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Do you know your woman rep?

There has been a lot of concern and public outcry that women representatives across the country have failed to honour their promises and work for the development of their respective counties just as they had promised when they took over the positions in the last general election.

But is the reality on the ground painting a different picture?

Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi recently proposed the scrapping of the women representative and the nominated MPs seats. Muturi suggested that the two be replaced with 100 affirmative seats in order to resolve the two-third gender rule.

“There will be 25 nominated slots in the Senate, giving it a total of 72 thereby dealing with the issue of the two third gender rule in the Senate. In the National Assembly, there will be 100 slots bringing the total number of legislators to 390,” he said in his proposal.

But his proposal didn’t go well with female parliamentarians who argue that his sentiments are an abuse to tremendous reforms the country has realised in spearheading women involvement in national leadership.

It is said that in as much as a few of them have remained vocal and work for the interests of the common mwananchi, others have little to show in terms of their achievements.

Sadly many women representatives have not yet made their maiden speeches in Parliament. From the Hansard, only a few of the country’s 47 Women Representatives have made contributions on the floor of the house and, unfortunately, this is the criteria the public tends to use in judging how “hard-working” they have been.

We decided to give these women a chance to speak about they have been working on.

1 COUNTY BometCOUNTY: Bomet

NAME: Cecilia Ng’etich

INTERVIEW: Andrew Mibei

According to Bomet County MP, Cecilia Ngetich, the public have unrealistic expectations of Women Representatives. She says the public do not understand why they hear little from them compared to other Members of Parliament.

“It’s an unfair comparison because our constituency is bigger and reaching all corners of the county is tough as we only have weekends to visit them. This has made some people think that Women Reps disappeared after the election,” she says.

Despite the challenges, Ms Ng’etich associates her position to the spread of table-banking in Bomet County through Joyful Women Organisation (JOYWO) that has roped in 477 women groups with a revolving fund of well over Sh55 million.

“Financial empowerment of women is key in uplifting the standards of life in society,” Ms Ng’etich says.

She has also partnered with National Irrigation Board to distribute greenhouses to select women groups in the county. The groups already harvested their first tomato crop.

Ms Ngetich, who has a background as an educationist, has been involved directly in distributing sanitary pads to girls in select schools as well as anti-FGM and anti-jigger campaigns.

“We don’t have any fund to our name and often I use my salary when well-wishers cannot chip in,” she adds.

For the remaining period, she wants to increase sensitisation about government funds that she says are underutilised because of ignorance. She will also do more education mentorship as well as focusing on the welfare of single mothers and widows.

2 bungoma countyCOUNTY: Bungoma

NAME: Reginalda Wanyonyi

INTERVIEW: Kennedy Okwach

Dr Reginalda Wanyonyi noted that there are rampant defilement and rape cases in Bungoma County and explained that she has concentrated in rehabilitating and fighting early pregnancies and defilement cases.

She bemoaned lack of financial resources in implementing projects.

“If we are allocated funds, we will do more than what we are doing. There’s also political rivalry where some people feel what we are trying to do is geared toward gaining political mileage for our parties,” said Wanyonyi.

Wanyonyi said she will channel her energy for the remaining three years in ensuring there is establishment of a rehabilitation and rescue centres for rape and early pregnancy.

3 busia countyCOUNTY: Busia

NAME: Florence Mutua-Waingah

INTERVIEW: Kennedy Okwach

Florence Mutua-Waingah, who has a planning and management background, says she has initiated tremendous development projects in Busia County.

“The greatest achievement has been ensuring we achieve food security. We have initiated successful agribusiness projects through donating green houses to various women and youth groups. I have distributed 17 green houses and will be adding 17 in the next three years,” said Mutua adding that she has also established a fund to enroll elderly and widowed women to access medical cover under NHIF.

“I am targeting those who have not been incorporated in the elderly fund. I am determined to ensure we economically empower all. Women groups have formed saccos to enable them access government funds and I have incorporated those physically challenged through donating 70 wheelchairs.”

“There is lack of empowerment and mentorship of women in the country. Women have great ideas but they need someone to empower them and help them develop their ideas. Like table banking concept has enabled women in Busia to easily access financial aid,” said Mutua.

“But we still have to source for funds from government agencies and other organizations to initiate projects in the county. Like in Busia, the ministry of Water has approved funds towards construction of boreholes that will commence July,” said Mutua.

“My main priority is to ensure families achieve food security and realise economic empowerment through encouraging and supporting agribusiness. I distributed 3,600 bags of fortified maize seedlings and I will be distributing sunflower seedling the next planting season,” said Mutua.

 

Two years since they were elected, there has been a widespread outcry that the seat of women representatives has lost meaning as the occupants are arguably yet to prove their usefulness. Eve Woman asked the women how they have been keeping busy.

Kajiado CountyCOUNTY: Kajiado

NAME: Mary Yiane Seneta

INTERVIEW: Sylvia Wakhisi

Mary Yiane Seneta is a teacher by profession as well as an entrepreneur.

She has not only sought to promote culture and make it an economic activity for the people of Kajiado but also asked locals to shun retrogressive cultural practices that are harmful.

Two years since they were elected, there has been a widespread outcry that the seat of women representatives has lost meaning as the occupants are arguably yet to prove their usefulness. Eve Woman asked the women how they have been keeping busy.

Nyandarua countyCOUNTY: Nyandarua

NAME: Wanjiku Muhia

INTERVIEW: James Munyeki

When Nyandarua Woman Representative Wanjiku Muhia ascended to leadership in 2013, she promised to tackle issues affecting Kenyans at the grass root level.

Wanjiku was at the forefront of having the degazettement of the new rule that had been introduced by Transport Cabinet secretary Michael Kamau.

She argued that the people of Nyandarua would be adversely affected by the new rules as they would no longer transport their market produce the market.

“This is an issue that I handled as a person from Nyandarua and took the government head on until it was degazzetted. It was my first achievement,” she says.

Wanjiku has also moved Persons with Disability Bill to parliament and it is now in the third reading.

The bill requires that Sign Language be examined as the same as English and Kiswahili.

It also calls for interpreters to be employed in major institutions like hospitals and banks as well as all media houses. She has also moved the first amendment to the Milk Bill that requires that a liter of the produce not to be sold below Sh40.

But one of the challenges she says she has faced is lack of funds for Women MPs.

