The growing recognition of the untapped talents of women leadership has led to increased numbers of women leaders in many parliaments, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. The Kenyan constitution states that women should occupy at least one-third of all seats in parliament and one-third of all appointed political positions. We, however, are a long way from actualization even though notable progress has been made to improve women representation.
This article focuses on some of the women leaders in Kenya.
- Martha Karua
Martha Karua’s political career began in 1990 where she, alongside others, advocated for the re-introduction of multi-party democracy. In 1992, she won the general election and became the Member of Parliament for Gichugu constituency. She became the first woman lawyer to be elected to parliament.
As a woman leader, Martha has consistently demonstrated courage which can be emulated by both men and women alike. She has also been at the forefront in advocating for gender issues and the widening democratic space. Martha never cowers when holding her fellow politicians accountable and calling them out on any controversial matters surrounding them.
- Charity Ngilu
Charity Ngilu’s political journey began in 1992 when she was elected the Member of Parliament of Kitui Central constituency. In 1997, she ran for president, and although she did not win, she became the first-ever female presidential candidate. She has also served as a minister under various administrations.
One of the lessons we can learn from Ngilu as a woman leader is her resilience. Although her political journey has been marked by a lot of dents, including allegations of corruption, she has risen above everything thrown at her and gone on to participate in the creation of history through her leadership.
- Beatrice Elachi
Beatrice Elachi was nominated to the senate in 2013. She then rose to the rank of Majority Chief Whip in the Upper Chamber, becoming the first woman to serve in that capacity in the history of Kenya’s parliament. She was later elected Speaker of the Nairobi County assembly in September 2017.
As a woman leader, she has demonstrated aggressiveness which has enabled her to withstand the rigours of political life. While her tenure as Speaker of Nairobi County Assembly has been marked by moves to impeach her, she stayed on.
- Susan Kihika
Susan Kihika’s bid to run for political office was inspired by her father, Kihika Kimani, who was a veteran politician in Kenya before he passed on in 2004. She considers her father her most significant mentor and legend.
Susan Kihika has demonstrated a lot of grit and tenacity as a woman political leader, in her bid to change the narrative that she is just the privileged daughter of a politician. She chose to go against the grain by running for senate even though some friends advised her to go for a less competitive seat. In this, she challenged the narrative that women are weak and chose to operate beyond the limits set by society, a lesson we can all learn from her leadership.
The meaningful participation of women in national, local and community leadership roles is necessary for building and sustaining a vibrant and robust nation. Their involvement not only fosters gender equality but also influences the range of policy issues that get considered and the types of solutions proposed. Women must, therefore, be encouraged, empowered, and supported in their bid to become influential political and community leaders in Kenya.