The just concluded general elections saw Kenya elect a total of 23 women to parliament, a slight improvement from the last elections that saw the 11th Parliament end up with 16 women.
Although the numbers have increased and we are going to see fresh faces in parliament, there is still the two thirds gender rule that is yet to be implemented and that hangs on parliament and Kenya as a whole like a dark cloud.
As we wait for more gains for women, let us celebrate and get to know more about the newly elected women members of parliament in Kenya.
1. Naisula Lesuuda
Naisula Lesuuda is not a new face to Kenyans thanks to her previous life as a journalist at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC). At the station, she was the host of a program known as Good Morning Kenya which had a considerable viewership.
The Communication and Community Development graduate of Daystar University was born in Samburu on 30 April 1984 as the first of three children of an Anglican bishop and a businesswoman.
In 2013, Lesuuda left her job to start the Naisula Lesuuda Peace Foundation which advocates for the education of girls and for the eradication of female genital mutilation and child marriage.
In the same year, she participated in President Uhuru Kenyatta’s campaign and was later nominated as the Samburu County senator, making her the youngest female member of the Senate. During her tenure at the senate, she was also elected Vice-Chair of the Kenyan Women’s Parliamentary Association.
This year, she vied for the Samburu West seat on a KANU ticket and trounced her opponent. After her victory was declared she said, “ I want to take this opportunity to thank the Almighty God for victory. My prayer was that it comes to pass so that God Almighty may receive all the Glory and Honour.”
“ I thank the people of Samburu West for electing me as their Member of Parliament and making History in electing a woman as an MP and especially at the first attempt. My victory is your victory and your challenges are now my challenges,” she added.
Lesuuda has also bagged awards for exemplary service and they include the Presidential Order of the Grand Warrior for her journalistic work highlighting social issues and promoting peace, 2010. She also bagged the International Labour Organisation Wedge Award for Outstanding Professional Woman, 2011.
The young MP is still unmarried but is in a relationship.
2. Sophia Abdi Noor
Sophia Abdi Noor has made history this year by becoming the first woman MP from Northern Kenya to be elected to the National assembly. The former ODM nominated MP now of Party of Reforms and Democracy got 5,824 votes to unseat Mr. Ahmed Abass (5,398) making her the first MP of Ijara constituency.
Sophia Abdi Noor was born shortly after Kenya’s independence in 1963 and she is known for consistently fighting to put the women of Ijara on the map in various ways and especially through WomanKind Kenya that ActionAid has supported for 10 years.
Noor boasts a Bachelor of Arts in Community Development Studies from Kimmage Development Studies Centre in Ireland and an Executive Masters Degree in Management and Organizational Management (EMOD).
Noor had served as a nominated member of parliament since 2008 and has also vied for the Ijara constituency twice before and lost to her opponents.
Although there are seats reserved for women in the county, Noor is on records saying that she wanted to compete for the seats against men and wanted to win against them because the people were tired of the male politicians who only think of themselves.
3. Ms. Sarah Paulata Korere- Laikipia North
Ms, Sarah Pauleta Korere of Laikipia North managed to unseat her opponent Mathew Lempurkel (ODM) in one of the bitterly fought contests of the 2017 general elections.
Ms. Korere joined parliamentary politics in 2013 when she was a nominated MP for Laikipia County. She was born to a wealthy father but who did not believe in educating girls but instead gave each of his six wives 400 heads of cattle and 200 sheep to cater for their children.
Catholic missionaries finally came to her rescue and managed to take her to school where she lived because she could not manage to walk 20 kilometers to and from school every day.
Korere also defied her father who always agreed to give her hand in marriage to the various suitors who came to ask for her. She made her father so proud that at the time of his death he had already enrolled her step-sisters in school.
She is also a consistent and able soldier in the war against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Through her campaign, many girls were enrolled in school and they have managed to stay there and avoid early marriages.