This she says makes them not be felt on the ground unlike other elected leaders like MPs and Governors. The vastness of the area they cover is also another handle they face despite lack of funds.

Nyandarua women Wanjiku notes are faced with severe poverty and to tackle this she notes she has encouraged them on the move to join table banking and start microbusinesses.

In the remaining three years she wants to see a Sh1 billion cancer center project she has started at Kipipiri start operations.

This she says the project will see over 10 million Kenyans get treatment at the centre.

4 embu countyCOUNTY: Embu

NAME: Rose Rwamba Mitaru

INTERVIEW: Sylvia Wakhisi

When she ascended to leadership in 2013, she never thought that as a woman she would get overwhelming pleas for help from all people across the county.

But according to her, the people of Embu believe in her leadership, a reason why they are always seeking for her assistance and counsel, which she says she is always ready to give.

She has supported many churches through harambees and needy people, and this resonates well with her other title of Lay Canon in the Anglican Church of Kenya. She previously worked as a civil servant and ended up being the Deputy Director for Social Services. She also worked with the National Council of Churches of Kenya in the Advocacy Programme where she was in charge of the youth, women and persons with disability.

“Since my election, many people in Embu feel that as a woman I have all the answers to their problems. When there is no good road at a particular area, when they lack school fees for their children or medicine and even land issues, they run to me hoping that I will provide a solution to the problems they face,” says Mitaru.

“In such cases, I do what I can considering that as women representatives we don’t have any fund making us use our salaries in the day to day responsibilities of our respective counties. This has made me realise that people have a lot of confidence in women in terms of leadership hence we need to encourage them to go out and campaign for leadership positions,” she adds.

Empowering all people in her county on issues to do with development and education for all and life skills for women have been her biggest agenda.

“Realising the detrimental effects of alcohol and drug abuse, I have started public forums whereby with the help of other partners we talk to the youths on the dangers of engaging in the vice and some of the things that they can do to make their life more meaningful. I have also managed to educate five youths from the county out of my own resources,” she explains.

She also hopes to spearhead a talent development programme for the youth in Embu. She is married with four children.

Photo: Courtesy

5 homabay countyCOUNTY: Homa Bay

NAME: Gladys Wanga

INTERVIEW: Maureen Odiwuor

Girl child education and mentorship-Mama County says that brings them together twice every year where they bring mentors and support mentorship programmes called Siwindhe in all districts in Homa Bay. The first summit happened in March last year and was graced by Idah Odinga, Susan Kidero officiated the second one and Martha Karua the third one.

They launched the Homa Bay County women Sacco in December last year. It is a platform to access loans. The first loans are being given this month. The membership mark has now hit 3,000 women although they are targeting to have 25,000 by end of the year.

“I have been actively participating in parliament in the committee on labour and social welfare. I sit in the parliamentary service commission and chair the Commission’s Committee on Information and Public Communication. Last year we succeeded to hold the first parliament week. In July, we will hold another such activity,” she says. Wanga’s main challenge is carrying out actual development on the ground yet they have not had the funds.

“They compare us to MPs yet we have not had the money. This financial year we succeeded in the Caucus 47 where Sh. 2billion is going to be given to women representatives. We will see a major change in the remaining part of this year,” she says.

The biggest challenge she says is the high prevalence of HIV/Aids in Homa Bay County and hence health issues have to be given serious attention by creating awareness as far as HIV testing and treatment is concerned.

“Poverty is another challenge for women in this area. We are trying to help them access credit facilities for businesses. We hope the Sacco will reach as many women as possible for small businesses. We also want to build for them market shades,” she says.

She is also chair of ODM in Homa Bay County. Her agenda for the remainder of the term is to grow the Sacco to a point it can sustain itself, and using Affirmative Action funds to ensure women have clean environment to sell, and establish value addition light industries.

“I intend to introduce legislation by preparing amendment to Health Bill for early detection of cancer,” she says.

Sometime in February this year, she is credited for having secured a full scholarship for the top girl from Tirosei primary school in Kajiado West which over the years has acquired the unfortunate tag of being a place where girls do not proceed to secondary school. The school was started to cater for both boys and girls with the expectation that they will transition to secondary school.

“The Maasai are generally active in terms of their culture. Beadwork is their lifestyle and many have now realised that they can make a decent living out of it,” says Seneta.

“It is for that reason I started and launched the Kajiado Women Cultural Empowerment Programme, a Community Based Organisation last year. We held a big exhibition which attracted different stakeholders and about 42 groups of women who were able to showcase their products. Our main objective is to source for markets for the women both locally and internationally and train them on modern designs,” she adds.

On the other hand, Seneta is keen on recognising and promoting talent among the youths in her county.

“There are so many young people who are producing their own musical CDs. I have been supporting the Association of Singers in Kajiado so that they can take their music to another level,” she says.

She has also supported the formation of milk co-operative in Kajiado South which has so far attracted 700 members.

Recognising the fact that women play a big role in the leadership and development of a country, she has established a network of women who want to aspire for political seats in the county and works round the clock to mentor them.

She is however quick to point out that the biggest challenge she faces in service delivery is lack of a development fund/kit for the women representatives.

Says she: “When we joined parliament we formed a caucas (I am the secretary) in which we lobbied for a fund through a regulation. We are still waiting for the gazzetment. Without money, people may not feel you and once in a while you will hear those complaints. When I do something in Kajiado South, those in Kajiado West start asking for my presence. But we are still glad that in terms of representation and decision making our voices as women are heard.”

She goes on to add that her jurisdiction area is too big and that poses another challenge.

“Kajiado County has 6 constituencies hence you cannot expect to be seen by everyone. But I am trying my best to reach out to anyone who needs my services,” she says.

Besides economically empowering the people of Kajiado, female genital mutilation is an issue which she also hopes to eradicate in the county.
She is married with three children.

kakamega CountyCOUNTY: Kakamega

NAME: Rachel Ameso Amollo

INTERVIEW: Kennedy Okwach

Ameso explained that women in Kakamega are maligned in decision-making and noted that extreme poverty in the county affects mostly women as the custodian of families.

“I have established a centre to tackle Gender Based Violence and we are running a successful project of donating sanitary pads to all school going children in Kakamega County. We cannot achieve much because we lack funds,” said Ameso.

