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Meet LSK’s new VP Faith Odhiambo

Achieving Woman
 LSK's vice president Faith Mony Odhiambo (Photo: Jenipher Wachie/ Standard)

If you are ever looking to talk to an insanely driven person, ask to speak to Faith Mony Odhiambo.

She is accustomed to having a lot on her plate. She has studied basic Arabic, basic Italian and can speak French well enough to get by in a French-speaking country. That is, of course, in addition to her three regular languages – Luo, Kiswahili and English.

She also swam competitively growing up, in relation to which she also did a lifesaving course, and is a Certified Public Secretary (CPS).

Growing up, her mother saw to it that she and her siblings were always busy doing various courses, leaving little room for mischief, also because she did not believe in the straitjacket approach of being confined to one skill. Her father, a lecturer at Maseno University, also fervently encouraged the academic aspect of it.

Just as she wore many hats under her parents’ wings, Odhiambo would go on to wear many more and bigger hats professionally, including the hat she wanted to wear since childhood – that of a lawyer.

“As a child, I loved the movie called The Practice. What stood out for me was one litigant called Eleanor. The way she stood before the Supreme Court. How she argued, and the fact that it was a big deal for a woman to be presenting a case before the Supreme court,” says Odhiambo. We are at her office at MMA Advocates where she is a partner.

The fictional hotshot lawyer may have been the inspiration for the real-life hotshot lawyer that Odhiambo is today. “But I think you grow up and learn that what you see on TV Is not the reality of practice,” she says.

Although one might say her reality is even better. She has been a board member and secretary at the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA), and now you can call her Madam Vice President.

Odhiambo was recently voted to the position at the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), and if her track record is anything to go by, if anyone can handle the momentous task that is the role, it is her.

The Vice President-Elect comes in at a time when LSK has been racked by very public leadership feuds for two years, so she and her team have a lot of work ahead of them to restore the society’s fractured reputation.

At first, she did not want to vie for the post, and one of the reasons was the small matter of her having been in that previous council. Word on the corridors was that people did not want to elect anyone who fit that narrow description.

“The honest truth is that lawyers have really been upset these last two years. There was a strong push towards not wanting anyone in the previous council,” she says.

The challenges she had faced as a council member then had been exhausting for her as well, and she wanted to just take some time away from it “to revamp and reflect and take stock because I felt that it had been such a tedious two years.”

A lot of people, however, encouraged her to do it anyway due to her personal track record, so people believed in her.

 The vice president is in charge of finance, staff and welfare matters (Photo: Jenipher Wachie/ Standard)

“For instance, I was running the Public Interest Litigation and Human Rights Committee, and we were able to do a lot in terms of the rule of law and fighting derogative and arbitrary government directives and also fight for the space for lawyers. People pointed such things out,” she says.

Eventually, she made the decision to go for it, a bit later than most but with a strong support system. She and a couple of her friends who were vying for different positions formed a campaign team and launched a campaign that was different from the usual.

Running for elections in LSK can be a daunting prospect because one has to run nationally. She had an advantage in that she was not alone on her campaign trail, so where she could not reach, someone else on her campaign team could cover. People who had vied before also showed her the ropes.

Campaigning was not a walk in the park, because unlike before where one could campaign to a large group of people at once, Covid-19 changed the game.

“It was more of a door-to-door campaign. Going from law firm to law firm. It is more tedious but it is a bit more professional,” she says. “Doing it that way is more low-key but it is more effective because somebody gets to interrogate you, and when you win them over, they will support you to the ballot.”

Support her they did, and she graciously accepted her new role as Vice President on March 11, 2022, a role she will hold for two years.

What should we expect?

“Apart from deputising the president, the vice president is in charge of finance, staff and welfare matters,” she says.

“By putting in structures at the law society to ensure there is that accountability and transparency, I think I will have done a great service to the membership so that whoever comes after me can only make things better and build onto what I will have done with my president and of course with the rest of the members of the team.”

The public is also set to benefit from the new leadership in tangible ways. She says that the public should expect a more robust law society, a society which will seek to work with the government to protect the rule of law. She uses the recent boda boda incident at Wangari Maathai Road (Forest Road) as an example.

“There are two sides of the coin – there is the challenge of the boda boda riders who are doing what is right and the rogue riders. What the law society can do is help in the development of the regulations so that we streamline and ensure that the rule of law is upheld,” she says.

Given that it is also an election year, the council will also guide on the electoral laws, the changes under the laws and what it will mean to members of the public when a transition government comes into place; while ensuring that the government does not overstep its mandate, fighting for the independence of the Judiciary and for Parliament to live up to its mandate.

And of course, the council intends to clean house.

“People look up to us to resolve disputes. To direct them on what is the best route to take when they are having challenges. So if we cannot put our house in order, then what position are we in to tell members of the public how to address their challenges and their problems?” says Odhiambo.

“So we need to work on that and win back that honour and glory that is needed from us as the members of the law society of Kenya. I think this council is up to the task.”

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