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Women pushing the envelope as deputy governors

Saturday August 31 2019
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Deputy governors from left: Fatuma Achani (Kwale), Majala Mlagui (Taita Taveta), and Adelina Mwau (Makueni). They are helping steer development in their regions. PHOTOS | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By NYAMBEGA GISESA

In the 2017 General Election, the number of female deputy governors reduced to seven from the nine recorded in the previous polls.

Female deputy governors who got re-elected alongside their bosses are Evalyn Aruasa (Narok), Fatuma Achani (Kwale), Dr Susan Kikwai (Kericho) and Adelina Mwau (Makueni).

Alongside Ms Majala Mlagui, those who got into office through the 2017 general election are Cecilia Mbuthia (Nyandarua) and Yulita Mitei (Nandi).

In Nyeri County, deputy governor Caroline Karugu was nominated in 2018 after her predecessor, Mutahi Kahiga, was sworn into office as governor following the death of Wahome Gakuru in a road crash.

In some of the counties, the female deputies are engaged in the daily running of county affairs while in others, they are regarded as flower girls who are there to be seen but not heard.

MAJALA MLAGUI

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Ms Mlagui has it easy in Taita Taveta County.

In her often tight schedule, the 37-year-old is as busy as a bee as she carries out her duties at the Taita Taveta County government, where she is the deputy governor.

When her boss Governor Granton Samboja is not around, the soft-spoken Software Engineering graduate from the University of Sheffield, England, steps in to chair the county executive committee meeting in a team in which all members are more experienced and aged than her.

“They never judge me because of my age. In the meetings and in the county, I run the duties of the county as instructed by my boss,” she says as we sit down for the interview.

But when Governor Samboja is around, the deputy governor, who is also a gemologist, serves the extra duties as the County Executive Committee member in the department of Public Service and Administration, which oversees the running of the county.

Before that, she held a similar position but in the department of Mining and Industrialisation. Away from the county, she has also seen her national profile rise.

Last month, she was elected chairperson of the Wiper Democratic Movement (WDM) youth wing, a unit that aims at empowering youth in politics.

Other than that, she is also one of the country’s leading activists for the economic empowerment of individuals in the grassroots involved in mining, cattle-ranching and forest conservation.

Ms Mlagui says that her schedule is proof that they are not mere flower girls.

“I normally have very little time for myself because of the numerous responsibilities. We are working extra hard so as to kill the notion that women are there just to be seen and not to heard,” the politician, who is still single and jokes that she has become tired of looking for a man to marry her, says.

ADELINA MWAU

Makueni Deputy Governor Adelina Mwau is among the few assistant county chiefs who have never had a tiff with their bosses.

She is among the few leaders who stood by Governor Kivutha Kibwana during his first term in office when he faced impeachment from the County Assembly.

“There is no major decision that is made in Makueni County without me being consulted,” the former nominated MP and assistant minister says.

Mrs Mwau, who was among the founding members of the Coalition on Violence Against Women (Covaw), has used her position to initiative various projects aimed at empowering women.

“Makueni is the first county to establish a Sexual and Gender-Based Violence Recovery Centre (SGBVRC), which deals with matters of sexual and gender-based violence,” the former teacher, who co-authored a training manual on gender and reproductive rights for the World Health Organisation (WHO), says.

Governors should evaluate how they treat their deputies, adds the deputy governor, who has a Master of Arts degree in Development Studies.

Mrs Mwau, a seasoned politician, looks forward to vying for the position of woman representative in 2022 or for any other political position.

“I am a politician and I will definitely be on the ballot in 2022. I will also be supporting Governor Kibwana for the presidency. He has shown that he can be a good manager and leader who should be supported to be the next president.”

FATUMA ACHANI

When her boss Governor Salim Mvurya retires in 2022, Kwale Deputy Governor Fatuma Achani, who has become a household name in politics in the Coast region, hopes to step into his big shoes.