“In Kakamega and the entire country, my focus is on assisting women have easier access to loans and government funds and fighting for allocation of funds to county reps to initiate more development,” observed Ameso.

kisii countyCOUNTY: Kisii

NAME: Mary Keraa

INTERVIEW: Maureen Odiwuor

The title women representative, says Mary Keraa-Otara, does not mean I represent only women. We are members of parliament representing several counties. She says she represents nine constituencies in Kisii. She says they legislate in parliament although they do not have funds for development like their constituency counterparts.

“Lack of finance for this position has really made our work difficult but I have managed to do a, lot of things with my salary. I do a lot of fund raisings for churches, schools and funerals,” she said.

She has also led the fundraising of a school library at Botoro Primary School which was constructed at Sh.2.5million complete with an administration block.

“I have been able to introduce the table banking concept launched by Rachel Ruto. We have 600 groups that have raised Sh.9 million revolving among them,” she said.

She has also been able to go to National Irrigation Board and was given seven green houses and 10 open drips for agriculture which she distributed to all constituencies.

“When I get an opportunity to get employment for people I do so. So far, I have sought for 15 opportunities. I also went to the National Water Board who gave me two 10,000 litres water tanks that I donated to Mekuvo and Getenga Secondary schools. I also donate books to schools,” she said.

She says the challenge is that MPs usually send women away when they ask for assistance telling them to seek assistance from women representatives, yet they know that they have no financial allocations.

“Women in my constituency want to do business to alleviate poverty. I will connect them to funding institutions that can give them soft loans. Another challenge is school fees and I am sometimes forced to enter my pocket and provide what I can,” she says.

Her agenda for the remaining term is to empower women to register companies and how to procure tenders.

kisumu countyCOUNTY: Kisumu

NAME: Rose Nyamunga

INTERVIEW: Sylvia Wakhisi

Rose Nyamunga says she is working tirelessly to promote agribusiness in the county as well as ensure that the people of Kisumu become economically empowered by setting up businesses that could transform their lives.

“Kisumu as a county has been faced with the challenge of food insecurity. We have tried to reach out to the national government to support us address this issue by giving us water pumps and dams so that people can have enough water to practice irrigation,” says Nyamunga.

Nyamunga has spearheaded the introduction of poultry farming, dairy farming, fish farming with an aim of creating food security both for consumption and sale.

“I have set up a hatchery which produces 38,000 chicks per month which we normally sell to anybody interested in poultry farming at a subsidised rate. Currently, we have 600 poultry farmers,”she says.

She adds: “During economic stimulus we realised that the government had constructed some fish ponds in the county which unfortunately are empty. I started a programme to rehabilitate them and so far 1,060 fish ponds have been rehabilitated. Every month, i try to ensure that I put fish in at least three ponds. I have also set up a hatchery for fingerlings in Kisumu which is now operational.”

She is also encouraging farmers from the county to practice intercropping during the rainy season to ensure they have a variety of foods.

Nyamunga has also been at the forefront to offer mentorship and support for women and youth in businesses as well as support for child education.

“I am reinforcing table banking in the county to ensure that every household takes up this concept. Last year I launched the Gulf Community Sacco Limited which is open to boda boda operators and hawkers. I am also happy to report that 90 per cent of Uwezo fund has been disbursed in the county and people are making good use of it,” she says.

Nyamunga has a passion for education and she has strived to ensure that every child is able to go to school. When she won the seat, she took 21 female students to Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University and so far 19 have graduated. She has also been supporting needy students to get school fees even through bursaries; 253 students in 2013, 267 in 2014 and this year she hopes to support 272. She has also partnered with a Korean NGO to support the elderly and persons living with disability. So far, they have identified 105 elderly people whom they hope to provide free medical check-ups and look for people who can take care of them in terms of even cooking and cleaning.

Her biggest challenge is that people from her county are not enthusiastic. You have to push them so that they can start even the smallest projects to sustain themselves. She also cites lack of resources as another challenge as she has to rely on partnerships to implement some of her projects.

She hopes to support more needy students with bursaries and nurture the talents of youth in her county through the Kisumu Talent Institute and develop it into a resource centre.

She is trained in management and finance as well as law. Prior to becoming the Kisumu women representative, she was engaged in micro finance consultancy and running her business.

She is married to Engineer Eric Nyamunga(former Nyando MP) and they have been blessed with five children.

kwale countyCOUNTY: Kwale
NAME: Zainab Chidzuga

Zainab Chidzuga strongly believes that she is not dormant, and that since she took up the woman representative seat in Kwale County, she has worked tirelessly to ensure that the living standards of the people of Kwale improve.

“Right from the start, I knew what my people wanted. I have my own principles and I don’t fear to take up my responsibilities,” says Chidzuga.

She once served as the Director of Coast Water Services Board and the Chairperson of Maendeleo ya Wanawake, Kwale County.

Economic empowerment and creating awareness among the women of Kwale about their rights have been her top priority.

“I would say I have really done a lot in terms of educating the women as far as their rights are concerned. We hold talks where we equip them with knowledge about their rights as spelt out in the constitution, their rights as married women and even the rights of the girl child,” says Chidzuga.

“Without knowledge, there is little that these women can do to progress hence I saw it fit to educate them on these issues,” she adds.

On the other hand, she organised a harambee which was presided over by the President William Ruto and with the help of other women they managed to raise 6.5 million which was used to form a sacco where the women of Kwale county can borrow loans to start small businesses and other income generating activities.
“So far, over 3,000 women are members of the sacco. We are also introducing the table banking concept and so far 700 groups have been formed,” she says.

She also intends to form saccos for persons living with disability as well as for teachers in madrassas many of whom she says live in abject poverty
Chidzuga also prides herself in giving out bursaries to needy children to enable them access education, organising and sponsoring medical camps as well as initiating projects for the youth such as the boda boda project which she hopes to launch soon.

Despite her achievements, Chidzuga is quick to point out that there are a number of challenges that she faces.

She offers: “When we went around campaigning before the general elections in 2013, we promised a lot of things. Little did we know that as women representatives we would not be allocated a kit where we would draw the finances needed to implement the projects in our respective counties. Now we have to dig deep into our pockets to carry out our activities.”

The biggest challenge the people of Kwale face, she says, is access to clean water.

“Kwale is semi-arid hence many are the times the county faces a water crisis. With the help of the national government, we have managed to construct some dams to ensure that the problem is resolved and this will also go a long way in improving agriculture in the area,” she says.

