Kenya is on edge ahead of national elections on Tuesday, but the risk is that much greater for women candidates facing violence, intimidation, and general sexism in the race. Matthew Larotonda reports.
This is Sarah Korere. Forty years old, she's been shot at, slapped, called a traitor and a prostitute, even given a curse by the elders of her tribe. All of this typical for a women politicians in Kenya, putting them at even greater risk ahead of a national election Tuesday (August 8) that's already been strained with violence. And Ms. Korere is trying to unseat a man from parliament. (SOUNDBITE) (Swahili) SARAH KORERE, PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE, SAYING: "He calls me a skirt. At least I can wear both dresses and trousers, so I wore trousers today hoping to see if some of these men would come in a skirt -- because the roles are about to change." Kenya has struggled to integrate women into politics even as neighboring countries in east Africa surged ahead. In Uganda and Tanzania, for example, over a third of lawmakers are women. In Rwanda they're even a majority: Two thirds - the highest ratio in the world. Kenya: Only a fifth, the same proportion as Saudi Arabia. They didn't even outlaw domestic violence until two years ago, a law Korere helped pass. She and other women Reuters spoke with said its not unusual for male rivals to attack them physically. One even saw her bodyguard killed. (SOUNDBITE) (English) SARAH KORERE, PARLIAMENTARY CANDIDATE, SAYING: "It's been four years of very rough and very tough times for me." Kenya's tried to remedy the situation in recent years by reserving some seats in parliament for women specifically, yet the forced representation also has drawbacks in terms of funding. Fully elected lawmakers are usually allowed $600,000 for projects in their home districts. But women in those reserved seats see only a fraction of that - about 12 percent. And lawmakers who are nominated to their position get no money at all. With the country on edge over racial and ethnic clashes that have dogged the campaign season. These women standing at the front of that threat.