Jane Nyaboke Njagi is all about family. She has a big and beautiful family of her own and her job revolves around family matters.
Every weekday, she walks into her company- Njagi, Nyaboke and Co. Advocates situated in Upper Hill in Nairobi, she is aware she is entering a boxing ring and is engaged on a match with her worst enemy- familial disputes.
Her services as a practising lawyer has seen children’s upkeep provided for by their estranged fathers, perpetrators of rape on children serving jail term, single mothers empowered and families reunited.
She reveals to us that it is not every time she solves a case in court; in fact, she has had more reconciliatory cases than court cases,
Save for defilement and rape cases, going to the courts is the last option for her; her satisfaction springs from keeping families together by settling disputes amicably and out of the court - until that fails.
As we sit down for our chat, she describes her horrific childhood that has made her who she is now, a fighter for family and justice. While growing up, her family barely stayed together.
With their home just at the Kisii-Narok border, their home was among those affected by the tribal clashes between the Kisii and the Maasai communities. Her father and male relatives were never much around; they would join other fighters in the times of the never-ending wars that spanned many years.
From the day Jane opened her eyes, they were lit up by the fires that consumed the homes and plantations from the war. She never ‘slept like a baby’; wails from people slashed to death rented the nightly airs.
And when she learnt how to walk, she would run to the mountains with other children to watch out if the enemy was coming. When she joined Nyangoso Primary School, the clashes forced her and other children to attend school once a week.
“From the day I learnt to decipher what goes on in life, all I had known was war. I was brought up in a war-torn area where bloodshed was the order of the day. Saying that it was difficult growing up there would be an understatement. It was scary and barbaric. What happened during our time was worse than the clashes that are going on now. So you can imagine how life was,” she narrates.
Despite their house being burnt down at one point, their food stores running empty after their plantations were burnt to a residue, and schools closed frequently, and living in a hostile environment, Jane secured a place in a national school, Nyabururu Girls High School. This school opened her to a peaceful world she never knew existed.
She had always imagined that there was war every other place in the world. That was to change during her stay at the school. She then went to Nairobi Girls High School for her Form Five and Six education, and finally to University of Nairobi for her courses in Bachelor in Law and Masters in Law.
Jane later on worked under the Ministry of Cooperatives. It was during this time that the now Retired President Mwai Kibaki appointed her to chair a committee to investigate corruption in cooperative societies.
As it had earlier turned out, the money funded by Scandinavian countries to run cooperative societies were misappropriated. Jane explains that those found guilty of corruption faced the law after she delivered her team’s report.
The now retired president again appointed her to be a member of Mbugua Committee, one that did report on the ailments of the county council. While investigating the matter, Jane says that she would receive death threats written on her car, but that did not scare her.
She was also the chair of water regulatory board, a position that brought her a lot of death threats from unknown persons and friction between her and the then Minister of Water who she does not want to mention. This would not shake her.
“If anything, what the clashes did to me was to make me a strong person. I knew from long ago that I had to be strong, not for myself but for the women, children and the society,” she states.
As a lawyer, her office was once in the CBD. Nicknamed a clinic, the office had women flocking in seeking her assistance. Jane spared her time to each one of them and made sure they get her help, and for some she represented in court without asking for any charges. Jane says she does not need to personally know the person she represents, she can be from any background.
Once she hears the story of her client and strongly feels there has been injustice, she takes up the case. A selfless and dedicated woman, she has fought for the voiceless children and women facing discrimination and injustices without asking for a penny.
Her many other cases have involved MPs, who, upon conceiving a child in their clandestine affairs, refuse to take care of the child. The cases are well-known and have been covered by the media.
“These are people who make laws, yet they cannot keep them. We have legislatures who do not want to pay for their children’s school fees and see them through life. At times, it is the woman who traps the man into having a child with her. Even if that is the case, the child should not suffer. The Constitution says that both parents should provide for the child,” she says.
Jane vied for the Women County representative in the previous general elections as her way of giving back to her community, but lost. Part of her mandate was to promote education and empower farmers in the region.
“The community needs a strong person to lead. The constituents need civic education. When electing just any person, it is their way of telling the leaders that they do not have to go to school to be a leader. How is the leader equipped to fight got their rights as enshrined in the Constitution?” she poses, adding that she will vie again if her mandate would not have been fulfilled by the current leadership.
Now in her 30th year as a practising lawyer, Jane takes pride in being a career for all that while void of citation of any wrongdoing. She as well counts her office appointments and being a board member of schools in her county as her greatest achievements. She looks back into her past with delight in fulfilling her dream of seeking justice for the voiceless. Where she comes from, she says, plays a significant role in her life.
“When I went to high school and realised that people in other parts of the country could sleep peacefully, that left with me with a lot of questions. I knew something was terribly wrong and I had to do something about it. I wanted to be a lawyer, not because there was anyone I was emulating. The injustices I had seen back home motivated me to want to become one. I have lived my inspiration,” she says.