She also hopes to address the challenge of early marriages due to poverty which has seen many children drop out of school.

Chidzuga is a widow and has eight children.

Two years since they were elected, there has been a widespread outcry that the seat of women representatives has lost meaning as the occupants are arguably yet to prove their usefulness. Eve Woman asked the women how they have been keeping busy.

laikipiaCOUNTY: Laikipia

NAME: Jane Machira Apollos

Laikipia women Representative Jane Apollos boasts of being among the few women MPs who have been pushing the agenda of women, youth and the minorities in the National Assembly.

This she says has brought into effect the Affirmative Social Action Fund that will be disbursed to women representatives in the country.

At the County level, she boasts of launching table banking initiative with Mrs Racheal Ruto which she says has now taken root in the county.

“This has been a boost to most of local women who have now uplifted their lifestyles as they now engage in small business,” she says.

Another achievement she says is lobbying for the taxation of the large scale ranchers who were not paying tax for their income in their ranches in Laikipia.

“Since I was elected I have persistently worked with the national government to ensure peace and security in the county. This has seen security personnel be deployed in various parts of Laikipia County,” she adds.

Apollos says the main challenge since she went to Parliament has been lack of a development fund, such as CDF which they can use to championed development in the county.

Women in Laikipia County face challenges including endemic poverty and a lack of enabling environment to develop.

“I will be addressing these issues as soon as we receive the Affirmative Social Action Fund,” she notes.

Her agenda for the remaining term is to promote talent in the county through music, theatre, traditional festivals, Table banking and microfinance for the marginalized communities and installation of market lights in rural market centers.

machakos CountyCOUNTY: Machakos

NAME: Susan Musyoka

Dr Susan Musyoka’s goal is to initiate projects geared towards economic empowerment of the youth, women and marginalized groups as well as promote high education standards in the county of Machakos.

She is a medical doctor who has been practicing medicine for over 30 years and runs a private health facility in Machakos town.

She says she has been visiting schools in every sub-county together with MACUSA (Machakos University Students Association) to give mentorship talks to young people and encouraging them on the importance of excelling in their education.

“I want to motivate both the boys and girls to take their school work seriously if they want to have a bright future. Last year, I visited some schools in Mwala, Yatta, Matungulu and Masinga constituencies and I must say that they posted quite some good results in their national exams. I realised that a word of encouragement goes a long way in changing one’s attitude towards some things,” she says.

According to Musyoka, 40 business women from her county have also undergone intensive training on procurement which was done in partnership with KAWBO (Kenya Association of Business Women Owners).

“I am also working together with the Gender Based Violence committee in the county whereby we have been going round educating men and women on issues to do with gender based violence and some of the measures to curb it as well as the Marriage Act and the Matrimonial Property Act. We give them talks on what laws exist and how they should report certain happenings,” she says.

She goes on to say that she has partnered with Coca-Cola to train women on entrepreneurship.

“We give them a kit with two crates of soda and a cool box then do a follow-up on their progress,” she says.

She has also initiated table banking and established the Machakos County Savings and Credit Cooperative Society Limited where women, youths and persons with disability can access loans. So far, the sacco has attracted 1,000 members.

Her biggest challenge has been reaching all the eight constituencies in Machakos yet she does not have a kitty to carry out her activities.

She is married to a businessman and they have three children.

makueni CountyCOUNTY: Makueni

NAME: Rose Mumo Museo

The Makueni women representative previously worked with ActionAid Kenya for 19 years rising through the ranks to become its Programme Officer. She then became the Director for Women/Children Ministries at the Seventh Day Adventist church headquarters.

“It was an elective position which I held for two terms but left mid-term to join politics, amid a lot of pressure from both men and women in Makueni. Women have a say and a big role to play when it comes to leadership hence men should not tell them to go but rather they need to support them,” says Museo.

Citing lack of water as the biggest challenge that has for a long time affected the people of Ukambani, Museo says she has come up with an initiative that seeks to address the water challenge in her county by ensuring that every household owns a water tank.

“So far, women in Makueni have been able to purchase water tanks from the proceeds they get out of merry go rounds, table banking and the Women Enterprise Fund. So far, I am happy to say that about 800 households own a water tank. My aim is to ensure that by 2016 every home has a water tank,” says Museo.

She has also been at the fore front in introducing mentorship programmes for the women in her county.

“I have realized that the small things that make up a woman are not addressed. I have sought to identify women who dropped out of school either in class 8 or at the high school level and are willing to go back to school. So far, we have about 400 women who are ready to take up the challenge and we are now trying to identify schools which will be willing to take them in so that they can be studying during the school holidays. This programme is dubbed ‘A Second Chance’, she explains.

“Through bursaries, I hope that these women will be able to get the education they so much desire.” She hopes to draft a Bill on the same.

Museo, whose county has six constituencies and 30 wards, has been able to introduce training programmes for women from four constituencies in rearing chicken and how to treat them.

“I have equally managed to support women to form 30 committees registered as community based organizations and also as company limited, to enable them secure the 30 per cent procurement given to women. These structures will go a long way to help both men and women own and control their development agenda,” she says.

Her biggest challenge she says is too much expectation from the electorate yet as women reps they do not have a fund.

“Over the weekends you are required to move around the county and you meet hungry people, jobless youths who expect a lot of help from you. They do not understand how you can fail to attend a funeral, help an ailing woman somewhere in the village and you end up spending a lot of energy explaining to them that you have run out of money,” she says.

Her goal is to see to it that women from her county are more economically empowered using locally available resources and that they build their confidence in vying for leadership seats both at county and national level.

She is married to one Barnabas Munyao, a civil servant and they have been blessed with a daughter who is pursuing her Masters at University of Nairobi.

mandera CountyCOUNTY: Mandera

NAME: Fathia Mahbub

Mahbub’s strong desire to represent Mandera in the 11th parliament came at the peak of her career as a branch manager in a leading bank in Nairobi. But resigning from her job to assume a leadership position in a conservative community where women are supposed to take a back seat was just the beginning of her efforts to transform the lives of people in Mandera, a county that she says has been faced with too much poverty and insecurity.

She attests that due to insecurity, various development plans and projects have been put on hold.

