Tales of a young, aspiring WOMAN POLITICIAN

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Sandra Belyon is a 30-year-old aspiring politician. She hopes to be the next Woman Representative of Kericho County. She previously declared her interest in the Kericho Senatorial by-election of 2016.

By SANDRA BELYON

I am happy to be among those women who have chosen the road less travelled. World over, there is a rising momentum encouraging and ensuring active participation and leadership of youth and women politics, especially within local government structures.

My journey into politics started very early, and did not come as a surprise to my close friends and family. I do not keep quiet about issues; I speak out even though at times it gets me in trouble. I began active participation in mainstream politics in the 2007 General Elections as a volunteer campaigner of Raila Odinga’s Presidency. During the 2013 Generala Elections, I juggled work as a young PR professional and a supporter of Vice President William Ruto. Together with a small group of friends, we passionately campaigned on and off social media for the election of Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto, despite the ICC tag.

There is never a dull day in politics. Once in politics, one realizes that the game transcends political leaderships, it transcends one’s expectations, questions your way of doing thing. It is no longer about how brilliant or well educated you are. I have learnt that political leadership is all about strategy-especially if you do not have deep pockets, a godfather or huge immediate support.

Against the odds

Challenges are many but they are not impossible to beat. There will be many dream killers – from family to friends and colleagues who will not waste an opportunity to discourage you. You also have to deal with status quo – the two horned devil all new politicians fight and grapple with. Sadly, outsiders are not always received well. In every County, there are people who feel they own the place. They can make one’s venture difficult.

Politics is an expensive affair. I am a young woman toiling to make a living for myself. I am also the sole breadwinner in my family. I have been out of mainstream employment for over a year making ends meet through consultancy. I do not have money to dish out, as may be expected by some people during my political rendezvous. With all the financial expectation put on an aspiring candidate, one has to be innovative. Calling for a few support meetings and lunches to ask friends and family for financial support is one of the methods I use.

In politics, some people will chase you for personal favours, while others will outrightly flirt and abuse you. Those on social media can air their views – the good, bad and ugly. Despite all these, I am still expected to keep my cool even when the views are untoward.

There are cultural expectations to meet. Luckily, I believe the Kericho electorate are open-minded and know and appreciate that serving, representing and meeting their needs has nothing to do with my status – of being a single parent. I would want the electorate to judge me on my performance and nothing else.

A worthwhile journey

When I embarked on this journey, I thought I could easily balance being a mother, an entrepreneur, a politician and still have a healthy social life, but it was not to be. Often, I find myself overwhelmed and feeling the urge to escape from everything and everyone. I long for peace and privacy.

But all has not been bleak and dark as I have met incredible individuals. I have had amazing experiences and unlike before where I had a faint heart, politics has toughened me up. I have learnt to choose my battles. You get to meet amazing people who encourage and help you in one way or another, and you acquire mentors and mentorship you could only dream of. You acquire new sets of friends with big titles and some that feel so entitled. You learn that sometimes all the people you thought were so big are actually so small and vice versa.

I am glad I joined this space and field at a time when some few young women had already paved way for me. These are my fellow young leaders like Naisula Lesuuda and Aaron Cheruiyot, one of Kenya’s young and vibrant senators. With them I see more youthful representation in Kenya’s political arena. Unlike before when the voice of the youth was unheard, we now have an opportunity to add our voices to the conversations going on in this country.

If we get more youth in our communities involved in politics from a young age, we are likely to become more engaged as citizens and voters. When youth and women join politics, benefits are immense as they engage in higher civic engagements in community issues. I want to actively be part of this change.

Email: management@kim.ac.ke

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