It is twenty-two days since I voted in the general elections here in Kenya. It was my fourth time voting and having experienced the post-election violence the first three times, I was both hopeful and fearful.
Hopeful that given how tough times have been since the pandemic that we wouldn’t have to run for our lives and fearful that there would be election irregularities and this would mean another loss for the candidates I voted for.
I am a young woman here in Kenya and for years I have firmly held the belief and lived by the mantra that “politics is not my thing.” However, when you truly unpack the history and purpose of politics from Aristotle, it simply means “affairs of the cities,” and this is more about how decisions and duties of people affect those directly and indirectly in contact with them. That in history, politics was public discourse- it was more about people gathering in squares and arenas and sharing their concerns and passing laws with the consensus of others- and with time, this evolved to the grasp of a select few.
Over the years and with being on social media, I learned how to disagree while weighing the value of my disagreement. Because, I would read the comments on other people’s posts, especially if they were female- and some would include snide remarks about how they looked, requests for their phone numbers or simply being told to stick to make-up and forget about politics.
I’d admit for years thinking that I was safe not speaking or posting my opinions on politics and over time, this fear made it less my thing and more the thing that had power over me. Until, I started working with communities and schools along the Lake Victoria, then I felt what politics- policies and laws did to the quality and access to basic education, health and security did I start speaking up. Public primary schools were inaccessible due to poor roads, when it rained pupils and teachers would fail to make it to school-and miss out on lessons. Books were inadequate, there were few classes and most pupils were taught under trees-if it started drizzling everyone including the teachers ran for cover.
I started reading up on policies and the government administration. I asked about who to reach out to, which departments to engage and soon engaged in a policy fellowship training to learn how best to hold the government accountable. What I learned during this process is that there are ways to engage public officials and also maintain a channel of communication that holds them accountable for their work.
It is indeed twenty-days since I cast my vote and I am yet to see my country governed by the first female Vice President. From the first time I voted in 2007 to date, having experienced loss and fear being involved in three instances of post-election violence, and picking up and getting onto other things-I have learned that trauma is an event. It is what happens after surviving that determines how I am doing psychologically and more so, now I cannot say that politics is not my thing, it is.