Two years since they were elected, there has been a widespread outcry that the seat of women representatives has lost meaning as the occupants are arguably yet to prove their usefulness. Eve Woman asked the women how they have been keeping busy.
1. COUNTY: Kajiado
NAME: Mary Yiane Seneta
INTERVIEW: Sylvia Wakhisi
Mary Yiane Seneta is a teacher by profession as well as an entrepreneur.
She has not only sought to promote culture and make it an economic activity for the people of Kajiado but also asked locals to shun retrogressive cultural practices that are harmful.
Sometime in February this year, she is credited for having secured a full scholarship for the top girl from Tirosei primary school in Kajiado West which over the years has acquired the unfortunate tag of being a place where girls do not proceed to secondary school. The school was started to cater for both boys and girls with the expectation that they will transition to secondary school.
"The Maasai are generally active in terms of their culture. Beadwork is their lifestyle and many have now realised that they can make a decent living out of it," says Seneta.
"It is for that reason I started and launched the Kajiado Women Cultural Empowerment Programme, a Community Based Organisation last year. We held a big exhibition which attracted different stakeholders and about 42 groups of women who were able to showcase their products. Our main objective is to source for markets for the women both locally and internationally and train them on modern designs," she adds.
On the other hand, Seneta is keen on recognising and promoting talent among the youths in her county.
"There are so many young people who are producing their own musical CDs. I have been supporting the Association of Singers in Kajiado so that they can take their music to another level," she says.
She has also supported the formation of milk co-operative in Kajiado South which has so far attracted 700 members.
Recognising the fact that women play a big role in the leadership and development of a country, she has established a network of women who want to aspire for political seats in the county and works round the clock to mentor them.
She is however quick to point out that the biggest challenge she faces in service delivery is lack of a development fund/kit for the women representatives.
Says she: "When we joined parliament we formed a caucas (I am the secretary) in which we lobbied for a fund through a regulation. We are still waiting for the gazzetment. Without money, people may not feel you and once in a while you will hear those complaints. When I do something in Kajiado South, those in Kajiado West start asking for my presence. But we are still glad that in terms of representation and decision making our voices as women are heard."
She goes on to add that her jurisdiction area is too big and that poses another challenge.
"Kajiado County has 6 constituencies hence you cannot expect to be seen by everyone. But I am trying my best to reach out to anyone who needs my services," she says.
Besides economically empowering the people of Kajiado, female genital mutilation is an issue which she also hopes to eradicate in the county. She is married with three children.
2. COUNTY: Kakamega
NAME: Rachel Ameso Amollo
INTERVIEW: Kennedy Okwach
Ameso explained that women in Kakamega are maligned in decision-making and noted that extreme poverty in the county affects mostly women as the custodian of families.
"I have established a centre to tackle Gender Based Violence and we are running a successful project of donating sanitary pads to all school going children in Kakamega County. We cannot achieve much because we lack funds," said Ameso.
"In Kakamega and the entire country, my focus is on assisting women have easier access to loans and government funds and fighting for allocation of funds to county reps to initiate more development," observed Ameso.
3. COUNTY: Kisii
NAME: Mary Keraa
INTERVIEW: Maureen Odiwuor
The title women representative, says Mary Keraa-Otara, does not mean I represent only women. We are members of parliament representing several counties. She says she represents nine constituencies in Kisii. She says they legislate in parliament although they do not have funds for development like their constituency counterparts.
"Lack of finance for this position has really made our work difficult but I have managed to do a, lot of things with my salary. I do a lot of fund raisings for churches, schools and funerals," she said.
She has also led the fundraising of a school library at Botoro Primary School which was constructed at Sh.2.5million complete with an administration block.
"I have been able to introduce the table banking concept launched by Rachel Ruto. We have 600 groups that have raised Sh.9 million revolving among them," she said.
She has also been able to go to National Irrigation Board and was given seven green houses and 10 open drips for agriculture which she distributed to all constituencies.
"When I get an opportunity to get employment for people I do so. So far, I have sought for 15 opportunities. I also went to the National Water Board who gave me two 10,000 litres water tanks that I donated to Mekuvo and Getenga Secondary schools. I also donate books to schools," she said.
She says the challenge is that MPs usually send women away when they ask for assistance telling them to seek assistance from women representatives, yet they know that they have no financial allocations.
"Women in my constituency want to do business to alleviate poverty. I will connect them to funding institutions that can give them soft loans. Another challenge is school fees and I am sometimes forced to enter my pocket and provide what I can," she says.
Her agenda for the remaining term is to empower women to register companies and how to procure tenders.
4. COUNTY: Kisumu
NAME: Rose Nyamunga
INTERVIEW: Sylvia Wakhisi
Rose Nyamunga says she is working tirelessly to promote agribusiness in the county as well as ensure that the people of Kisumu become economically empowered by setting up businesses that could transform their lives.
