For a long time, the Maasai community has considered women incapable of taking up leadership roles.
In Narok County, for instance, only three women had defied odds to be elected leaders before the 2013 General Election.
The three were elected as civic leaders. No woman had ever been elected to Parliament by the community until the introduction of the new Constitution in 2010.
Many aspiring women in the county are, however, trying to emulate Ms Peris Pesi Tobiko who beat all odds to become the first Maasai woman to be elected MP after she won the Kajiado East constituency in 2013.
Ms Tobiko triumphed despite being “cursed” at one time by Maasai elders after she beat seven TNA aspirants in the primaries.
In the six constituencies in Narok, only two women – Ms Agnes Shonko and Ms Agnes Pareyio – have come out to appeal to voters in the hope of capturing the Narok North parliamentary seat.
The two who are yet to face each other in the Jubilee Party primaries are contesting in a male dominated field where Martin Kawarau, Meitamei Ololdapash, Nelson Keshei, David Kereto and Kaitikei Rotiken are also seeking to unseat the incumbent Moitalel Ole Kenta.
Ms Pareyio, one of the county’s longest serving female politicians currently chairing the County Water Board had in 2013, contested for the Women Rep seat, losing to the incumbent, Ms Soipan Tuya. She has now switched her focus on the MP’s position.
Ms Pareyio is the founder of the V-Day Safe House for girls and co-ordinator of Tasaru Ntomonok Initiative, a community-based organisation in Narok District.
She was honoured by the United Nations for rescuing girls from FGM, a campaign she said had made her bolder to face men in the community.
“Being an anti-FGM crusader for years, I have faced men head-on as I try to rescue their daughters from the cut. It has been a tough battle,” says Ms Pareyio who believes she will trounce all the men in the forthcoming polls.
On her part, Ms Shonko who now bears the tag “Narok Iron Lady”, has downplayed comments in campaign that the MP’s position is too large for a Maasai woman to fill – that women are simply weak to lead in Maasailand.
“I have found that as women we can appeal to voters and we can be elected. We will do it again and again until this mentality goes away,” she said.
The three women who were elected as civic leaders were former Narok County council vice-chairperson Agnes Pareiyo from Sakutiek ward, Lorna Nkokuwa, who represented Ildamat ward and Lucy Ololngojine who represented Shartuka ward in Transmara during the defunct Narok and Transmara county councils.
From then, the agitation for the one-third gender in the Constitution has acted as an eye opener to Maasai women who are now eyeing various elective seats in the county.
The new law roots for gender equality in both appointive and elective posts.
It provides that Parliament sets a law to promote the representation of women, persons with disabilities, minorities and marginalised communities in Parliament.
And like in the 2013 elections, a total of nine women have expressed interest in the woman representative seat.
Among those who have thrown their hats in the ring for the county woman MP slot to unseat Ms Soipan Kudate are career lawyer-cum-politician Ms Isele Kuluo, daughter of the late Cabinet minister William ole Ntimama Lydia Masikonde, Ms Florence Tonkei, Ms Eunice Marima, wife of former Narok North MP Moses Marima, former Kabianga University student Mercy Cherotich Temburr, Lydia Kosigo, Agnes Businei and Jane Nampaso.
“For a long time the Maasai culture has been patriarchal and it will take time to change this. Majority of the women have been made to rely on their husbands in decision-making.
“They have not been given opportunities to prove their leadership,” said ODM Women League chairperson Mary Simat, who urged men to give women a chance to prove their leadership abilities.
“Women shy away from politics because of violence and harassment by their male rivals. We must give women their chance to seek political office and let us not scare them,” she said
According to national statistics, between 2007 and 2013, only 9.8 per cent of MPs were women.
Following the introduction of a revised Constitution in 2010, 47 counties were created, each with its own female representative. That has pushed the number of women in Parliament up to 19.5 per cent.
However, Kenya still trails behind other countries in the region, such as Rwanda, where 64 per cent of seats in Parliament are held by women.
According to Ms Kuluo, who is rated among the top contenders in the county woman representative’s race, Maasai women aspirants have stepped up campaigns to try and overcome the odds they faced in last elections.
“We also have what it takes to go for this positions, if it is education they are looking for we have. We have also helped the community in many ways, the time of saying some seats are men’s business is long gone,” said Ms Kuluo.
Ms Kuluo studied at Pune University-India where she graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree, Bachelor of Arts degree in economics, political science and public administration, and a diploma in French language.
Before joining politics, she was a consultant on legal, community and security matters at the Kenya Railways.
So far, however, no single woman has declared an interest in the governor’s or the Senate positions.