The book “Kula kwa Mheshimiwa” a Swahili version of “Feast at the Honourable’s” reflects the community’s harsh treatment of women candidates in their quest for political leadership.
The 180-page book authored by Juma Namlola, manifests the realities of fierce campaigns by male competitors and how community elders collude to push women out of the race.
“The book is meant to change people’s attitudes and perceptions towards women political leaders. To see them as equal leaders and not as women,” says Mr Namlola, a Swahili editor at Nation Media Group.
Chapter one and two sets a caustic scene that is ironically neutralised in Chapter 12.
Brighton Lawrence Apewe of Kurunzi (spotlight) Party and Sikujua Asha Majaliwa of Mbalamwezi (moonlight) party have both scheduled political rallies on the same day at Mlachake Location.
They are competing for the position of representative of Manusura region in the legislative assembly. Mr Apewe is the incumbent representative.
Mlachake market is the ground for Apewe. Here, the field is filled with youths. A Taarab band is entertaining them. The young men confess to attending the rally because of money, as Mr Apewe was synonymous with leaving behind some notes for them.
While at the Mlachake Primary School, where Ms Majaliwa is holding her rally, the participants are few and there is no entertainment. Here, most of the attendants are women. The few youth present complain of a stingy Majaliwa. A youth asks: “Why is she penny-pinching that she cannot have even a metal miniature for entertainment?
But an older man, Hajj, standing nearby is quick to remind him that: “Has anyone called you here? Each person has the liberty to choose the rally to attend?”
At her rally, Majaliwa gets a boost. Five women ward representatives, decamp from Kurunzi to her party, Mbalamwezi.
In this new alliance, Mr Apewe sees a threat to his popularity as manifested in Chapter Five.
He resorts to propaganda that Ms Majaliwa is defying the cultural and religious orders by competing for the seat.
He holds an emergency meeting with local men and women leaders expressing his fear of defeat by Majaliwa.
To counter her popularity, he influences the leaders to speak with her to withdraw from the race because “in our culture, it is disgusting for a woman to be a leader and even our Islamic religion disallows a woman to be an Imam.”
It is in chapter five that two elders Changuo and Chonjo shamelessly interrupt her meeting with women to deliver the message from Apewe.
They are hit by a surprise when Majaliwa stands her ground dismissing them by demanding to know “when you were appointed, did you not see a woman chief or administrator? Why did you not reject her? But when it comes to the election of a representative of this region, you suddenly see me as a woman?”
They leave shocked and angry.
Chapter seven depicts an awful case of violent campaigns and gender-based violence.
An enraged Apewe orders Majaliwa’s elimination. As she drives away from her meeting with women at Mlachake, Apewe’s gunmen Rex and Bambo shoot her on the leg and shoulder.
Having lost control of her Prado, she hits a tree. The two criminals conclude she has died but she hasn’t. She is rescued, treated, and gets fully back on her feet.
When election is held in Chapter 12, Majaliwa wins with 91,174 against Apewe’s 88,875.
The book, however, fails in parallelism, a gender aspect in which men and women characters are treated equally. The man politician has been identified by English names Brighton Lawrence. Also Apewe means to “give”. The woman politician, on the other hand, is called Sikujua Asha Majaliwa, a name that presents her as an underdog. Sikujua means “I didn’t know,” and Majaliwa “translates to “gifted.”