Beatrice Elachi has just achieved another milestone. Her election as Nairobi Assembly Speaker has catapulted her to a key victory in the women’s perennial battle for influential positions.
Ms Elachi burst into national prominence following her elevation to the position of the Senate’s first woman chief whip for the Jubilee Party after the 2013 General Election.
Plunging into elective politics, Ms Elachi vied for the Dagoretti North parliamentary seat in the August 8 polls, where she garnered 36,000 votes, losing to ODM’s Simba Arati. But her association with the ruling party provided her with a soft landing as she was supported to the last man and woman to clinch the Speaker’s seat.
The new role of uniting the 127 Jubilee and Nasa Members of the County Assembly for Nairobi’s betterment is one of the challenges she has had to tackle in her life.
Ms Elachi grew up in Malava, Kakamega County. She learnt Kikuyu and Luhya languages in the process — her parents were from different ethnic backgrounds — which may have come handy in her political career.
Unfortunately, it was not possible to establish some of the details of her early life as she was unavailable for interview despite our arriving at her office as scheduled. Her handlers explained that she had become suddenly busy with political campaigns.
Ms Elachi went to Moi Girls High School, Bokoli in Bungoma County before she moved to Nairobi’s Africa Nazarene University to study for a bachelor’s degree on peace and security. She later graduated with a Master’s degree on governance and security.
She suffered a major setback during her undergraduate studies when her parents separated. She deferred her schooling to assist her mother take care of her siblings. She however went back to school but as a part-time student.
After her studies, she worked with various non-governmental organisations where she crisscrossed the country, conducting civic education aimed at making women voters to understand their role as decision makers.
As the new Nairobi County assembly Speaker, she is keen to prove sceptics wrong by proving that a married woman can successfully play a key role in politics.
She would not talk much about her children: “In Luhyaland you hardly mention the number of children you have but my husband has a major role to fend and feed all our children,” she says.
Certainly, her five-year experience at the Senate has provided her with a deep knowledge on how the relationship between the national and county governments can be harmonised to improve delivery of services to Nairobians.
“Let Members of the County Assembly (MCA) know the voter is very unforgiving and my role as Speaker is to play development not politics. I have to make the House a bi-partisan House whose role is to check Nairobi’s government,” she says.
To win the Speaker’s seat, Ms Elachi got 87 votes against her close opponent, Abdi Ali Abdi who garnered 27. Former Nairobi County Government Chief of Staff George Wainaina got four votes.
“My role is to help create a central path where MCAs, regardless of their party affiliation handle their task of nation-building as one team,” she says.
Ms Elachi believes Nairobi’s enforcement team needs to act decisively at all times to instil discipline among motorists who double-park and those who collude with unscrupulous workers to evade payment of parking fees.
On garbage, the Speaker is looking forward to the recycling of plastics as a cash-minting enterprise. She also wants to see a thorough audit of ablution blocks and garbage disposal in residential houses.
Ms Elachi says there is need to educate the 42 women MCAs in Nairobi on their role as decision makers noting that this will help them to play major roles in national building.
She urges governors to keep off fights with the national government and spend more time improving services for Kenyans.
“Governors’ core role is to improve delivery of services to Kenyans ... If I were one, I would tone down the fights with the national government...” she says.