“We had to cancel the launch of the Beyond Zero mobile clinic by the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta a few months ago. The Deputy President’s wife Rachel Ruto was also supposed to visit the county to launch the table banking concept but the event did not materialise due to security concerns. This has greatly affected the development of our county and I hope a lasting solution can be found,” says Fathia.

Despite that, she has been able to initiate peace programmes with women from the warring clans in Mandera and source for scholarships for needy students in high school and university.

She has also been able to get 120 wheelchairs from donors and textbooks from the Kenya Literature Bureau both of which she is soon going to distribute in the sub-counties. She also managed to get food and non-food items from donors which she hopes to distribute in one of the sub-counties where the Internally Displaced Persons reside. This will be the second distribution phase having done the first phase sometime last year.

“Though as women representatives we lack a kitty from the national government, we cannot just sit back and watch as people from our counties suffer. We have to dig into our pockets and help where we can,” she says.

In the next financial year, Fathia hopes that she will be able to address the 30 per cent procurement for the special groups and support other value addition initiatives.

“Through Uwezo Fund, I have empowered the youth and women and it has since gone a long way to benefit them,” she says.

Fathia says another big challenge the county has faced is the issue of gender based violence.

“Several weeks ago, you heard the story of a 16-year-old girl who was severely burnt by her husband. That is not the only case as there are many cases of violence taking place yet they are hidden. They are not addressed in a proper way as you only see a group of elders sitting under a tree discussing the matter and no justice is served. We hope to have zero rate of gender based violence in the county and are encouraging any victim to speak out,” she says.

She has also started a campaign to encourage parents to educate their girls.

“Many girls in the county lack opportunities in terms of education. Many are subjected to early marriages and even forced to undergo female genital mutilation. Through civic campaigns, this is something that I hope to change,” says Fathia.

She is married with five children.

meru CountyCOUNTY: Meru

NAME: Florence Kajuju

Kajuju has been visible and vocal. She is an Advocate of the High Court who was born and brought up in the county she now represents.

According to her, some of the problems she came face to face with before she even embarked on her political journey centered on miraa, a crop that is largely grown in the area and during her campaigns, the people of Meru were interested to find out what strategies she would devise to address the challenges.

Kajuju says she chose miraa as her platform because it is a family issue. According to her, many people do not understand miraa. They view it as a drug but through research they want to move miraa to another level.

“Many families in the county depend on miraa for their income. It’s a community affair. But we have not isolated other women issues in the county since my goal is to improve their status in every way that I can,” says Kajuju.

She has fought for the right for miraa to be recognised as a scheduled crop under the Crops Act.

“I brought into parliament a motion on miraa which was debated and a special committee was formed to visit and look into issues to do with miraa. Recommendations were then made to recognise miraa as a cash crop and we are awaiting the gazzetment,” she says.

Other than miraa, Kajuju has been able to start and spearhead mentorship programmes for girls within the county.

She offers: “Young girls in the village, especially in primary school have lacked access to sanitary towels, something that affects girl child education. Through my foundation, the Florence Kajuju Foundation Trust in partnership with Girl Child Education Network, Kenya Methodist University among other partners, we have been able to see to it that we provide sanitary towels for these young girls so that they do not miss out on their school days.”

Women empowerment is also close to her heart hence she has seen to it that they partner with

JOYWO (Joyful Women Organisation) which was formed to empower Kenyan women economically and enhance house-hold food security among them through supporting their involvement in livelihood projects. So far, 8,000 women in Meru County are registered.

Kajuju cites the challenge for lack of a fund for women representatives as one factor that has slowed down their progression.

“When we came to parliament, we drafted a Bill which was rejected. We came up with regulations to see to it that we are provided with a fund. 2.1 billion has been set aside for the women reps and we are just waiting for the board to be gazzeted. Once that fund is made available, it means that women representatives will be able to serve their counties much better. We are hoping that the money can be released before the next financial year,” she says.

And what does she have to say concerning the proposal by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi to scrap women representative seats and nominated MPs?

“We have come together as women in Parliament and women in the Judicial Service Commission. We cannot afford to forget the long toil and lose out on the gains made by women,” says Kajuju.

She adds: “It is not fair that money is being wasted on corruption yet when it comes to increasing the number of women in representation, it becomes a big issue. We have to increase capacity building for our women and youth because politics is not just a man’s affair; it is also a woman’s affair.”

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There has been a lot of concern and public outcry that women representatives across the country have failed to honour their promises and work for the development of their respective counties just as they had promised when they took over the positions in the last general election.

migori CountyCOUNTY: Migori

NAME: Dennitah Ghati

Since she took over office, Dennitah Ghati says she has been able to work on her key agenda.

Supporting girl child education in the county is one of them. She has contributed to the construction of Nyabisawa and Kamsaki Girls Secondary Schools dormitories in Uriri constituency. She has also participated in the building of Oruba mixed laboratory.

“I am planning to soon launch a mentorship program for girls in schools to promote education in the county,” she says.

Despite not having funding/kitty from the government like CDF, she has partnered with several NGOs and partners on the ground to empower women and youth.

On economic empowerment, she has mobilized women of the larger Migori County to form strong groups, and assisted them get financial aid by registering them with the ministry of social services in the county.

” I have also launched table banking in collaboration with Rachel Ruto and through the initiative I am training women from all the 40 civic wards on saving and entrepreneurship skills. I have also linked women with financial institutions in Migori and they are receiving services including loans,” she says.

She intends to launch Migori Women Sacco soon.

“To further support women small scale traders in Migori, in collaboration with Coca-Cola, we launched the ‘Coca-Cola 5BY20’ program where women from all wards received over 200 cooler boxes and two crates of soda to boost their businesses. I also trained them on budgeting, saving and entrepreneurial skills,” she says.

As an expert in human rights she is also conducting civic education on the tendering process to ensure women apply for tenders.

Her main challenge is lack of funds to implement the projects and therefore relies on partners to implement them.

“The county also has 40 large civic wards that have unique challenges and I have to try to reach all of them. Poor infrastructure sometimes makes it had to reach all areas” Ghati says.

Major challenge facing women in my county is lack of water where women and girls have to walk long distances searching water.

“I will prioritise this water issue in the upcoming fund to ensure women have water through building boreholes to provide water,” she says.

muranga countyCOUNTY: Muranga

NAME: Sabina Wanjiru Chege

Sabina Chege was a Communications Manager and a Journalist before she took a plunge into politics.

