KENYA: Maendeleo - What's in Store?

The Nation (Nairobi)
November 21, 2006
Posted to the web November 21, 2006

About two million women have gone to the polls to pick a new Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation leadership.

While polls are positive developments, for they signify a people's participation in democracy, Maendeleo has in recent years become synonymous with wrangles whenever time came for its members to choose new leaders.

Whether that is an accurate assessment is debatable, but incessant bickering would imply that the outfit's top brass had no other agenda but to stay in power.

It is such in-fighting that has been blamed for stunting women's march in national leadership, in spite of their strength in numbers.

This is symptomatic of Maendeleo's broader policy failure. The oldest organisation in the land, Maendeleo was founded in 1952 to help women learn trades that would help them generate income, and improve heir families' and communities' health.

It made significant gains through the 1960s and 1970s, but by the 1980s, it had become too politicised. Elections became rare, and when they were held, they were so flawed, nobody took the results seriously.

Since then, the organisation's core objectives such as the promotion of better health for women through curbing retrogressive practices like female circumcision, have been taken over by other non-governmental organisations.

Maendeleo's contribution could have proved critical, given its extensive reach across the country. However, its successive leaders' fixation on donor funding became too unhealthy for the organisation's good.

If the new leaders at Maendeleo are to make a difference, then they have to avoid the pitfalls that their predecessors wilfully plunged into, taking the organisation with them.

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