By Ida Odinga

The date was July 12 1986 probably years before many of you reading this letter were born. There is no memory more vivid in my mind. As is normal of July weather, the sky was pregnant and the air still. The cold Nairobi breeze smacked my nose as I was hurriedly stuffed into the middle seat of a fairly old, cream Peugeot 504 Station Wagon and plopped between the bodies of two police officers. The fatter one on my right, Mr. M had the face of an ox and was in no mood to be working that day, let alone answer my questions of where I was being taken to at almost midnight. To my left sat a female officer that was particularly nasty to me and couldn’t hide her joy every time she muttered, “leo utaona” (today you will see).

I was scared, my emotions and senses were heightened. The strong scent of sweat and damp seat covers filled the car as we zoomed from Nairobi Central to Langata Police Station. It was now midnight and I had been arrested, with no charge accorded to me in the early afternoon.

The children had to be picked from school but nobody saw them take me away. What was happening? Where was I going? Were they going to kill me? With my husband in detention at the time and me dead where would my children go? My friends and relatives already had fairly large families of their own and I knew it would be a challenge taking in mine. Would my children be separated? All the possible answers to these questions would scare me even more and in an effort not to think of them, I filled my mind with more questions. Would the children be stuck in school? Will the teachers try to take them home? Questions were speeding through my head and to this day I have never been more intimate with madness.

My ultimate answer was that if I did not make it out of this situation alive, nobody would care and nobody would take care of my children. I wiped my tears, took a deep breath and said to myself for the sake of my children,

“You need to get it together and find the strength to get through this for YOURSELF because nobody else will.”

Today in 2016 I look back on that day, in the back of the Peugeot. The day they tried to strip my dignity, the day I was unable to take care of my family. The day my life was threatened and I was told I would no longer be a mother. The day the only “rights” accorded to me was the right to remain silent.

Kenya has come a long way since 12th July 1986 but many things have remained the same. The political arena is filled with men in suits busy setting their own agendas. Women in Parliament are harassed and intimidated and in fact, many of them are not allowed the time to speak on the house floor unless a female speaker is on the seat that day. What message does that send to you, our young women? Those of you that have grown up in rural and urban settings, girls with dreams and ambition, girls with voices that need to be heard!

My Dear, there is no space for you in politics. There is no space for you because of one FUNDAMENTAL reason; you do not REGISTER TO VOTE.

It’s simple, everybody has their own interests in politics and they fulfill the needs of the majority before the needs of the minority. You are the majority in population but minority in the electoral process.

The Voter Registration process has begun and young women are still lagging in numbers. I know the questions you all ask are, “Why should I vote”? “What is the point”? “Even if I vote, it won’t change anything.” The answer is simple and it came to me in the back of the Cream Peugeot 504.

“You need to get it together and find the strength to get through this for YOURSELF because nobody else will.”

All over the world women are being elected National Leaders because the women in those societies have woken up and registered to vote.

In South Korea, Park Geun-hye is President because the women registered to vote.

In Germany, Angela Merkel is President because the women registered to vote

In Tanzania, Samia Suluhu Hassan is the first female, Muslim Vice President because the young women woke up and registered to vote.

Young women,

Organize, organize, organize and register to vote today 🙂

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