Activist Igoki’s scars fire up fight for women’s rights

Having been forced out of local politics by violent attacks in North Imenti, Meru, Ms Flora Igoki now intends to run for municipal office in Canada.

Three months to the 2007 General Election, Ms Igoki came face to face with cruelty after she was attacked in the outskirts of Meru town.

Ms Igoki, now a Kenyan-Canadian, was vying for the North Imenti parliamentary seat when a gang of three men attacked, shaved her head, mixed the hair with human waste and forced her to swallow it.

POLITICS
Despite being warned to bow out of the race, she went all the way to the ballot but her being hospitalised ate into her campaign time.

Even before she could heal from the pain of the attack, her only child was murdered in Nairobi in early 2008.

Despite being humiliated, tortured and losing the election, Ms Igoki never lost her passion to make an impact in the society.

“I wouldn’t say I have abandoned politics entirely. Probably I will run for a municipal office in Canada in the near future,” she says.

VIOLENCE
Ms Igoki currently lives in Canada where she is a celebrated author, story teller and inspirational speaker who has several awards to her name.

“I went to Canada on a scholarship to study women’s rights in 2009.

“After the one-month course at the University of Toronto, several organisations engaged me in a country-wide speaking tour, she says.

And adds: “Despite the raw wounds of political violence and loss of my only child, I passionately spoke about participation of women in politics, challenges, gender equality.

“Since my arrival in Canada, I have been active in several Canadian organisations, sharing my expertise and participating in public education campaigns on human rights,” she says.

AWARDS
She has been using her past experience to seek peaceful solutions.

In 2013, she was awarded a prestigious International Peace Medal by the YMCA Canada and later won the Top 75 RBC Canadian Best Immigrant award.

And recently, Ms Igoki was among the recipients of Top 100 Black Women to watch in Canada award organised by Canada International Black Women Event.

“I am turning the scars into stars. As a victim of horrible violent acts, the need for peaceful solutions is never far from my thoughts.

“I am leveraging on my experience as a fundraiser, grassroots organiser, an educator and a women’s and girls’ rights defender as well as a survivor of violence to become a powerful role model in Canada and around the world,” she explains.

YOUTH
Her passion is to end discrimination and all forms of violence against women and children, thus enabling participation of women in all spheres of leadership.

She is the Founder of a Canadian non-profit organisation, The Wanawake Violence Prevention Team-East Africa, that partners with organisations in North America to advocate women’s and girls’ rights, support healing and engage the youth in prevention of violence.

“I also sit in the Community Advisory Committee of the St Michael’s Hospital, a mental health facility, where I create awareness on suicide and mental illness to help decrease stigma associated with suicide.

“I intend to replicate this in Meru through a programme dubbed ‘Canada-Kenya Building Bridges of Understanding 2018’. I hope this pilot project will later be adopted in other parts of Kenya,” she says.

LEADERSHIP

The human rights advocate says she recently helped raise money for Equality Effect, an organisation that partnered with Kenya human rights lawyers to pursue a rape case in Meru, which had dragged on for six years.

Through her personal experiences, Ms Igoki has been inspiring audiences to donate millions of dollars to human rights education and policy changes in Africa and around the world.

She advises Kenyan women politicians to stand out among their male counterparts by actively engaging in leadership.

“We need women to push into the party decision making organs, right inside the boardrooms, to advocate issues that affect women.

“I am happy with the women representation in the 11th Parliament, where they have been heard.

“It is encouraging that more women are going for the governorship seats,” she observes.

“My advice to women politicians is to take every stone thrown at them and build a bridge.”

Ms Igoki hopes that Kenyans will reap from the opportunities provided by devolution of resources.

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