Former banker Wanjiku Muhia is thrilled by the idea of the Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association (Kewopa) getting a slice of the affirmative action Uwezo Fund to train women.
Although she does not claim credit for Kewopa’s biggest project ever, the Nyandarua Woman Rep is convinced that training, which has been her forte since becoming MP, is the way to acquiring entrepreneurial skills. Although an interview with Kewopa chairperson and Runyenjes MP Cecily Mbarire failed, Ms Muhia confided that Uwezo has funded women MPs to train “a minimum of five counties” after bidding for the tender.
Ms Muhia, who is in Parliament thanks to the 2010 Constitution’s affirmative action clause, terms the tender historic, affirming the power of women’s numbers – albeit still too few at 24 per cent of the 290-member House.
The former Equity Bank Kariobangi branch manager, under whose watch the branch recruited 100,000 clients and realised Sh1 billion in profits in just six months, is an astute saleswoman determined to use her marketing skills in Parliament. The MP has plunged into her legislator job with gusto. Only recently, she went to court to contest a ban on matatus carriers, which Transport secretary Michael Kamau said contributed to road accidents.
Although the Matatu Owners Association had also contested the regulation that threatened women traders countrywide, being some of the main users of matatu carriers, that Ms Muhia financed the case personally testifies to her down-to-earth approach to politics.
In Homa Bay, representative Gladys Wanga is also thinking outside the box. She knows that women’s access to Uwezo funds will remain a pipe dream unless her constituents have vital identification documents. Therefore, the Kenyatta University renewable energy graduate has taken the unusual path of visiting Homa Bay’s 40 wards to make the documents available to women and youth.
“In January, I went with officials from the registration of persons office to help issue IDs, NHIF (National Hospital Insurance Fund) and NSSF (National Social Security Fund) cards,” she said.
They also got birth and death certificates because “if we want our women and youth to access credit and to be empowered, then they must have identification cards.”
She drew the link between health and wealth: “We don’t want women to spend all their money in healthcare, which is where resources really go.”
Nyeri Woman Rep Priscilla Nyokabi, a former executive director of human rights lobby group Kituo cha Sheria, recalls efforts to shut the Dandora dumpsite until two sets of clients withdrew from the case.
“They [residents] were saying: “we understand it’s not right to scavenge; that there are international and environmental standards, including in the Constitution; [we have] a right to a healthy and clean environment, but we’re so hungry today, we need food first”.
“From those conversations with the poor, I was sure a bigger and better space where you can solve more problems was what I needed,” the legislator said, summing up women MPs’ business-like connection of poverty, entrepreneurship and legislation.
“I needed to be in a place where the laws and the budget are discussed,” she said.