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My mission is to transform political leaders

EVE WOMAN
By | April 22nd 2012

WINNIE GUCHU, 46, is a former IIEC commissioner, a renowned independent consultant and a trainer on democracy, governance and electoral processes. She spoke to NJOKI CHEGE.

The 2007 post-election violence was a shocker for me. I knew there was tension between the two major political parties since I had witnessed it as I trained their agents countrywide. However, I never imagined its intensity.

The experience left me with one big question: Where did we go wrong?

When the five commissions were formed as part of the Agenda Four of the National Accord, many jobs were advertised.

WINNIE GUCHU, 46, is a former IIEC commissioner [Photos: JOSEPH KIPTARUS/STANDARD]

I decided to apply for a job that would give me an opportunity to make a difference in the way we do our elections. That’s why I applied for one of the the Interim Independent Electoral Commission (IIEC) jobs. I remember we were more than 2,000 applicants. After a rigorous interview process that saw the applicants sit before a 23-member interview panel, I made it to the team of nine IIEC commissioners.

Get busy

We started our work immediately. Starting such a delicate body from scratch was not easy. It required every commissioner to roll up his or her sleeves and get busy. We divided our roles according to our skills and naturally, I took the human resource and training docket.

The Bomachoge and Shinyalu by-elections were our first litmus test. We spent busy days and sleepless nights working because we knew we had been charged with the duty of redeeming Kenya and her electoral process to its former glory.

The successful and peaceful referendum in 2010 was not only a great success for Kenya, but also for the rest of the world. We had set a precedent for other countries. I must say the success achieved by IIEC was purely from teamwork, the goodwill of Kenyans, media support and other IIEC commissioners and staff who exhibited dedication to their work.

When, two and a half years later, IIEC was disbanded (in November last year), many countries visited us to borrow a leaf from our process. Nothing made us happier.

I am now back to independent consulting. I am involved in election and leadership workshops countrywide. With the new Constitution, many things will change and Kenyans — particularly future leaders — need to understand how things should work at the county level. Few Kenyans understand how a devolved government works and our aim is to educate them.

My sister Christine and I have a management consultancy firm — WMG —and we focus on strategy, training and management. I focus on all aspects of training, while she does the strategy and management. My daughter Wairimu works with us as a programme officer. We not only hope to influence institutions, but also influence the governance structure of the country altogether.

Consultancy

So how did I get into consultancy?

After completing my Bachelors of Education at Kenyatta University in 1991, I was posted to a school in remote Taita Taveta. The place was far from civilization and this put me off from the teaching career. At that time, I knew an engineering consultancy firm, Otieno Odongo and Partners who were looking for a personnel and administrative manager. I worked for them for two years before moving to research.

My next job was at a research firm that was working for the Sondu Miriu project. The contract lasted six months after which I found myself jobless.

I then got a job with the Christian Children’s Fund (CCF), which was carrying out an eligibility research on the children they were sponsoring in Kisii. It was an interesting job. I worked in the field for three months and by the time the job was done, I knew Kisii like the back of my hand. The project required that I make a presentation before a high-profile delegation from the CCF. It was my first time to make a presentation before such a crowd and I am glad it opened a door for me for greater things.

After the presentation, someone approached me and said I could make a good trainer and should consider consultancy. I found it strange but decided to give it a try. I enrolled for a five-day training after which the person who had introduced me to the trade gave me my first contract in consultancy. I was to train communities in Western Kenya on matters regarding community-based organisations.

From that day, I developed a culture of reading on topics such as project development and management, democracy, governance and women’s rights among others.

I soon morphed into an independent training consultant training on behalf of NGOs, travelling around the country.

In 1996, donors cut off their funds to Kenya, leaving NGOs paralysed. That is when I started training on democracy, governance and civic education — which was an emerging concept then. I underwent training with the Institution for Education and Democracy and took part in developing skills and training materials.

During the first multi-party elections in 1997, Fida-Kenya had an election observation programme. There was a job opening for a programmes officer to prepare the observation mission at a national level. Their aim was to ensure the involvement of female candidates and voters.

More resources

I worked as a consultant from June 1997 to February 1998 and when we gave a report, it was agreed that the programme must go on. More resources were, therefore, pumped in and my job became permanent.

I would work for the next three and a half years as a programme officer at Fida-Kenya until the year 2000 when I decided to go back to consultancy. In 2001, my interest shifted to the 2002 general elections. I did consultancy onn the electoral process including training candidates, political parties, and strategy teams and building the capacity of women candidates.

After the 2002 elections, I worked with several international NGOs training on elections in different African countries.

Between 2002 and 2006, I worked in Ethiopia, Rwanda, Burundi, Somaliland and Tanzania, training various interest groups on elections.

I am proud to have led the processes of developing training manuals for the implementation of the Sexual Offences Act for the Police, Prosecutors and Association of Women Judges between 2005 and 2009.

I also developed the Gender National Framework and Action Plan for Prevention and Response to Gender-Based Violence for the National Commission on Gender and Development; and the Action Plan, guidelines and Indicators for Gender mainstreaming in the National HIV Responses for the National Aids Control Council.

I was the lead trainer for the national paralegal programme implemented by the Education Centre for Women in Democracy, a programme that I facilitated to replicate in Rwanda and Ethiopia.

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