The National Assembly got a rare visitor yesterday when 17-year-old Mary Onyango temporarily took over the role of Speaker Justin Muturi.
The Form Three student at St Thaddaues High School in Embakasi chaired several House committee meetings.
She also addressed the lawmakers on why they should help create equal opportunities for girls and boys.
Mary was selected by Plan International, an organisation that seeks to empower girls to become future leaders, to address the House as part of celebrations to mark the International Day of the Girl Child.
“It came as a surprise,” said the student.
Mary, who has served as Speaker in her school’s debate club several times, did not disappoint, gallantly guiding MPs through sittings.
The MPs listened keenly, as she read a petition, urging them to promote equal opportunities for girls and boys and be role models on matters of gender equality.
“On issues of gender-based violence, cases should be fast-tracked to ensure justice is served.
“It is not safe for girls to live among offenders in serious crimes like defilement and rape once they are released on bail,” she petitioned Parliament.
The subject of gender equality and empowerment is dear to her.
“When I lost my father, I saw how our uncles neglected our mother, instead of helping her they took everything and left her to suffer just because she was a woman. She later died in 2010,” she said.
Mary conducted the Speaker’s other duties, chairing departmental committees on Education, Science, Technology as well as Labour and Social Welfare.
She was taking part in a programme called ‘Takeover’ that aims to advocate girls and women’s issues and support young women and girls to takeover leadership roles in political, economic and social spheres.
“The Kenyan girl child faces various challenges, such as gender-based violence, female gender mutilation, child marriages and insecurity, hence the importance of highlighting these issues in such forums,” said Plan International Country Director Samuel Musyoki.