Menu

Get Socialize

Suzanne Silantoi

Binti Uongozini May 31, 2018 511 No Comments

image

For as long as I can remember status quo hasn’t been my cup of tea and therefore my intention to join elective politics was not too far off for me. I had a normal childhood. My brother and I grew up in Nairobi with very supportive parents. I had the privilege of attending both public and private schools, Westlands Primary School, Riara Primary School, Moi Girls High School Nairobi and finally Kenyatta University.

The year 2017 was a big turning point in my life. They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Let’s make that “Necessity is the mother of action.” I know firsthand what it means to live in this country as a young person. I see the hoards of young people desperate for hope, the assurance that tomorrow will bring better fortunes than today and the desire to be who God made them to be. I’ve watched their dreams wither, their youthful energy stolen by the daily disappointment of lack of jobs, the crushing cost of living and an atmosphere hostile to the ambitions of youth. I asked myself whether it was possible to have a better life, a better country, a better city. I heard of people who had changed their societies through the courage to step out. And it occurred to me that while I waited for the world to give me opportunities, the world itself waited for me to make a move. I was the change I’d been waiting for.

I decide to join elective politics at 23 years of age out of the frustrations we face as country. Yes, as a person who believes that we better as a country,  23 was a non-issue in my view and therefore doing what I did, running to be Nairobi’s senator, developing my leadership abilities and hopefully inspiring other young people to be the change they desire, seemed like the right thing to do. Should I have left politics alone and be busy doing other things? No! If I did that, by the time I’ve gained experience and developed my career in something else the world will have moved on and I’m likely to have been tamed by the prevailing winds of compromise and status quo. Young people must strike  when the iron is still hot. We must strive for an excellent county when we still have the energy to catalyze the excellence. If we waited a moment more, if we developed our career in something else, settled down, etc, we will wake up to realize we’re too settled in our ways to change. Those who wait find that they’ve come to like the status quo and are willing to put up with it rather than change it.

I chose to vie for Senate because the Senate would put me in a vantage position to influence both county and national government policy and budget, to kind of force the hand of the county government to do what’s right by the youth of this county.

I remember after nomination, sending out my poster for the first time. I got mixed reactions from people. Some people were excited and supportive and some were cynical and extremely pessimistic. That notwithstanding those who decided to support me did so in full measure.

My campaign strategy was simple. Do a more interactive, one on one campaign. This helped me give a personal touch to everything I did. Nairobi has 17 constituencies and by the end of the campaign period I made sure I had visited each of them. The main form of campaign is always holding meetings but I couldn’t afford to call people for meetings, instead I decided to go and meet their people in their natural environments. This included workplaces such as markets and major business areas and densely populated settlements such as informal settlements. To my surprise the reception was largely positive especially from ladies who were excited to see a young lady vying for a position typically know to be an ‘Old men’s seat’.

One of my most touching memories on the campaign trail was a visit to Kangemi market. I met an elderly lady who was selling vegetables who I gave my best pitch to be her senator. The lady looked at me, reached out to hold my hand and she prayed for me. I was so touched by this, it moved me to tears.

As expected, I needed resources to run my campaign and this wasn’t something that was readily available for me. I put out an appeal through my social media platforms for people to contribute as little as KSh 100. I was very humbled to see people I didn’t know contributing in both cash and kind. Donations came in form of money, to volunteering to accompany me to the campaign trail, to volunteering to run my social media accounts. One of the most significant contributions I got was from a billboard company who gave me a free billboard in addition to the 2 billboards that were bought by well wishers, as if that wasn’t enough they also offered to rotate them to various parts of the city which was great for me.

The journey during the campaign was not easy.  Here I was, a young lady, without a party and from a minority tribe, all the odds were against me. The campaign took a toll on me both physically and emotionally. With the kind of campaign method that I chose, it meant walking from between 10am to 6pm daily, without food or water. In addition to this, making media appearances early in the morning or late in the evening, this meant that all my days were completely full. Physically I pushed myself to the limit.

My age was a serious topic of contention. It was quite ironical to see people criticise me for being young and vying for office yet the same people keep throwing around the phrase that ‘the youth are the leaders of today’. I was told all sorts of things about why it was not in my place to even visualize vying for political office, as though this country belonged to a few individuals. This definitely weighed me down emotionally for a time. I made a conscious choice to block out the negative sentiments that were not constructive. I also had a good support system around me, who included my friends and family. They supported me through the emotional struggles but also gave me constructive criticism that kept me in check throughout the campaign.

Eventually Election Day came and went. I was able to get over 32000 votes. I hadn’t won the seat but I was so excited that over 32000 people listened to what I had to say and they believed in my vision for a better country. This really encouraged me that my efforts were not in vain.

After the elections so much has opened up for me. I have been involved in several activities with the African Union and various other International organizations. I was surprised to find out that I was a nominee of the International Association of Political Consultants Democracy Award 2017 alongside the Chief Justice and the President of the Supreme Court of Kenya, David Maraga and the Turkish Opposition Leader Mr Kemal Kilicdaroglu. This has validated my actions of taking a leap of faith in trying to bring solutions for the country.  

I read of the life of Wangari Maathai, the experience of immediate former president of the USA Barrack Obama, the late Dr Martin Luther King Junior, my own parents’ example of coming from disadvantaged backgrounds and believing and striving against attitudes, experiences and society’s thoughts about what one should be. I realize that there’s nothing to fear but fear itself. Yes politics in Kenya has been made dirty and women in particular face terrible odds. But if others have faced these odds and overcome them, why not I! Does one scale Mt Everest without fighting against the most terrible odds? Would I become a turning-point for Kenya without being confronted with the scariest political atmosphere ever? The challenges we face as a people are real and the solutions still require our concerted effort. My resolve and commitment to serve the nation and to contribute to shaping a new political dispensation in our land remains steadfast.

Finally I would like to sign out with a quote from Aung San Suu Kyi; ‘‘Fearlessness may be a gift but perhaps more precious is the courage acquired through endeavor. Courage that comes from cultivating the habit of refusing to let fear dictate one’s actions, courage that could be described as grace under pressure- grace which is renewed repeatedly in the face of harsh unremitting pressure’

About

Binti Uongozini was created to support youth female politicians in their political careers. It is a platform for young women to share their political experiences and learn from each other.
Binti Uongozini shows the triumphs as well as the challenges of youth female politicians. It portrays the candidates and demonstrates their steps towards a career in politics. It also showcases their political projects at the community level.

Our goal at Binti Uongozini is to motivate young women to join politics so as to bring change to the society. The platform serves as an inspiration for other young women aspiring to have a career in politics.
The platform was initiated by the Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) Kenya & Ethiopia in partnership with Creatives … read more

Stories