She is the Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee on Education, Science, Research and Technology, a role that she says has enabled her impact positively when it comes to education matters, not only in her county but also in the entire country.

“One notable achievement we have been able to realise as a committee is the scrapping of the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination fees. This will in turn enable every student to sit for their exams,” says Chege.

Through her foundation, Sabina Wanjiru Chege Foundation, she is supporting the education of more than 50 students from her county by providing them with full scholarships. She also organises for mentorship activities in schools.

As the women rep Murang’a County, Chege says she has been able to initiate table banking with a revolving fund of over 20 million.

She also saw the need of taking care of the elderly and has since supplied 7,000 blankets to the elderly people in Murang’a.

She is currently drafting a Bill, “Nursing Mothers and Childcare Public and Workplace Facility Bill” which she hopes to soon bring to the floor of parliament.

“I want to ensure that women who are breastfeeding have a facility where they can be able to change and breastfeed their children,” says Chege.

She is also training women on planting soya beans and has a ready market. She has organised trips to Narok and Migori for the women for them to be equipped with more knowledge on how the crop is grown.

Despite her achievements, Chege is concerned that the role of women representatives has not been fully understood which poses a great challenge to them.

“There are no clear roles between the governor, senator, MP and the women rep. The people’s expectations of women representatives are very high yet they are not funded like their counterparts. As the women rep of Murang’a I cover seven constituencies and 35 wards. All the projects I have initiated and others am working on are as a result of partnerships with friends and other bodies,” she explains.

On the other hand, she cites the challenge of other leaders such as the governor, senator or MP viewing the women rep as a threat.

“Once they see you are becoming strong, a hardworking woman trying to deliver every promise you made to the people, they see you as a threat and sometimes it becomes difficult to get their support,” she says.

Chege hopes to spearhead more projects for the women, youth and persons living with disability.

She says: “I am keeping track of the number of youths who have graduated so that I could connect them with potential employers as well as provide them with training on entrepreneurial skills. On the other hand, of concern is that women in Murang’a work very hard but getting money to start a business becomes a challenge. With the help of Joyful Women’s Organization (JOYWO) in Murang’a County, we have tried to teach women on how to invest wisely and help them to get markets for their products.”

She is married with three children-two girls and a boy

nyeri CountyCOUNTY: Nyeri

NAME: Priscilla Nyokabi

Priscilla Nyokabi has remained one of the most vocal and outstanding women representatives the country has had.

And as she says, it has taken her lots of hard work and courage to speak.

“I work 24/7 and am glad the government has given us space as women leaders to serve the people. Women need to be appreciated and supported when it comes to leadership. On the other hand, I come from a background of defending the poor having worked as the Executive Director at Kituo Cha Sheria.

Since she became the Nyeri women representative, Nyokabi says she is proud of having made some achievements in her county, one of them being fighting hard to exempt maize fees for maize farmers.

Besides promoting the use of solar and cheap electricity, she has also overseen the Uwezo Fund regulation and the 30 per cent preferential procurement for women, youth and persons with disability as well as training people on it and anchoring it to law.

She says: “I am also involved in a number of school development projects including a library project at Witima Secondary school. I have also assisted in the construction of large capacity dorms at Gataragwa Girls where we also did an ablution block, at Muruguru Girls where we also did a library and Karima Boys. Other than that, we have also started the Nyeri Alcohol Rehabilitation Centre and anti-alcohol games for the youth since alcohol is a big problem in our county. I have started training sessions on healthy living for groups of women especially now that Mukurueni leads in diabetes cases.”

Despite her achievements, Nyokabi says there are challenges that she faces including politics, which she says is a big challenge to development since very leader works on their mandate, lack of funds, and high expectations from the people.

“Another big challenge in our county is child sexual abuse. For example, at the Nyeri Provincial General Hospital where we have the Gender Based Violence(GBV) clinic, currently about 200 cases have been recorded yet only 12 have been reported to the police since many times the culprits are wither step-fathers, uncles or cousins,” says Nyokabi.

“We are creating a GBV centre at the Nyeri police station which we hope will go a long way in curbing cases of child abuse. We also want the county to be safe for both men and women hence I have come up with the Protection against Domestic Violence Act. As the Chairperson of the Caucas 47, together with other women representatives, we have been lobbying for the Affirmative Action Act to aid affirmative action groups like women, youth and persons with disability,” she explains.

Nyokabi now hopes to see to it that many other development projects in Nyeri will be commissioned and put into utilisation. She has also come up with a motion on Access to Information which she is moving as a private member since she feels there is a gap between government programmes and the citizenry.

She is married with one daughter.

Narok CountyCOUNTY: Narok

NAME: Soipan Tuya

Kudate says she has empowered over 1000 women groups through table banking.

Soipan said the women groups have raised over Sh60 million revolving fund as well as training women on how to save and access credit facilities.

“I have also established a county-wide revolving fund through which over six groups are funded to initiate income generating projects,” said Soipan who added that her initiatives are geared towards setting a pace for women empowerment.

She also cited the employment of 40 youths to help in training women on table banking as one of her other achievements and revealed that plans of acquiring motorbikes for the youths are underway so as to improve their efficiency.

However, Soipan said the greatest challenge she faces is the fact that she is compared to the Governor and MPs who have been set aside funds.

“The governor receives over Sh2 billion each year while each MP gets over Sh110 million through the CDF. The MPs also wrestled the Uwezo Fund from us but the electorate expects us to contribute like our fellow MPs,” she stated.

She said the inability by the constitution to set aside funds for the women representative across the country has continued to propagate the stereotype that women cannot be good leaders.

To her the biggest challenge that faces women is lack of awareness and information on how to empower themselves.

She also said the counties they cover are very extensive on top of not having resources allocated to them.

“Majority of the women are illiterate and thus lack information on how to access loans. Majority do not know how to write proposals and lack collateral to use in accessing the loans,” she said.

She says her agenda for the remaining part of her term is to continue creating a platform where women will be sensitized on affirmative action.

At a national level she said she is pushing for the realization of the two-third threshold as well as sensitizing male MPs to realize that women are part of this country’s development agenda.

“I have a Bill coming up which proposes that 2 women representatives be elected from each county. We have also succeeded in convincing the Treasury to set aside Sh2.03 billion for the 47 women representatives to initiate projects in their respective counties,” said Soipan.