"Kisumu as a county has been faced with the challenge of food insecurity. We have tried to reach out to the national government to support us address this issue by giving us water pumps and dams so that people can have enough water to practice irrigation," says Nyamunga.
Nyamunga has spearheaded the introduction of poultry farming, dairy farming, fish farming with an aim of creating food security both for consumption and sale.
"I have set up a hatchery which produces 38,000 chicks per month which we normally sell to anybody interested in poultry farming at a subsidised rate. Currently, we have 600 poultry farmers,"she says.
She adds: "During economic stimulus we realised that the government had constructed some fish ponds in the county which unfortunately are empty. I started a programme to rehabilitate them and so far 1,060 fish ponds have been rehabilitated. Every month, i try to ensure that I put fish in at least three ponds. I have also set up a hatchery for fingerlings in Kisumu which is now operational."
She is also encouraging farmers from the county to practice intercropping during the rainy season to ensure they have a variety of foods.
Nyamunga has also been at the forefront to offer mentorship and support for women and youth in businesses as well as support for child education.
"I am reinforcing table banking in the county to ensure that every household takes up this concept. Last year I launched the Gulf Community Sacco Limited which is open to boda boda operators and hawkers. I am also happy to report that 90 per cent of Uwezo fund has been disbursed in the county and people are making good use of it," she says.
Nyamunga has a passion for education and she has strived to ensure that every child is able to go to school. When she won the seat, she took 21 female students to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University and so far 19 have graduated. She has also been supporting needy students to get school fees even through bursaries; 253 students in 2013, 267 in 2014 and this year she hopes to support 272. She has also partnered with a Korean NGO to support the elderly and persons living with disability. So far, they have identified 105 elderly people whom they hope to provide free medical check-ups and look for people who can take care of them in terms of even cooking and cleaning.
Her biggest challenge is that people from her county are not enthusiastic. You have to push them so that they can start even the smallest projects to sustain themselves. She also cites lack of resources as another challenge as she has to rely on partnerships to implement some of her projects.
She hopes to support more needy students with bursaries and nurture the talents of youth in her county through the Kisumu Talent Institute and develop it into a resource centre.
She is trained in management and finance as well as law. Prior to becoming the Kisumu women representative, she was engaged in micro finance consultancy and running her business.
She is married to Engineer Eric Nyamunga(former Nyando MP) and they have been blessed with five children.
5. COUNTY: Kwale
NAME: Zainab Chidzuga
INTERVIEW: Sylvia Wakhisi
Zainab Chidzuga strongly believes that she is not dormant, and that since she took up the woman representative seat in Kwale County, she has worked tirelessly to ensure that the living standards of the people of Kwale improve.
"Right from the start, I knew what my people wanted. I have my own principles and I don't fear to take up my responsibilities," says Chidzuga.
She once served as the Director of Coast Water Services Board and the Chairperson of Maendeleo ya Wanawake, Kwale County.
Economic empowerment and creating awareness among the women of Kwale about their rights have been her top priority.
"I would say I have really done a lot in terms of educating the women as far as their rights are concerned. We hold talks where we equip them with knowledge about their rights as spelt out in the constitution, their rights as married women and even the rights of the girl child," says Chidzuga.
"Without knowledge, there is little that these women can do to progress hence I saw it fit to educate them on these issues," she adds.
On the other hand, she organised a harambee which was presided over by the President William Ruto and with the help of other women they managed to raise 6.5 million which was used to form a sacco where the women of Kwale county can borrow loans to start small businesses and other income generating activities. "So far, over 3,000 women are members of the sacco. We are also introducing the table banking concept and so far 700 groups have been formed," she says.
She also intends to form saccos for persons living with disability as well as for teachers in madrassas many of whom she says live in abject poverty Chidzuga also prides herself in giving out bursaries to needy children to enable them access education, organising and sponsoring medical camps as well as initiating projects for the youth such as the boda boda project which she hopes to launch soon.
Despite her achievements, Chidzuga is quick to point out that there are a number of challenges that she faces.
She offers: "When we went around campaigning before the general elections in 2013, we promised a lot of things. Little did we know that as women representatives we would not be allocated a kit where we would draw the finances needed to implement the projects in our respective counties. Now we have to dig deep into our pockets to carry out our activities."
The biggest challenge the people of Kwale face, she says, is access to clean water.
"Kwale is semi-arid hence many are the times the county faces a water crisis. With the help of the national government, we have managed to construct some dams to ensure that the problem is resolved and this will also go a long way in improving agriculture in the area," she says.
She also hopes to address the challenge of early marriages due to poverty which has seen many children drop out of school.
Chidzuga is a widow and has eight children.