Roselinda Soipan Tuya: Key career moment for Environment minister


Environment and forestry cabinet secretary Roselinda Soipan Tuya. FILE PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO | NMG

Nothing could have prepared Roselinda Soipan Tuya, 42, for the challenging tasks at the evolving Ministry of Environment when she was appointed the Cabinet Secretary by President William Ruto in September last year.

A few days after her appointment, her first assignment was preparing Kenya's agenda at and delegation to the world's climate meeting COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.

The magnitude of the assignment was underscored by the fact that Kenya led the continent's push in ensuring the setting up of a loss and damage fund for those grappling with the most devastating impacts of the climate crisis for the first time after more than four decades of lobbying.

Last week was yet another key moment in her tenure at the Ministry of Environment as the country hosted several heads of state and over 10,000 delegates at the three-day inaugural Africa Climate Summit.

Kenya became the first country to hold such a forum in collaboration with the African Union.

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After helping President Ruto deliver a successful Africa Climate Summit last week, Ms Tuya's next big assignment is preparing team Kenya for the world's climate conference (COP28) set for November in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

It has been a series of daunting tasks, but Ms Tuya says she relishes every opportunity to make a difference.

"I love to be part of positive change in a way that it impacts lives. When I am in a position where I have a say and have the space to do the right thing, I go on overdrive," she says.

After close to a year in the office, Ms Tuya says she also feels she has grown, thanks partly to President Ruto's mentorship.

"I could never ask for another boss. He pushes you out of your comfort zone. He rolls his sleeves and gets his hands dirty to ensure things get done and accomplished. Anyone who works for or with President Ruto and does not grow cannot find help elsewhere. Dr Ruto is a destiny shaper," says the mother of four.

It has also helped that she is doing something she has both the technical competence and passion for.

She graduated with a Bachelor of Law degree from the University of Nairobi in 2002 and later obtained a diploma from the Kenya School of Law. In 2004, she was admitted to the bar as an advocate of the High Court.

But her passion for environmental law pushed her to apply and win a scholarship to pursue a Master's degree in sustainable international development at the University of Washington in Seattle, US.

Her first job was with a non-profit organisation where she worked as a legal officer, coordinating environmental and land issues concerning governance, taking part in various regional and international forums apart from winning many land-related court cases.

She later joined the United Nations as a volunteer specialist, where she developed policy briefs focusing on human rights abuse among Kenyans, such as the infamous Tana delta environment cancer case in Marsabit caused by oil spills in the county.

Like most people from pastoralist communities, tending to cows, sheep and goats was part of the Environment Cabinet Secretary's upbringing, which made her fall deeply in love with nature.

In her formative years, Ms Soipan attended Ololulunga Primary School in Olentutu, Narok County, an institution set up by the World Bank to support pastoralist communities. She sat her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examination in the school and emerged as the top girl in Narok.

She joined Kenya High School after transferring from Moi Girls High School due to health complications and then sat her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams in 1998.

The first Maasai woman to be a Cabinet minister, Ms Tuya is the fourth daughter of 15 of former Narok South MP Samson Ole Tuya.

And, as they say, the apple doesn't fall from the tree.

After a working stint at USAID, she joined elective and competitive politics in 2012, winning the Narok Woman Representative seat.

Last September, having abandoned her quest to vie for the Narok gubernatorial seat to campaign for President Ruto's bid for Kenya's top job, she was nominated as the Environment, Climate Change and Forestry Cabinet Secretary, taking over from Keriako Tobiko who hails from the neighbouring Kajiado County.

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On where she sees herself in the next 10 years, she told the Business Daily: "The world needs fixing from many fronts. I pray that I will still be in a position of influence because fixing that world needs focus, consistency and diligence. I can offer these."

Besides her busy schedule running the affairs of the Environment Ministry, Ms Tuya also seeks to maintain a work-life balance.

"As a mother of four, the biggest challenge has been to strike a good balance between the demands of my job and giving my children quality time and attention. I know there is no such thing as succeeding in my work life and failing to raise my kids well. I have to succeed in both.

I pray a lot to strike this balance. I have a solid family backup. During the times I have to be away from my children for work. I also travel with them whenever I can when they are on holiday -- even when I am travelling for work because it helps them understand and appreciate, especially when I can't spend time with them," she said.

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