She was the first female Cabinet minister in independent Kenya, and she took it with gusto and style.
The 72-year-old veteran politician — currently the Women’s Representative for Kitui County — caused quite a stir in 1995 when she travelled to the women’s conference in Beijing and took a hairdresser as a part of her delegation.
When the country rose in hue and cry, led by the media, over subjecting Kenyan taxpayers to unnecessary expenditure, she brazenly defended her action, arguing that as the leader of the Kenyan delegation and a Cabinet minister, she must take care of her appearance and ensure that she looks good all the time.
Mrs Mwendwa was named Minister for Culture and Social Services after the 1992 General Election by former President Daniel arap Moi. Her appointment not only gave her a special position among women, but was an added feather to her privileged life.
Mrs Mwendwa is the widow of Kitili Maluki Mwendwa, Kenya’s first black Chief Justice who resigned in 1971.
Educated at Alliance Girls High School, Mrs Mwendwa was first elected MP for Kitui West in 1974. She lost in the 1979 elections but her husband took over in a by-election and won again in the 1983 General Election until 1985, when he was killed in a road accident.
Nyiva made a comeback in 1992, representing Kanu, and defended the seat in 2002 on a Narc ticket. In 2007, she contested the ODM-Kenya party primaries but lost to Mr Charles Mutisya Nyamai.
In the March 2013 elections, she was elected Women’s Representative on a Wiper Democratic Party ticket.
Ms Mwendwa married into a family of prominent politicians. When her husband, Kitili then MP for Kitui West, died in 1985, he was succeeded in the subsequent by-election by his brother, Kyale Mwendwa. His other brother, Eliud Ngala Mwendwa was also a former Kenyan minister.
In the region, the Mwendwas had a long-standing friendship with former Ugandan President, Dr Milton Obote’s family.
In 1985, when Dr Obote was overthrown by Gen Tito Okello, he first took refuge in Kenya and stayed with the Mwendwas before flying to his exile in Zambia.