From the newsroom to the Senate, Joy Adhiambo Gwendo’s change of careers was dramatic and inspirational.
Joy was thrust into high power politics after TNA nominated her to Senate to represent the youth at the age of 33.
“The nomination came as a surprise to me because there are a million other youths out there who are also capable of doing this work. I accepted the position with humility and with a promise to serve with total dedication to ensure that Kenya is a better place with the advent of devolution,” she says.
For the former Creative Assistant at the Royal Media Services, the foray into politics has been short but fruitful, starting with a two-year dalliance as a founder member of the Democratic Forum Party (DFD).
“I thought of joining politics after interviewing TNA secretary general Onyango Oloo at the Ramogi radio station. I met him several times after that and we talked a lot about the political scene in Kenya. When he told me he was planning to form a political party to empower the people of Nyanza by giving them an alternative voice, I did not hesitate to join him,” says the mother of one.
The nominated senator, who is also the author of a 300-page dictionary that translates Luo to English and English to Luo, says she had to go about her political activities clandestinely because the media house she was working for did not encourage its employees to participate in politics.
“For about two years, I worked with DFP secretly as the head of communications, until the party wound up to join the TNA, after an agreement with President Uhuru,” she says.
The former journalist, who still writes for the Seed, a Catholic monthly magazine, is passionate about the digital transformation in Kenya, and has an interesting idea on how the change can be made.
“I believe mothers are a safe bet for the digital move. I’m working with more than 25 women groups in Kisumu Town East, helping them to embrace information technology. If we are able to change these women in the villages, it will be easy to have the children follow suit,” explains the graduate of Library Science from the University of Nairobi.
The former student of Lwak Girls’ High School says she is excited to be in the Senate that has ushered in devolution, and that her dream is to help ensure the 47 governments are empowered to run their affairs successfully
Before Naisula Lesuuda was thrust into politics through a nomination to the in the Senate, she had become restless, and the comfortable life in Nairobi no longer appealed to her.
The widespread insecurity in the arid and semi-arid areas was the main reason for her discomfort. Her burning passion to do something saw her relinquish her permanent job at the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation to become a lobbyist for peace.
The Nominated Senator’s decision was fuelled by the news that close to 50 people had been killed by cattle rustlers in a village in Laikipia on September 2009.
“I got the news that cattle rustlers had descended on Naibol Kanampiu Village in Laikipia County and killed several people, among them children. Hundreds of cattle were stolen during the morning raid,” the 28-year-old says.
From the moment, she got the news, the graduate of Communication and Community Development at Daystar University was determined to do something to help stop the loss of lives, however small.
“Before that mass killing, there had been frequent reports of rustlers raiding villages and leaving two or three people dead. I felt that the killings had to be stopped, and I had to play my role in ending it.”
Naisula helped to organise a peace meeting between groups of leaders from the counties of Laikipia and Samburu. The forum gave birth to the Laikipia Peace Caravan.
As the Caravan spread its message of peace in the two counties, cases of cattle rustling, and the killings that usually accompanied them, went down significantly among the communities in the area.
Naisula was convinced that this success story could be replicated in other parts of Kenya where there were conflicts between different communities.
“We felt that we needed to expand the caravan to include other parts of the country, and we, therefore, encouraged our members to replicate what had been accomplished in Laikipia and Samburu in their own regions,” she says.
From the initiative, many other peace caravans were formed in the previously hot spot areas of places like Kuria, Isiolo, Marsabit, Transmara, Nakuru and Naivasha.
For her efforts, the former student of Sing’ore Girls Secondary School in Elgeyo Marakwet County was recognised by former President Mwai Kibaki and awarded the prestigious Order of the Grand Warrior. The then 25-year-old was the youngest Kenyan woman to receive the presidential order.
When The National Alliance ( TNA) nominated her to Senate, she became the youngest member of the House. She has also been elected vice chairlady of the Kenyan Women’s Parliamentary Association.
She has recently started the Naisula Lesuuda Peace Foundation to encourage the youth to aim for a peaceful environment.
Thirty-year-old Martha Wangari’s political journey dates back to her school days. But her debut in national politics came in 2007 when she founded and headed the Warembo na Kibaki. The group was aimed at attracting the youth vote during former President Kibaki’s 2007 re-election camapigns.
The mother of one says her nomination to Senate is just the beginning of a career that she holds with passion.
“I have been involved in politics since my days at Kahuhia Girls’ High School. I held various leadership positions, and was known for speaking up for what I believe me,” said Wangari.
The Kibaki re-election offered the then vice chair for academic affairs at the Students Organisation of Nairobi University time to shine in an area that makes her feel at home.
“Politics is my cup of tea, though I do not remember it running in the family. I’m a champion for proper governance, because I believe every Kenyan, and especially the young people, have a role to play in this area, either by checking the leadership or participating in it,” she says.
The Bachelor of Science-Statistics graduate was a founder member and national treasurer of the United Democratic Forum ( UDF), the party that sponsored Musalia Mudavadi for the presidential contest in this year’s General Election.
“Our party was the only political unit to have offices in all 47 counties. We wanted it to depict the face of Kenya,” Martha says proudly.
Just last month, this fiery young woman, who is also the vice chair of the Sessional Committee on Devolved Government, petitioned the Parliamentary Service Commission to ensure that nursing women parliamentarians have their staff when they travel on official duty.
“With more young people joining Parliament, it is important that those who have babies be made comfortable while they are carrying out their responsibilities,” said Martha, who has a seven-month-old baby.
As a result of her petition, the National Assembly will be providing space for nursing mothers at Parliament Buildings and at Kenyatta International Conference Centre, where the Senate sits, to allow the young mothers feed and take care of their babies while attending to their House duties. The rooms will be located close to the chambers of the respective Houses.