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Sabaot Iron lady Janepher Masis takes final bow after long political career

By Daniel Psirmoi | August 28th 2016
Jennifer Masis when she decamped to JAP and declared interest in Trans Nzoia Women Rep seat. The first Sabaot female politician passed away on 22/08/2016. (PHOTO: COURTESY)

The curtain has fallen on Janepher Masis whose entry into Trans-Nzoia County politics over a decade and half ago stirred the patriarchal Sabaot community, which had never produced a woman elected leader.

Ms Masis, passed on early this week at a hospital in Nairobi.

When she declared interest in the Kwanza parliamentary seat in 2002, some aspirants reached out to her husband John Masis and asked him to ‘talk sense’ into her.

Barely in her early 30s at that time, some members of the community dismissed her political ambition on grounds that she was young, and had children and a husband to take care of.

However, she defied critics and contested for the party primaries, not knowing a decision had been reached to block her name from the ballot.

Masis emerged as an outright winner in a crowded field of 14 aspirants but the results were nullified and the ticket given to a seasoned politician after a section of the community declared they were not ready for a woman leader.

Efforts to seek justice were futile as the High Court in Kitale dismissed her petition.

Not one to be bogged down, she soldiered on with political activism, fight for women rights and the marginalised community.

Coming from a county that has experienced land clashes in the past, the outspoken leader clashed with security agents, mostly on trumped up allegations, whenever there was any security scare.

In 2007 Masis secured the ODM-Kenya ticket but lost in the Kwanza parliamentary elections to former Cabinet Minister Noah Wekesa, after garnering 7,000 votes.

As fate would have it she narrowly missed out to be a Wiper Democratic Party nominee for a position in the East Africa Legislative Assembly, in June 2012. Peter Mutuku beat her by six votes (58 against 52) to get the post.

In 2013, she unsuccessfully contested for the newly created Endebess parliamentary seat on a Ford Kenya ticket, after it became clear that Wiper was unpopular in the county.

Through her NGO, Tears of Women, her efforts to uplift the lives of not only women but also the menfolk and other vulnerable groups has been felt in Bungoma and Trans-Nzoia counties.

In September 2015, the mother of five ditched Ford Kenya and joined Jubilee. She had declared interest in the Trans-Nzoia Women Representative position in the 2017 elections.

Yesterday, leaders from the region led by CORD co-principal Senator Moses Wetang’ula mourned her untimely demise, saying she has left a big gap in her community, Endebess constituency and the country.

“She was an Iron Lady of Sabaot politics. Ms Masis defied all odds to command the respect in the community. She was beacon of hope and many young women particularly looked up to her as the benchmark of what they want to become,” said Wetang’ula.

“She did not only believe in the rights of women, she went out of her way to ensure all women are respected and treated with dignity. Her death has orphaned the entire community and all those who looked up to you for inspiration,” he added.

Trans-Nzoia Senator Henry ole Ndiema, MPs Robert Pukose (Endebess) and John Serut said Masis will be fondly missed by all those whose lives she had touched in one way or the other.

“She was an astute and fearless politician in the county. Who championed for the interest of everyone, regardless of where they came from. No one can easily fit into her shoes,” Said Mr Ndiema. On his part Mr Pukose said:“ I have lost a worthy competitor. After I defeated her in the last elections, she joined hands with me and we started working together for the sake of the constituents.”

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