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Aisha Jumwa shatters glass ceiling in Kilifi

Former Kilifi woman representative Aisha Jumwa has inspired many women in her county after being elected the first female member of Parliament in Malindi in the August 8 general election.

Jumwa, an aggressive, outspoken, tough, beautiful and fearless woman, has beat all odds to emerge one of the best political heavyweights not only in Kilifi county but at the national level.

During the general election, Jumwa beat seven men to win the highly contested race, setting a record of being the first woman to contest and win in a male-dominated position in the county.

Since independence, Malindi — and Kilifi county at large — has never had a woman elected MP.

Traditionally, women were perceived as weaker beings who could not be voted into such a position, despite the fact that they are the majority of voters.

The first Malindi MP was the late Francis Tuva, who served for two terms until his death, followed by Abubakar Badawy, who also served for two terms from 1992 to 2001.

The third legislator Lucas Baya Maitha, served for one term, in 2002 to 2007, before losing to Gideon Mung’aro, who served until 2013 and, due to the new boundaries created, moved to Kilifi North.

In 2013, Dan Kazungu became the Malindi MP but did not take long, as he was appointed by the Jubilee administration as a Cabinet Secretary for Mining in December 2015.

By this time, Jumwa had already declared her interest in the Malindi seat, and her aim was to defeat Kazungu.

A by-election was held in March last year but the former woman representative did not contest.

She joined other ODM leaders in supporting William Baraka Mtengo, their candidate, to victory.

However, immediately after he was sworn in to Parliament, Jumwa declared war against him and vowed to defeat him in the general election.

True to her words, she made sure to win the ODM nomination ticket, forcing the incumbent MP Mtengo to vie as an independent candidate.

LANDSLIDE VICTORY

Jumwa won the Malindi parliamentary seat after garnering 28,788 votes, followed from a distance by Phillip Charo of Jubilee Party, who got 14,219 votes.

Others included Rashid Odhiambo of Wiper Party, who garnered 4,859 votes, Justus Mwimalu (Kadu Asili) 610 votes, lawyer Richard Otara (UDP) 358 votes, Fuad Kombe (DPK) 150 votes, and FPK’s Benjamin Gunga, who got 128 votes.

During the campaigns, attempts by her male rivals to undermine her as a woman did not succeed.

Mtengo, for example, used to highlight the history of elected MPs in the constituency, saying “Malindi has never elected a woman MP”, and urged voters to reject her.

In some instances, her competitors used to allege that if Jumwa won, men would urinate like women.

All the propaganda did not succeed, and Malindi decided to vote for “the iron woman” not as a woman but as their leader in the next five years.

HOW SHE WON

Her success is attributed to strategies laid out for years on how to conquer the bloc vote of “women”, who are the majority of voters.

Jumwa created women’s groups all over the constituency, came up with different projects and maintained constant contact with them.

This made it easier for her to mobilise them quickly at any time.

The Malindi MP-elect is perceived as a pillar in the Orange Democratic Party for her key contributions in the political arena, which has made her very close to ODM party leader Raila Odinga, Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho and Kilifi Governor Amason Kingi.

During her tenure as woman representative, Jumwa has proven to ODM that she can stand up firm and fight any political battle for the sake of the party.

Her popularity has, however, not come easy. For Jumwa to reach these levels, she had to make many sacrifices, including sacrificing her marriage for the sake of joining politics.

The MP-elect dumped her husband after what she termed a disagreement over her quest to join active politics.

She says the husband was against her political career due to its nature of always moving around and the belief that women who joined politics never respected their men.

Jumwa paid her husband a bull as the ‘dowry’ after his family interfered with their marriage and supported his quest to stop her from taking part in active politics.

“My husband said If I wanted to continue with my life, I should pay him dowry. I took him to the sub chief to state exactly his decision. It was done and I paid the dowry,’’ she says.

I met Jumwa at a restaurant eating pizza in October last year, where she made this revelation.

As we went on with the interview, she seemed not to be regretting the choice she made of divorcing to join politics, as after all, the decision earned her success.

HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

She reveals that many may not be aware but she comes from a polygamous family and almost all members of her family did not go to school because her father was jobless and had many wives.

“It’s only Aisha who is the sole bread winner of all 62 dependents,” she says.

Jumwa, now 41, was born on March 28, 1976, at Takaungu in Kilifi county, where she grew up and married.

