Born into a family of ten, I am the fifth child and the last girl.
I always wondered why my parents waited for me before naming a daughter after my paternal grandmother. That honor is usually reserved for the firstborn girl. I grew up in the 1980’s, a period of relative stability in government social services before the infamous structural adjustment programs that shaped my ambition to be a government employee.
My parents were both public servants. I recall in years gone by, how my mother attended night school as a mother of nine. She got a job very soon after successfully completing her training. I recall, quite vividly, when my parents’ marriage disintegrated because my father felt that my mother had become too enlightened because of her education and job. When my mother left, we had to sneak to see her because any mention of that visit would earn you a thorough beating. I noticed then, that a woman must be empowered to make decisions in the best interest of her family; and that as a woman, you can only make these decisions if you have a voice, and the freedom to express it.
These experiences bred in me a wealth of ideas about how to create an equitable world. I remember how I used to follow my brothers around when they made their toy cars and raced all over the estate. I climbed trees – mostly pawpaw trees – and I have the scars to prove it. I once mobilized my friends to haul an old vehicle to our estate and to “harvest” scrap metal for sale! These and other escapades earned me the stripes of reprimand, at least four times a month, every month.
I did not initially aspire to a career in finance and now, politics as well. Honestly, when I fell pregnant at 17, all I wanted was to run away and get married (I eventually had four children within six years). I had no thoughts of the future. My initial ambition was to be an accounting technician because I had received an internal job posting that required that qualification. When I look back at the ten year stretch when I had gone back to school while juggling a family of six and a job as well, I realize that my voice had been drowned out and I needed it back – urgently. I was an adept debater in school. I was confident, I had an opinion, I was willing to substantiate my stance, and I stood up to bullies. These characteristics steered me back to my ordained path.
I also realized that many women may not have the same opportunities to reclaim their voices; many do not survive domestic violence. I work each day to advocate for equal enjoyment of human rights and non-discrimination in order to open more opportunities for women to rise above these obstacles. My mission is the realization of the human rights enshrined in Kenya’s constitution, chapter 4, and ratified in regional and international conventions.
When I needed an avenue to give voice to these aspirations for the world to hear, I found it in politics. In 2007, while undertaking my undergraduate studies, I was famously known as ODM (in reference to the Orange Democratic Movement) because of my preference for the color orange in support of my party; my no-nonsense attitude; my ability to rally friends to vote for the ODM; and my bare knuckle tackle of any enemy – real or imagined – of the movement, led by The Right Honourable Raila Odinga.
I balanced politics and my career as a Certified Public Accountant and management practitioner. I once lost my job because I appeared in a newspaper alongside a political candidate – this apparently caused the inference that I too was vying for a political position. Once I lost my livelihood because of politics, I knew I had reached my destiny. I needed a platform to speak about human rights and gender equality. I needed a platform to trigger action, not just awareness.
The highlight of my political career was in 2019 when I was featured in the first ever televised women leadership competition in Kenya. What had, to me, begun as an opportunity to network with donors to support my numerous community economic justice projects and to prove that women merit elective office, changed my trajectory when we received the attention of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who hosted the top five finalists.. We got an opportunity to accompany him on a field visit, and to address Kenyans on live TV as his guests. Many women and girls have reached out to thank me especially, for keeping “it real”.
My application to be considered as a participant in the Africa Liberal Network’s Women Leadership Programme, was supported by my Party Leader, Raila Odinga. As a cadet of the programme, I am learning to conduct political campaigns as I prepare to vie in Kenya’s General Elections in 2022.
I believe, there are countless women, in every village in Africa, who have a voice just waiting to be heard. Through NAO Foundation, my initiative for Inclusive Social Development, I design evidence-based programs that resonate with my experiences and knowledge to support women like myself in raising their voices, to become active participants in governance and the economy, and to enjoy their own rights even as the develop communities that are anchored in a culture of human rights. There remains a gap in the reach of these programs in rural areas all over Africa. And so I continue to work with urgency to increase the scope of our investment in women’s economic and social empowerment as we relentlessly champion Gender Equality by 2030.