Politics is unfriendly towards women - says 'CS' Soipan Tuya

Cabinet Secretary (CS) nominee for the Environment and Forestry, Roselinda Soipan Tuyais serving her third term in Parliament having first been elected as Narok Woman Representative in 2013 and retained her seat in 2017. Despite her father serving as Narok South MP and her mother as a Councillor in Narok County Council she did not consider herself made for politics but a tragedy two months to the 2013 general election found her with no choice but to thrust herself into the world of Politics. She speaks about her interesting political journey.

You did not defend your seat in the General Election, why?

Having already served the people of Narok as their Woman Representative in Parliament for 10 years, I had set my eyes on becoming governor and had even declared two years ago that the seat was up for grabs. However, following negotiations, I agreed to suspend my quest for governorship after the United Democratic Alliance Party asked me to step down for Patrick Ntutu. I was even offered a direct ticket for the Woman MP seat but I declined since I felt that after holding an affirmative action seat for two terms, it was time I paved way for others and serve my country in another capacity.

Whys didn't you want to join politics initially?

I come from a political family. My father Samson ole Tuya served as the Narok South MP for two terms during the seventh and eighth parliaments while my mother was a councillor in Narok County Council. However, I felt I that I was not made for politics since I was that child who preferred staying indoors as my father and mother held political meetings and hosted guests in our home, even if someone was to take over from them I never felt that I was the right person but fate had its own plans. I was approached in 2011 to contest for Narok Woman Rep seat but I turned down the offer telling my supporters I was comfortable serving my people as an advocate where I mostly offered Pro Bono services. I remember hosting a meeting at my father's compound attended by around 3,000 people where I requested to be left out of politics.

How did you eventually find yourself in politics?

I joined politics two months to the 2013 General Election following the death of Patricia Parsitau who was considered a favourite to win that seat. I was told by Maasai community members who visited our home that I had been chosen to take the late Patricia's position and that I had no option but to honour a request by my community. I reluctantly accepted the challenge even though I had my fears given that I joined the race late. I decided to give it a try and I was surprised when I got more than 140,000 votes becoming the candidate who got the highest number of votes in the county in that election where I contested under the Jubilee Coalition affiliated United Republican Party associated with Ruto.

What are some of the challenges you faced on your first trial in elective politics?

When I first contested for the Narok Woman Representative seat, my rivals used the excuse that I was a young woman and not married who if elected might end up getting married elsewhere. Some people even created imaginary boyfriends for me mostly men from other communities saying that by electing me, I will not be useful to my community. In the beginning I almost quit but realised I would be doing exactly what my rivals wanted which was to keep me out of the race due to my growing popularity. I thank God since I got the support of the majority of women and youths who propelled me to the seat with a landslide win.

What are some of your achievements as Narok Woman MP?

I have done a lot of work in Narok during my 10 years tenure. I managed a scholarship programme for 90 needy children using the affirmative action fund and I am proud that almost all of them went to university. I also focused in the dairy sector where we bought milk coolers managed by women groups and I have seen their lives change through this initiative which has made a turnaround for women in various parts of the country. We have also trained 500 Bodaboda operators who were licensed and given the necessary kits through the affirmative action fund, this was after the realization that a huge percentage of our people depend on this sector for transport across the country. With our county experiencing scarcity of water, I ensured that we bought storage tanks that have been installed in schools, dispensaries and other public facilities across the county. I have supported a Youth Football tournament with some talented players identified by professional teams in the country. I have also supported the Physically challenged people to get some equipment to make their lives comfortable.

What about in the National Assembly?

During my second term in Parliament in 2017, I was privileged to serve as the Chairperson of the Speakers Panel where the chosen few get an opportunity to Chair house proceedings in the absence of the National Assembly Speaker and his Deputy. In 2013 during my first term I was selected to Chair the Committee on Implementation which I consider an achievement given that I had just been elected for the first time. The Implementation Committee was a pioneer critical committee forming a connection between Parliament and Executive with its main role being to ensure that what has been discussed in parliament was implemented by the Executive. I have also served as a Member of the Defence and Foreign Relations Committee, Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs and Procedure and House Rules Committee.

Any changes you would like to see in Parliament?

I look forward to a day when young mothers' who are parliamentarians could be accommodated, we need a fully-equipped place for women in parliament. At one point one of my colleagues was treated harshly when she came with her baby to the chambers. She was thrown out by the Speaker, but we female parliamentarians walked out in solidarity with her. I got married and got two of my children while serving as a Member of Parliament. It is not easy striking a balance for young women parliamentarians, juggling roles of being a mother, wife and a representative of the people.

Tell us about your professional background?

I am an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya having graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Nairobi in 2002, Postgraduate Diploma in Law from the Kenya School of Law in 2004 and graduated with a Masters in Law from the University of Washington in the United States of America in 2009. Before joining Parliament, I did a lot of pro bono work championing the rights especially of women from marginalised communities which I believe made the people of Narok see some leadership qualities in me. Coming from the Maasai Community I am very grateful to my parents for having deemed it fit to take me to school. I have worked as a Land Law and Gender Specialist with USAID, Acting Executive Director and Legal Aid Coordinator at the Kituo Cha Sheria, Legal Officer in the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs and Legal Advisor on Land Rights at Mainyoito Pastoralist Integrated Development Organisation.

Can you recall your lowest moments in parliament?

The first time I sat on the Speaker's seat, I was scared when I recalled what former Deputy Speaker, the late Joyce Laboso went through when some Members of Parliament poured water on her. I also had some stressful moments in 2018 when voting on Financial Bill was taking place with a lot of commotion. I also got a lot of bashing from some MPs who alleged that I rigged the vote in favour of the government side to which I belonged. The court of public opinion is normally very unfair. The Speaker cannot count everyone. Being a ruling party member, some people said that I got some phone call to make such a decision.