When she made the decision to plunge into the murky waters of politics, little did she know what was in store for her. However, she still decided to take that leap of faith.
As she sat down to narrate her incredible journey, one thing is clearly evident - Nominated Senator Beatrice Elachi, is one strong and courageous woman.
On that beautiful Thursday afternoon, she welcomed us into her home where we got to spend quite some wonderful time, even having lunch together. We got to see her in a different light and understand Elachi the wife, mother and politician.
Born in Kakamega in a family of five siblings, she is the third born. Elachi says she grew up in a humble background.
“My parents were staunch Christians half Catholics and half Protestants. My mum who is from Central Kenya, was the pillar of our home. She was always there to instil values that have shaped us to become what we are now. At some point in her life, she served as a nun. And today, though she is aged, she still has principles of a nun,” says Elachi.
Like any other politician, Elachi is constantly in the public eye.
“It is not easy being in politics. But once you find yourself there, you have to be yourself,” she says.
Her incredible journey into politics began way back in 2002 when she decided to involve herself in activities that target women and work for women institutions, including the National Council of Women of Kenya. As the programmes officer, they could traverse various parts of the country conducting civic education for women.
Then there was the 2005 referendum, which was organised in two referendum camps, respectively referred to as Bananas (“yes”) and Oranges (“no”). “I opted to go for bananas because I was looking out for the gains of women. Women needed to benefit and have a voice,”she says.
In 2007, she was recommended to be part of the 'Kibaki Tena' team, and that’s how she became actively involved in the politics of the country.
“I would say that if that time men would have listened to what we told them, we would have avoided what we saw in the 2007-2008 post-election violence . At that time, the security of the country was so much affected. I remember hosting 15 women in my house because they had nowhere to go.The late John Michuki requested me to to go to the various IDP camps especially in Rift Valley, perhaps to try and calm things down. And that’s how politics became so hard in me,” she explains.
In 2010, she received a call requesting her to join The Alliance Party of Kenya, an affiliate of The National Alliance (TNA).
“Apparently, they had already registered me as the secretary general. On that day, I remember I had to go to church and pray. I just transformed and took control,” says Elachi.
It still wasn’t easy. She was learning fast that in politics, you have to be ready to give out more than to receive. “As a small party though well organised, sometimes I had to go without salary and even find means of paying that of some of our staff. I learnt that as a woman, when you are in politics and at the position of the neck, you must give, something that I’ve inculcated up to date. On the other hand, there are times I could stay in that office for 24 hours because of the workload. I had to be awake to serve people. It took a lot of courage to be the secretary general.”
As the first woman to be appointed majority Chief Whip in the history of parliament, Elachi says it has been an interesting experience but she cannot judge herself.
“It’s the people to gauge and vet my performance. Of course, it has had its fair share of challenges but I strive to diligently perform my duties,” she says.
“Sometimes I walk into a function and its like I am an after-thought simply because I am a woman, yet I have no choice but to play my part in serving the country. But I thank God for the strength He continues to give me,” she says. “When you are whip, you don’t get annoyed with small issues. You laugh, learn to engage and appreciate people.”
In the Senate, Elachi has equally remained active. She says that being appreciated for the work she does is an achievement itself. But being female and young, how is she able to control the older and experienced Senators in the house?
“I use the African way, which is to respect my seniors. As a first timer, you learn a lot from those who have been there before,” she says. As a nominated Senator, she is credited for bringing the National Youth Service motion on the floor of the house.
“Though it has stayed for a while in the committees, which is a bit frustrating, I feel happy because through that policy, the government has tried to restructure NYS for better service delivery,” she says.
She also hopes to introduce the Food Security Bill and an amendment on the National Police Service Act. “In the Senate, you learn a lot because you must think of what to do.You are better of coming up with a bill such that even if its not adopted, you will have helped inform where there is a gap,”she says.
She offers:”Food and security go hand in hand. Before you are shown pictures of people starving in some of the remote areas of the country, a committee needs to be in place to focus on food security issues and monitor the situation so that measures can be put in place to save the situation. Come next year, I hope to introduce another bill, which I know will be very controversial. It will basically urge Kenyans that they cannot subdivide their land when its still acres.”
To make it in the journey of politics, she is grateful to her mentors who include President Uhuru Kenyatta, Prof Wanjiku Kabira, the late John Michuki, Millie Odhiambo, and Cecile Mbarire among others.
Elachi believes Kenya has a great future as long as the National Assembly and the Senate can reason together and put the country’s interests first.
“Kenyans know we have two houses. Unfortunately, we have developed a strategy of playing politics within them and its hurting. We need to sort out any individual differences. I believe that if we support the President, we will take this country to another level,” says Elachi.