Eleven days ago, Serah Kioko made history swearing in 345 Members of the 13th Parliament on September 8.
Although she is acting as the National Assembly Clerk, she became the first woman to perform that role.
“I was actually quite apprehensive as I walked into the Chamber at 9am because I was not sure what to expect. I was, however, prepared to respond to whatever questions or concerns members would raise,” said Ms Kioko, who is also among the four candidates shortlisted for appointment to the parliamentary service post.
The task involved standing for six hours administering oaths to the MPs, many of whom were first-timers and had to be guided in the process.
If any of the two women on the shortlist of the Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) is appointed, she will break the male dominance in the National Assembly Clerk’s office stretching back to independence and perhaps when the office was created during the era of the Legislative Council (Legco) in 1907.
Ms Kioko, now, is battling four other contenders for the job. In the shortlist, there are two female and two male contenders awaiting appointment by the PSC, with the approval of Parliament.
A Clerk is also in charge of the financial expenditure of the National Assembly, a role that requires an office-holder with a mix of skills. This person implements all policies and advises the Speaker while presiding over the deliberations of Parliament and is also the custodian of journals and records of the House. MPs look up to the Clerk for advice on matters relating to parliamentary procedures.
If a female is picked for the top parliamentary service job in Kenya, she will join the likes of Nenelwa Mwihambi who made history last May as the first woman to hold the position of National Assembly Clerk in Tanzania since the parliament was established in 1925.
“Since parliament was established almost 100 years ago, she is the first woman to become the National Assembly Clerk,” The Citizen reported.
Ms Kioko has about three decades of experience in parliamentary service having been a clerk assistant, director for procedural and legislative services, and deputy clerk.
Ms Kioko said although a nerve-racking job, the beauty of it all is that “she likes confronting challenges and trying to provide solutions,” and that Parliament operates within Standing Orders, tradition, precedent, and the Constitution. Once you have mastered them, then one is good to go.
“Standing Orders are made by members and they are bound by them,” she said.
For instance, she was ready with all the required details, when she overruled Kasarani MP Tom Kajwang’ on the eligibility of Moses Wetang’ula to contest the Speaker’s post.
Away from work, she said her free time is spent bonding with her family, especially her two daughters, “who I am trying to teach that they do not need anyone to affirm or validate them. That they are enough just as they are.”
The role-model effect is crucial because younger women are looking up and seeing someone like them succeeding. And Ms Kioko has a lot to tell young women who are inspired by her work.
“They have to believe that they can and know they can,” she said, adding that young women should cease struggling to fit in and strive to stand out, and never doubt their value.
Besides spending time mentoring young women, she endeavours to maintain a lifestyle that they would emulate.
She recalls a time when her daughter was once asked while in kindergarten what she wanted to be when she grew up and she said her mother’s job.
“From then on, I became conscious about my lifestyle as it says a lot even when I am silent,” she said.
A high-jumper in her youth, a sport where one jumps over a horizontal bar placed at measured heights without forcing it out of position, she has made great strides in her parliamentary service career and is now aiming for the top.
“I used to be a good high jumper when I was in high school,” said Ms Kioko, who has an MBA and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Egerton University.