prank. I was dragged to my parents’ room and watched the intruders kick my father as my mother begged them to leave him and us alone. I can’t tell if it was thirty minutes or an hour or two. But the robbers swept through the house having tied us in a bathroom and left with electronic items and whatever little cash they found. It was the early morning hours of August 29th 1986, my 14th birthday and one I will never forget as they took a watch that my parents had planned to give me as a birthday present. Four of the robbers were all eventually killed in the course of their chosen professions. The fifth one, who was the leader, was captured alive and interrogated in the presence of my father.

When asked why they had chosen to rob our house, he replied that they had actually tried to rob a neighbor’s house and had been repelled by the guards. As they ran away they looked over the ridge and saw the bright security lights of our house. That, and only that, was the reason why they chose to come to our house as they mistakenly figured that there must be a lot of valuables inside to warrant the amount of lighting outside. This traumatic event took place virtually 31 years ago, but I still remember the stomach churning terror I felt as a child while the painful grimace on my father’s face with every kick that landed on his body was forever seared into my memory. As a result, to date I cannot sleep comfortably in a house that doesn’t have a metal grill door somewhere between the external realm and my bedroom.

Human beings are the sum total of their singular experiences. Therefore every one of us has a story, a sum total of our past experiences that have defined who we are today and which guide a lot of our decision making in the course of our personal and professional lives. In last Thursday’s Daily Nation newspaper, the Council of Governors put a full two-page spread of the incoming governors and their deputies. Out of 47 counties, only 10 governors, or 21%, had deputy governors of the opposite gender. The veritable list consists of Governors Salim Mvurya of Kwale, Granton Samboja in Taita Taveta, Stephen Sang in Kericho, Samuel Tunai in Narok, Prof Paul Chepkwony in Kericho, Dr. Joyce Laboso in Bomet, Charity Ngilu in Kitui, Prof. Kivutha Kibwana in Makueni, Francis Kimemia in Nyandarua and Ann Waiguru in Kirinyaga. Let’s assume political expediency as a reason for selection of the opposite gender amongst the three women governor candidates, since an all female team is even harder to sell in a fairly patriarchal society such as ours. We are then left with 7 governors or 15% of the total counties with varied leadership teams, 7 governors who saw “bright lights” across the political ridge that attracted them to a different leadership template. Are these leaders then a function of their own past experiences that have allowed them to sidestep the patriarchal quicksand and choose women partners? Or can the same political expediency lens be applied to them perhaps due to the realization that the bulk of their voters are of a female extract and are moved by such displays of gender sensitivity? I will give them the benefit of doubt and say that the 7 governors have clearly had a positive experience in the past in working with female colleagues to the extent that they are willing to hitch their political fortunes, successfully I must add, to female candidates on their tickets. Of course it would be fallacious to argue that the remaining 37 governors have had negative experiences with females. But the question remains hanging in the air: what would it take to get more governor candidates to take on more women as deputies? Because their past experience, or lack thereof, with women in leadership cannot be ignored as a key driver of this anomaly.

Carol.musyoka@gmail.comTwitter: @carolmusyoka