Nyamira CountyCOUNTY: Nyamira

NAME: Alice Chae

Alice Chae has been able to spearhead table banking concept launched in December 2013 which currently has 542 members with a revolving fund of Sh. 27 million.

Being the patron of Uwezo fund in the county she has been encouraging women, youth and those living with disability to take up the money and invest it wisely.

“I also introduced the Alitosha detergent initiative where 200 women groups have been empowered and are now making and selling liquid soap,” she says.

In her county, Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) is being practised secretly. She is therefore waiting for Social Affirmative Funds to be able to mobilize all stakeholders so as to find a lasting solution and identify an alternative rite of passage.

“We also have solar projects for 80 year olds. My office has so far given 172 solar lamps and slowly the number will grow,” she says.

They also intend to start light industries, cold storage facilities, construction of market shades and light them up with the Social Affirmative Funds.

Her main challenge is funds to operate and the fact that the one- third gender rule is also another issue where she feels the woman decision making has not been valued and accepted.

With the funds, she also intends to provide Social-cultural development and nurturing of youth talents, civic education and community sensitisation on government programs, support affirmative action groups, establish rehabilitation and counselling centers, enhance access to services of Gender Based Violence, FGM, child marriages, rescue shelters, health facilities, legal aid centers and provision of sanitary towels to needy girls across the county.

She argued that the people of Nyandarua would be adversely affected by the new rules as they would no longer transport their market produce the market.

“This is an issue that I handled as a person from Nyandarua and took the government head on until it was degazzetted. It was my first achievement,” she says.

Wanjiku has also moved Persons with Disability Bill to parliament and it is now in the third reading.

The bill requires that Sign Language be examined as the same as English and Kiswahili.

It also calls for interpreters to be employed in major institutions like hospitals and banks as well as all media houses. She has also moved the first amendment to the Milk Bill that requires that a liter of the produce not to be sold below Sh40.

But one of the challenges she says she has faced is lack of funds for Women MPs.

This she says makes them not be felt on the ground unlike other elected leaders like MPs and Governors. The vastness of the area they cover is also another handle they face despite lack of funds.

Nyandarua women Wanjiku notes are faced with severe poverty and to tackle this she notes she has encouraged them on the move to join table banking and start microbusinesses.

In the remaining three years she wants to see a Sh1 billion cancer center project she has started at Kipipiri start operations.

This she says the project will see over 10 million Kenyans get treatment at the centre.

samburu CountyCOUNTY: Samburu

NAME: Maison Leshoomo

Samburu county women representative Maison Leshoomo’s biggest hurdle since she took over the seat in 2013 has been restoring peace in an area that has for a long time been hit by violence.

“When I took over the seat, I purposed to see to it that communities in Samburu live in peace and harmony with each other. Building peace has always been in my heart. I have buried many young people in this area and it really pains me when we continue to lose people,” says Leshoomo.

“Without peace there cannot be development. We want to see to it that there is peace among the Pokot and Samburu, the Borana and Samburu and even the Turkana and Samburu. Through civic education and with the help of local peace committees we are working hard to ensure that peace is restored in the area so that parents do not have to withdraw their children from school out of fear,” she adds.

On the other hand, Leshoomo is fighting hard to ensure that women in the county recognise their rights such that they can even contest for leadership positions.

“I was once a Councilor in the area and faced a lot of criticism from the men who felt that a woman cannot stand in front of men and address them. I have fought hard and I continue to fight hard to ensure that the men from Samburu realise that a woman can also play a leadership role very well, and is capable of taking up any job and sit in the various boards. I am proud that we now have three female chiefs in Samburu which signifies that as a county we are heading in the right direction,” she says.

When it comes to the issue of female genital mutilation, a cultural practice observed by many communities in Samburu, Leshoomo says she has spearheaded civic educational campaigns which seek to educate the people on the dangers of FGM and for them to understand that you do not lose out on anything if you don’t undergo FGM.

According to Leshoomo, since many people in Samburu were afraid of taking loans such as the Uwezo fund, she has organised educational sessions for them to be imparted on knowledge about the fund, how it works and its benefits. On the other hand, since the government introduced free maternity services in public facilities, she has seen to it that women from the area deliver in hospital and take their children for clinic unlike before when many preferred giving birth at home.

“My next biggest agenda is to see to it that communities in Samburu have access to clean water and that there is high retention of children-both boys and girls-in school. We have to support all of them to get an education for their future to be bright,” she says.

Siaya CountyCOUNTY: Siaya

NAME: Christine Omabaka

Many female parliamentarians have remained vocal and work for the interests of the common mwanachi, despite the speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi proposing the scraping of the women representative and nominated MPs seats.

Siaya county women representative Dr. Christine Omabaka told Eve Woman that one of her greatest achievements in the county since she took over the seat has been the ability to raise funds for over 30 needy students who are now in form two despite not having bursary and constituency development fund (CDF).

“Unlike the governors and MPs, women representatives do not have a fund from government to support constituents. I have gone out of my way to raise funds from friends in America and other countries to ensure I provide education for the needy students from the county,” she said.

“If I were to get more money I would still invest in educating the needy students. I will still push for women, youths and the less privileged to join table banking. I am still pushing for women and youth enterprise funds, uwezo fund and social development funds. Good health and poverty eradication is also part of my agenda for the remaining time,” she added.

The women Rep also said that another great achievement was to mobilise women, youths and the less privileged in the county to form groups for table banking to basically enable them support their families and themselves.

“I borrowed the idea from Rift valley and decided to sell it to my people. I am glad over 700 groups have since joined table banking and there is over Sh20 million circulating within the groups in Siaya county,” Omabaka said.

Despite the achievements, just like other women reps in the country she also has a sad story to tell and some of the serious challenges that have led to her slow growth.

Dr. Omabaka mentioned that unlike other female reps she is among those that take care of a larger region, like Siaya County that has over six constituencies.

She also said that a lot of residents do not understand the role of MPs and that has since led to a lot of bickering.

“It is not easy accessing every village in the county due to poor roads and terrains. I take care of a bigger region including an Island known as Mageta. It is hard for residents to understand that the role of an MP is not to serve an individual but a community and a lot of times the people do not understand this. They expect a lot and sometimes others fail to apply for bursary and expect the MP to pay school fees from their own pockets,” she added.

She noted that the greatest issue faced by the women in the county was politics since a lot of women do not vie for elective posts.

