Pentecostal women are gaining a new place in the politics of Kenya, both on an official and unofficial basis, according to Damaris Parsitau of Egerton University.
Parsitau, who was presenting a paper at the ASR meeting in Boston, said that Pentecostal female clergy in particular are moving into Kenyan public life and taking on new political roles. Many of these women are influenced by Bishop Margaret Wanjiru, who serves in Kenya’s Parliament. Wanjiru was the first women to be ordained a bishop in Kenya. Also influential on a more unofficial basis is Teresa Wairimu, a well-known evangelist, teacher and healer who has increasingly laced her sermons and “prophetic utterances” with social and political messages.
For instance, Wairimu has recently attacked tribal and ethnic clashes and corruption during elections. Wairimu and other women “use their public speaking in Pentecostalism to insert themselves in the public sphere,” Parsitau added. She noted that these female leaders and their women followers becoming involved in politics are often single and often face discrimination by male politicians. Women mentored by these leaders have engaged in a new wave of activism, even taking to the streets in protests.
These Pentecostal women have also formed political networks, which include men, that are “transferring the spirit to the public sphere,” Parsitau said.