BOLD WOMAN: I defied cultural barriers to be Pokot's first female Speaker

Thursday September 28 2017

Speaker Catherine Mukenyang with her

Speaker Catherine Mukenyang with her predecessor Robert Katina after she was sworn in. PHOTO| OSCAR KAKAI 

By OSCAR KAKAI
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In the Pokot culture, it is unacceptable for a woman to order a man to sit down.

Any ordinary woman who dares to do so risks running into trouble.

However, for Ms Catherine Mukenyang, it is not about cultural beliefs but the demands of her new job.

The new West Pokot County Speaker has not been and will not be held back by such beliefs.

Her job demands that she maintains order in the assembly, and she promises to do just that. Ms Mukenyang is not afraid to order members to observe decorum and stick to the assembly rules, their gender notwithstanding.

The 46-year-old has made history as the first woman to be elected to the county assembly’s speakership, as MCAs  broke from the tradition of rewarding men with top jobs.

GIRLS NOW BEING APPRECIATED

“This shows that girls are now being appreciated in Pokot. I have entered the history books of this county as the first woman Speaker. Members of the county assembly have conquered all negative cultural practices today that discriminate against women in our society,” says the mother of four.

She beat former Speaker Robert Katina to the seat. She had earlier run for the county’s woman representative seat on a Kanu ticket but lost to Jubilee’s Lillian Tom.

Ms Mukenyang, a former county executive for Health and Sanitation,  before she was sacked by former Governor Simon Kachapin, says she is ready to offer transformative leadership in the assembly.

“I will work without favouritism to deliver services to the West Pokot people,” said the Speaker who is a close ally of West Pokot Governor John Lonyangapuo.

Speaking to the Nation, Ms Mukenyang says she is working well with the members although she reveals that most need guidance to understand the rules and what is expected of them in the assembly.

Women and girls from the community, which she comes from, still struggle to acquire education owing to cultural beliefs that have restrained them from going to school.

ROLE MODEL

However, the Speaker hopes to use her position to reverse this. “I am a role model to many women and girls in the county. I will work towards empowering them and making them believe in themselves,” she says.

She urges residents to see her as a leader of an important county office and not to let the fact that she is a woman distract them .

“They should know that even if I am a woman, I am their leader,” she says.

So far, Ms Mukenyang has presided over three crucial motions in the county assembly.

She presided over the election of the majority and minority leaders and the chairpersons of different committees. Seker MCA Thomas Ng’olesya was picked as the majority leader while Kapchok ward representative Peter Lokor is the new minority leader.

The Speaker says she will use her good working relationship with Prof Lonyangapuo to pass bills that will accelerate development in the county.

“I want to make sure crucial bills are passed in the assembly to help develop our county. We invite locals to be coming to the gallery (assembly’s) which has a lot of space to listen to our debates. The debates are always aired live on vernacular radio stations,” she says.

She also plans to take the assembly debates closer to the residents.

“We want locals to see how their ward representatives work,” says the leader.

Nominated MCA Elijah Kaseuseu praises Ms Mukenyang for her good leadership skills in the assembly.

“She makes the house jovial and members of the assembly don’t sleep while we debate serious things. She is eloquent, commanding and not biased,” says Mr Kaseuseu.

He says the Speaker is proactive and calls meetings if any problem arise.

“All members of the county assembly like her. She knows her job well. She gives us enough time and equal chances to speak despite party affiliations,” says the ward representative.

Masol ward representative Ariong’o Lopurena says Ms Mukenyang has performed well during her days in office.

“We are glad about the constructive kind of work she is doing,” he says.

Elected leaders from the county, both from the Jubilee and Kanu parties, have praised the new Speaker.

“We are happy about our first female Speaker. We don’t want party politics and we shall support her in her new job,” says Pokot South MP David Pkossing.