“I have embarked on a journey to educate women in my county on the importance of politics and that is the reason I brought table banking to empower them to vie for posts during elections. A lot of them blame it on lack of financial support .An example is; out of 30 elective ward positions only one woman managed the rest of seats were scooped by men,” she lamented.

Dr. Omabaka said that her agenda for the remaining part of her term is to push her achievements, work on the challenges and improve on the biggest issue that women in her county face.

“The lower part of Tharaka is semi-arid. I’m forced to borrow tanks from the ministry of water and give them to schools where they can store water for drinking and washing their hands. On the other hand, due to shortage of food, some children had to drop out of school and it took the help of the national government to get food to supply to the families that were hard hit. We hope to address the water challenge so that we could even practice farming through irrigation to have a constant supply of food in the county,” she says.

She also hopes to see to it that technical and vocational institutions are set up in the county to cater for the youth who are not able to go to university or college so that they are equipped with skills in carpentry, plumbing masonry among others.

Tharaka CountyCOUNTY: Tharaka-Nithi

NAME: Beatrice Nkatha

She boasts of overseeing the introduction of the table banking concept in her county which has so far attracted 12,000 women groups.

When the government rolled out the Uwezo fund for the women, Nkatha says she had to go round the county explaining to them as well as the youth what the fund was all about and even assist them in filling the forms since many had little understanding about the fund.

“Even after they have accessed the fund, I have to visit them again to find out whether they are making use of it wisely.”

Nkatha says she has also assisted a number of youth interested in the boda boda business get licences and insurance.

“Owning a boda boda is however not everything. We try to educate them on the need for them to be sober even as they carry out the business and how to treat their customers with respect so that they can progress well,” she says.

She has also spearheaded the introduction of sports tournaments in the county to ensure that both boys and girls spend their time wisely by identifying their talents.

She cites lack of funding and scarcity of food and water as the biggest challenges she faces.

Taita TavetaCOUNTY: Taita Taveta

NAME: Joyce Wanjala Lay

Since Lay was overwhelmingly elected as the first Taita-Taveta County Women Representative, a number of achievements have so far been realised according to her.

Despite the fact that there are no funds allocated to them, the women leader said she has created awareness to the electorate through the formation of village bunges where the local community has the opportunity to share and discuss issues affecting them and participate in developing laws to deal with emerging issues.

Through the Joyce Lay Foundation, she supports 18 students from disadvantaged backgrounds by paying for their high school fees.

“I see this as an achievement. I have also supported one college student from Tambach Teachers College who has since completed her training. I have also donated balls to schools during interschool football competitions and tournaments apart from supporting church development projects,” she said.

She has also overseen the introduction of table banking in the county, which is the brainchild of Rachel Ruto, wife to deputy president William Ruto.

This savings and credit initiative which was introduced under the aegis of Joyful Women Organisation, Taita-Taveta County Chapter, has slowly begun to change the financial fortunes of women in the county.

According to Lay, the table banking initiative has so far attracted over 200 women groups with a membership of 2, 076 women.

“This is a major boost for women in the county who have been financially marginalized and unable to get economic empowerment due to lack of sound investment opportunities,” says Lay.

However Lay says one of the major challenges women leaders like herself have encountered in service delivery is lack of adequate development funds to undertake projects that will improve the livelihoods of the people especially marginalized and disadvantaged women.

She says that while Members of parliament are allocated CDF funds, governors have county development funds as well as MCAs with ward development funds, women reps do not have any development funds at their disposal.

“Even our attempts to have a say in the allocation of Uwezo funds for women leaders were scuttled in parliament”, she says.

She says despite the fact that women reps cover a whole county, they earn the same salary as an MP who only covers a single constituency.

Lay says women in the county still face challenges of access to affordable maternal health care, lack of collateral for accessing loans in major banks as well as lack of awareness on the HIV/Aids scourge.

“Lack of women empowerment in decision making has contributed to poverty, conflict and suffering. Unless women can influence decisions that directly affect their lives, they will remain excluded from mainstream development,” said the women representative.

Lay has also formed the County Widows Association whose main agenda is to come up with income generating projects to transform their lives. “I have already established an office for the women’s association,” she disclosed.

Apart from being from being in the forefront in promoting talent development in the county, Ms Lay had participated and immensely contributes towards the success of the Miss Taita-Taveta Beauty pageant event last year.

Her other achievements include the registration of the Taita-Taveta silk network sacco with a target of 5,000 membership, supported the formation of boda boda sacco, identified basket weaving groups in Kasigau and Mwatate and engaged a development partner for the initiative.

In her legislative role, the MP said she had introduced an amendment to the Fertilizer Bill which was successfully passed by both the national assembly and the Senate.

She said she had also introduced a landmark motion in having all the laws of Kenya translated into Kiswahili. “I have been made the ambassador of this major project,” she said.

“I am currently drafting a domestic workers bill and basic education amendment bill. I am also pushing for the IVF Bill (Surrogate) which is meant to regulate the IVF process in Kenya and also make sure those women and men who suffer infertility are given an opportunity to get the assisted process at an affordable cost,” said Lay.

wajir CountyCOUNTY: Wajir

NAME: Fatuma Ibrahim

Her county has suffered a wave of violence in the recent past and as she puts it, this has had a negative impact in as far as development is concerned.

Despite the security concerns, there are other issues Fatuma Ibrahim Ali hopes to address as the women representative and this include the high illiteracy levels in the county and gender based violence especially against the women.

“The literacy level in Wajir is less than 20 per cent. My serious concern is how we ensure that every child in Wajir is enrolled in school,” she says.

“We have noted that many parents do not enroll their children to school and this can be attributed to culture and the fact that many families are nomadic. We have been going round the county encouraging and enlightening them on the importance of having their children in school. We hope to work on a very strategic intervention to boost education in the county and one example is setting up boarding schools,” she says.

She also notes that there is a lot of rape and defilement taking place in the county.

“I brought a motion to parliament regarding the defilement cases in Wajir which I hope will be discussed and a solution found. I have attended several public barazas together with other leaders and at least we are seeing something being done since some culprits have been arrested and sentenced to prison. Such kind of action will act as a very strong warning to those who are carrying out these heinous acts,” she says.

Her biggest agenda is to champion for the rights of marginalised communities especially women as well as peace building and conflict management initiatives.

 

-Eve Woman

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