Ms. Korere shocked Parliament last year when she carried her child to parliament so that she could exercise exclusive breastfeeding which is recommended by child development experts.She is married to a civil servant and they are parents to three children.
4. Janet Sitienei -Turbo
Ms. Janet Sitienei was trounced in the Jubilee nominations but she did not give up and went on to vie as an independent candidate, a ticket that ultimately gave her the victory needed to become the MP for Turbo constituency. The latter is the home constituency of Deputy President William Ruto who is also her model.
Sitienei boasts a degree in agriculture, nutrition, and dietetics from the Egerton University. She is married with children.
5. Ms. Peris Tobiko-Kajiado East
Born on 16th November 1968, Peris Tobiko is a Kenyan politician and the MP who has just been elected MP for Kajiado East constituency in Kajiado County. This is the second time that Tobiko has won the seat with the first time being in the 2013 general elections.
Ms. Tobiko is an undergraduate student at the University of Nairobi (B.A. Political Science) and also went to Moi High School-Kabarak for her A levels. She has also held the positions of Benefits Manager at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Director of National Museum of Kenya and Chairman of the Tanathi Water Services.
6. Charity Kathambi Chepkwony-Njoro
Njoro constituency in Nakuru County now boasts its first female MP after 25 years of being in existence. Ms. Chepkwony is originally from Meru County which means she managed to convince people of the place she was married to vote for her and that is no mean feat given our patriarchal society.
Chepkwony, is a former board member of Kenya Literature Bureau (KLB), trounced five independent opponents to get the seat.
Mrs. Chepkwony, a mother of three, who hails from Meru County, is married in Njoro.
7. Martha Wangari- Gilgil
The 2008 boundaries review saw Gilgil constituency hived off Naivasha and now Martha Wangari is its MP. She becomes the second woman MP and first elected woman MP in the constituency.
The tough woman has had to fight different prejudices related to her gender, marital life and also being a breastfeeding mother. On the latter, she said she is ready to juggle the various duties while her husband defended her to her constituents saying that they should engage her from the neck up and leave the lower part to him.
Martha debuted into politics through her outfit called Warembo na Kibaki that sought to attract youth and convince them that Kibaki was the best option in the 2007 general elections. In March 2013, she was nominated to the senate.
In an interview with the Standard, Martha said that her love for politics started at Kahuhia Girls High School and she, later on, went to become the vice chair for academic affairs at the Students Organisation of Nairobi University.
The Bachelor of Science-Statistics graduate founded the United Democratic Forum (UDF) party that sponsored Musalia Mudavadi bid for the presidency in the 2013 elections.
She also petitioned the Parliamentary Service Commission to ensure the National Assembly provides space for nursing mothers at Parliament Buildings and at Kenyatta International Conference Centre, where the Senate sits. This is to allow the young mothers feed and take care of their babies while attending to their House duties. Her wish was granted and now the rooms will be located near the chambers of the respective Houses.
Martha is married with a child.
8.Wanjiku wa Kibe –Gatundu North
Former Kameme FM radio broadcaster Wanjiku wa Kibe is the Gatundu NorthMP having garnered 39,191, trouncing her opponents who included incumbent Kigo Njenga, an independent who lost the Jubilee ticket to her, and former MP Clement Waibara.
Her win means that she is the only female MP in Kiambu. Wanjiku was nominated in the Kiambu County Assembly, a position she used to move a motion to have a broadcasting unit for the county.
The broadcasting unit was to help the Executive board and County Assembly improve communication with their residents. The media was to advocate for issues such as sustainable environment, security, education, and health.
Apart from chairing the Kiambu County Assembly ICT, Communication and Innovations Committee, she was also the chairperson of the women organization in the assembly.
Born in Mang’u Ward in Gatundu North, Wanjiku schooled at St Francis Girls High School Mang’u, one of the leading girls’ schools in central Kenya, and later went Kenyatta University for a degree in education.
She holds a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Nairobi.