“We have built this county from scratch with Governor Mvurya since 2013. I am the right person to continue cementing his legacy,” the human rights lawyer, who served as legal counsel and programme officer at FIDA Kenya, says.

Just like other female leaders from the Coast region - such as Malindi MP Aisha Jumwa and Likoni MP Mishi Mboko - who have made a name for themselves through political toughness, Mrs Achani prefers to take the bull by its horns.

She says that she is keen to reverse a culture where women are viewed as unable to lead and in which they are easily cowed into submission.

The second-time deputy governor lists offering bursaries to students as one of the ways she has used her position to empower the girl child.

“Kwale was one of the counties where the chances of a girl going to school were among the least in the country. We are now offering bursaries to each and every student going to university and to national secondary schools. We are also running a programme of encouraging the youth to pursue technical courses,” she says.

EVALYN ARUASA

Despite meeting plenty of eligible bachelors in her daily routine as the deputy governor of Narok County, 36-year-old Aruasa says that she is not getting herself a spouse anytime soon.

“For now, I am concentrating on my work. That is the priority,” Ms Aruasa, who was the first chairperson of the Council of Deputy Governors, says.

When not carrying out her official duties, the trained lawyer offers legal counsel to organisations that deal with children and women’s rights.

Her outspoken nature complements that of her boss, Governor Samuel Tunai, a former government spy who is rather soft-spoken and reticent.

“I am yet to decide on my political future as from 2022. I am now helping the governor to deliver on his campaign manifesto,” she says.

SUSAN KIKWAI

Whereas in the national government Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i oversees the implementation of government projects and chairs a meeting which brings together Cabinet secretaries, Dr Kikwai plays a similar role in Kericho County where she is the deputy governor.

Dr Kikwai, a former Managing Director of Kenya Investment Authority (KenInvest), has been tasked by Governor Paul Chepkwony with coordinating county government business on top of being the head of the Governor’s Delivery Unit.

“As the coordinator of county government business, I am busy ensuring that Kericho County remains a destination for investment and that we continue to rollout our development agenda for the benefit of the people of Kericho,” she says.

Dr Kikwai, the daughter of former Kipkelion MP William Kikwai and a former university lecturer, is said to be silently working on taking over from Prof Chepkwony after he completes his tenure in 2022.

YULITA MITEI

When Deputy President William Ruto was on a tour of Nandi County last week, Governor Joshua Sang introduced all local leaders present except his deputy, Dr Yulita Mitei.

And before that, the governor and his deputy have attended other functions whereby the distance between them has become increasingly visible.

In the last three or four months, the uneasy relationship between the 49-year-old academic and her 34-year-old boss has become so visible to the point of concern for the residents.

Word on the street is that the governor has cut the taps for any resources flowing to the office of his deputy.

The reserved and conservative deputy governor, who is a former Chemistry professor at the University of Eldoret, had initially indicated interest in running for the governorship seat but later opted to back Mr Sang.

CECILIA MBUTHIA

As first-time Nyandarua Governor Francis Kimemia faces stormy times, his deputy, Ms Cecilia Mbuthia, who should be helping the county boss run the county, is missing in action.

There are even rumours that Ms Mbuthia is intending to vacate the seat and head back to her former employer, the United Nations.

Locals claim that Ms Mbuthia was last seen in public on June 1 during Madaraka Day celebrations at Ndaragwa stadium after which she has rarely been seen at the county headquarters or spotted in any other public functions.

“I am not able to take interviews now. We can talk in two weeks’ time,” the newcomer in politics, who boasts vast international networks, responded when we sought to interview her.

CAROLINE KARUGU

Former beauty queen Caroline Karugu now settled as Nyeri DG

A year after being sworn into office, Nyeri Deputy Governor Caroline Karugu seems to have settled in well and established a rapport with her boss, Mutahi Kahiga.

Dr Karugu, a former chief executive of Jabali Microfinance, became the first deputy governor to be appointed after an election.

The former Ms Tourism accompanies the county boss to various functions and is involved in the running of the county.

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