We lived in Koru a settlement scheme, the nearest primary school was twelve kilometres away. My mother took me to live with my Aunty who lived in koru town near the school, but to my surprise the house help was released immediately I arrived. I was to prepare her children and make breakfast before going to the same school with them. Despite the challenges I performed well in school and was made a class prefect. One of my cousin Dan was my classmate became unhappy with me and several times poured cold water on my mattress so at night I could not sleep well at the same time he was spreading the rumour in school that I was wetting my bed. I felt a shamed and embarrassed for the sin I did not commit. One day he was caned and later he pushed me in the kitchen and I fell down to a stove and got burnt. My Aunty pleaded with me not to tell my parents and she treated me.
From the frying pan to the fire, after the price giving day in school of which I got several awards, some boys were unhappy. After the sports day which was in another school a bit far from our school and where we lived. It was late in the evening and one boy just slapped me and asked why I wrote his name as a noise maker in class. Before I realized another joined and I knew there was trouble. I just bent down and picked some soil which I threw in their eyes and in that confusion, I got a chance to ran into a sugarcane farm where I spent the night. I could not sleep because of the fear of snakes, ants and mosquitoes which carried the night. At some point I thought of relinquishing the leadership position and even leaving the school, but I was determined to continue. I am the only one in our family who went up to university.
During the holiday I went to visit my Aunty late Canon Mary Ochieng who became the first lay Canon in Anglican Church of Kenya. She would remind me that my country only needed determined and focused woman leader to facilitate the positive change and I was the one to affect them. She urged me not to look down upon myself and to walk tall not allowing boys to intimidate me. She also reminded me that women are very important before God and that’s why the Lord Jesus had to be born through a woman to bring the desired change into the world, in this effect; women participation and leadership will bring the desired change we want in our society.
I campaigned to be a student leader when I was at the university, I had only one lady in my campaign team the rest were men. I love and respect her “Gloria Aol”. I won with very thin margin most likely majority ladies did not vote for me. In my former place of work during the election of officials of savings and credit committee (SACCO) no lady suggested my name for a post, but after it was mentioned by a man the women voted for me. The following year I was elected unopposed with the women now proposing and endorsing me. Women we can make good leaders we just need to appreciate and support one of our own.
I have witnessed in several forums whenever I raised a good point it will not be commended immediately by a man but being aware of their attitude and background I would not get disturbed or even discouraged. One man may support indirectly, men would be comfortable supporting another man, but not appreciating the original source of information from a lady. They nickname me “Okore unbwogable ” meaning putting her chest and unshakable “this one behaves like a man no wonder she cannot even live with a man” but I remain strong and focused to my destiny. Some of us who have faced challenges in marriage due to our continued stand for women’s right are more motivated now than ever since there is light at the end of the tunnel so be encouraged my sisters.
I spearheaded a team demanding women’s inclusion in leadership positions in different committees. I was called names but I was well prepared with a right dosage for them. Several sensitization meetings has yielded fruits now there are few women Assistant Chiefs and several local leaders in different development committees. Next is now to continue with empowerment of knowledge so that they make informed opinion and choices as leaders. Many things were considered as taboo in this region but slowly they are changing we have success stories to report. Although women are still passive the space is now available on paper but not practically.
Personally I would continue empowering women at all levels but not interested in a political position due to the fear that sometimes women representatives in political committees equally play politics like their male counter-parts because they are not likely to engage in gender issues at the expense of their political survival, but it’s a plus for them I am happy. Don’t forget the power of influence the women leaders ought to influence positive changes from inside. I still want to sensitize women to support their fellow women and answer questions like, “why do women voters who are the majority tend to elect men as their leaders and not one of their own”?, I have witnessed women first raise their hands to suggest a male name when there is a capable women in their midst.
As a development agent, linking rights with improved well-being, has the comparative advantage to address some of the key challenges faced by the women in Kenya. I intend to continue sensitize the community paralegals to empower the women economically aimed at increased self-reliance and self-esteem for participation in leadership, public life and the fight against corruption.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Join World Pulse and No Ceilings on the Path to Participation.