She dropped out of school in secondary school but is now studying a bachelor’s degree in international leadership and governance at the International Leadership University.

Jumwa is the fourth born out of 28 children and is blessed with three children, including Alex Karisa, 23, Selina Sidi, 21, and Ruth Kadzo, 11.

Her mother was the second wife and is the third born, but overall, Jumwa is the fourth born in the polygamous family.

She did her primary levels at Takaungu Primary School from 1983 to 1991, when she sat for her KCPE exam.

“In 1992, I joined Ganze Mixed Secondary School, but I dropped out in form two,’’ she says.

It was not until 2011 when she enrolled as a private candidate at Chandaria Hall in Mombasa, where she sat her KCSE exam.

Since she came to power, the legislator embarked on a mission to empower her brothers to sustain themselves.

First, she took some to driving schools and bought trucks that are now doing business in her Takaungu home.

She also bought modern fishing equipment for her 29 brothers, who are fishermen.

Jumwa is also facilitating education of the young ones, who are still in school. One is in Lutsangani, two in Kombeni Girls, one in Ribe Girls and the rest in primary school.

The Malindi MP-elect says she began taking full responsibility of the family in 1997, when she was elected councilor.

PAINFUL PAST

Jumwa never forgets her past and recalls the agony she experienced during her first menstruation period as a young girl from a poverty-stricken family.

“My first pad was leaves of neem tree, because it caught me unawareS and I had no money to buy pads,’’ she said.

On the material day, Jumwa says she was in class when she began bleeding, something which took her by surprise.

To her, she thought the leaves would help.

When elected, she initiated the Aisha Jumwa foundation to help young adolescents with sanitary towels.

HOW SHE JOINED POLITICS

When asked how she managed to join the political arena, a field that had mostly been dominated by men as per the traditions of the Giriama, she says it all started in 1996.

That is when a group of 25 women — the Mawazo Women’s Group — approached her and urged her to join politics to see if she was able.

The women’s group contributed funds through solicitation to help her pursue her dream career of politics.

Jumwa reveals that one influential leader in Takaungu, the late Shariff Alwi, called her and promised to support her in her political battle.

This helped her earn her first political seat of a councilor in 1997, which she retained up to 2007, when she rose to go for a parliamentary seat and lost.

“As a councilor, my biggest project was water that never existed in my area. The remote areas of Takaungu had no water and through my project, it transformed the lives of the locals,’’ she says.

To her, she will remain on record in history as the first woman representative in Kilifi county after the promulgation of the new constitution in 2010.

During the campaigns for the seat, she made many pledges to wananchi, but to her shock, there was no allocation or kitty for them in Parliament like the CDF.

“I came up with the idea of harambees, and Kilifi governor Amason Kingi supported me. We also came up with table banking,’’ she says.

The woman representative also recognises Deputy President William Ruto’s wife Racheal Ruto through her organisation called Joy Walk for their support.

“We partnered with the women on table banking and they are really doing well on micro projects,’’ she said.

Jumwa says through her foundation, she distributes utensils to women and sanitary towels for schools girls.

In the affirmative action cash, the woman representative got Sh49 million, out of which every constituency got Sh7 million in her tenure.

She says the funds were too little and after administration and other expenses, every constituency remains with only Sh4.5 million.

In the funding, she has managed to buy market shades all over the county and bought agricultural facilities, including ploughing machines and a tractor.

“The agricultural machines help in ploughing quickly and are cheap at Sh1,500, down from the normal Sh 3,000. Every woman with physical challenges gets the services free of charge,’’ she says.

Jumwa believes in tackling challenges head-on, provided the people are assisted.

She does not, however, forget that she is a single parent having raised her children alone, despite all the challenges.

The legislator used to stay in Takaungu until early last year, when she moved to her new home in Kakuyuni, Malindi constituency.

She says women leadership has a lot of challenges, but tells women to soldier on.

“Culture, religion and intimidation are there, but if you decide to go into politics, you will make it,’’ she said.

Her partying shot is that she has broken the tradition that women cannot be elected as MPs in Malindi.

When asked why she chose Malindi constituency and not any other in the seven constituencies, Jumwa had this to say. “Malindi is one of my constituencies, so I decided to come and vie here. As a Kenyan I’m free to live anywhere.”

Having made history, she could inspire other women in the county to emulate her and fight for leadership positions without fear.

Already Jumwa has hinted she could be going for the governor position in 2022, though she has not confirmed it.

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