In the 2013 General Election, nine women were picked as deputy governors in some of the 47 devolved units.
Governors of three of Coast region’s six counties settled on women as their deputies as did Makueni and Kitui in Ukambani.
Governors of Narok, Kericho, Kisumu and Embu counties also picked women to deputise them.
The nine outgoing deputy governors are Fatuma Achani (Kwale), Hazel Katana (Mombasa), Mary Ndigha Kibuka (Taita Taveta), Dorothy Nditi (Embu), Ruth Odinga (Kisumu), Susan Kikwai (Kericho), Evalyn Aruasa (Narok), Adalina Mwau (Makueni) and Peninah Malonza of Kitui.
So what are these nine outgoing women deputy county bosses up to in next month’s General Election?
Even as most governors fell out with their deputies ahead of this year’s General Election, four of the women deputies have stuck by their county bosses, and are in the race to retain the coveted seat.
Those who are in the August 8 race for re-election are Kwale’s Fatuma Achani (who deputises Salim Mvurya of Jubilee Party), Ms Kibuka (who is on the ballot with her bos John Mruttu) and Ms Mwau and her boss Kivutha Kibwana.
In Narok, youthful Ms Aruasa has been retained by Governor Samuel Tunai as his running mate on a Jubilee Party ticket, same case as in Kericho where Ms Kikwai – a former chief executive officer of the Kenya Investment Authority – and her Governor Paul Chepkwony (also of Jubilee), are looking to remain at the county’s helm together.
While Kitui’s Penina Malonza is bidding for her position for another term, she is doing so under a different candidate and party.
Should she and Senator David Musila manage to unseat Governor Julius Malombe, Ms Malonza will make history for having deputised two different county bosses.
She fell out with Governor Malombe of Wiper party who has settled on another woman running mate, veteran educationist Agnes Kambua Musee.
Mr Musila, who left Wiper party, which he chaired after a controversial party nomination, is running as an independent.
READ: Senator Musila quits Wiper party
The women deputies who will be seeking another term with their governors cite the spirit of consultation, goodwill, recognition and mutual respect as the secret behind the apparent good working relationship with their bosses.
Two of them have indicated interest in contesting for the top county seat once their governors complete their constitutional two terms in 2022.
However, the team must first clear the August 8 hurdle.
Ms Achani, a 38-year old outspoken lawyer and energetic politician, says she has an excellent relationship with Governor Mvurya, whom she likes to refer to, especially in public rallies, in her fluent Kiswahili, as “gavana wa nguvu,” (an endearing governor).”
The deputy governor who entered politics in 2013 when she was picked for the position is known and respected by supporters for her loyalty to her boss as well as for her firmness.
She has supported Mr Mvurya all the way and even stood firmly by his side when the governor fell out with his ODM party leadership, and eventually joined Jubilee where she is now an ardent supporter of the party and President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election, in a county that had been considered an ODM stronghold.
“I have had an impressive working relationship with my boss and other county officials and a strong base in the ground,” Ms Achani says.
“And that is why I am confident that my boss will return the favour and support my 2022 bid,” she says, adding that her motivation to go for the top county seat is in part out of concern that women have been marginalised and viewed as people who cannot lead.
Kericho’s Ms Kikwai is an astute administrator known by county staff as a stickler for proper time management and best performances, Ms Kikwai has been tasked by Governor Chepkwony with being in charge of government business.
The relationship between Ms Kikwai and her boss has been amicable all through their first term in office so much so that Prof Chepkwony rejected efforts from some quarters to change his deputy ahead of the Jubilee nominations held in April this year.
“My deputy has done extremely well and I see no reason whatsoever to change her,” Prof Chepkwony insisted during a radio interview in February.
The deputy governor, who was decorated with the Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya (OGW) by former President Mwai Kibaki for her service to the nation in the investment sector, has been a constant presence beside Prof Chepkwony in public events and has won praise for bringing order to the public service sector in the county.
Ms Kikwai chairs four cabinet sub-committees of Public Service, Technology, Health and Finance, which meet quarterly to discuss government business and also chairs cabinet meetings in the absence of the governor.
She heads the newly created Governor’s Delivery Unit that has been tasked with ensuring that all projects are completed in a timely fashion.
Before 2013, Ms Kikwai served as KenInvest CEO for six years. She also served in the Investment promotion Council.
Ms Kikwai holds a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) from Morgan State University (USA) and a degree in Finance (Economics) from Salve Regina Collage in Rhode Island (USA).
In Makueni, Ms Mwau, a former nominated MP and assistant minister in the Kibaki administration, says her close working relationship with Governor Kibwana emanates from mutual respect.
With roots in civil society and with a master’s degree in Development Studies, Ms Mwau says she is also indebted to Prof Kibwana for supporting her unsuccessful bid for Kilome parliamentary seat and standing by her after she was nominated as MP in 2007.
“He volunteered to train my agents on civic education,” the 65-year-old former teacher says.
She also is not power hungry, she points out, and would not be interested in gunning for the top seat “before Prof Kibwana is done with his two terms”.
In addition, she says she believes that her resolve to fight for the rights of women works well in an environment where the county government is stable.
Prof Kibwana has also contributed immensely towards the good relationship he has enjoyed with Ms Mwau, according to supporters who closely follow what goes on in the county.
“I feel recognised by Prof Kibwana and the entire executive committee,” Ms Mwau says.
In Narok, the 33-year old Ms Aruasa did not disappoint in her first term, having made a mark as the first chairperson of the Council of Deputy Governors.
She says she has retained her position to deputise Mr Tunai because she has ensured that her contribution focuses on making his leadership a success.
“The trick lies in always giving my boss the respect he deserves,” says Aruasa, populary known as Narok’s “Iron lady”.
“I treat him for what he is; my boss, and support him to deliver, not being in competition with him,” she said on Friday, having come from Angata Barikkoi on the Tanzania border after campaigning.
In addition, Ms Aruasa says she has contributed a lot in making devolution work in the county that was initially marginalised by successive governments.
“I run a programme that trains and empowers boda boda riders in the county. This has helped me draw a lot of support for my boss,” she says, adding that she has been instrumental in youth and women empowerment in the county.
In Taita Taveta, 64-year-old Ms Kibuka, with about 36-years in public service, her dedication to work and loyalty is said to be among the qualities that led to her retention as Governor Mruttu’s running mate.
Ms Kibuka has also been the county’s executive for Lands and Mining.
The deputy governor is credited for leading her Lands department into persuading Teita Sisal Estate in Mwatate to cede 200 acres to settle Singila-Majengo squatters.
The squatters have been living for over 50 years on the piece of land, which they claim was grabbed from the community by the sisal estate.
The controversial agreement between the county government and the farm accorded Ms Kibuka accolades and criticism.
Embu’s Ms Nditi – who missed the governorship by a whisker when her boss Martin Wambora was impeached by the Senate but later reinstated by the court, has since moved on.
READ: Senate impeaches Wambora
She is battling it out for the Woman Rep seat on a Maendeleo Chap Chap ticket, and has thrown her support behind Mr Wambora’s rival, Senator Lenny Kivuitu, who is also running on Maendeleo Chap Chap.
The former teacher says she decided to try her luck in parliamentary politics since she has had the feel of leading a county.
In Mombasa, Governor Hassan Joho’s deputy, Ms Katana, has since defected to Jubilee Party from ODM and is vying for the county’s senatorial seat.
READ: Joho to blame for my defection to Jubilee – Katana
Their relationship started showing signs of strain last year.
She says she is sure of winning the senatorial seat and has been crisscrossing the vast county campaigning.
In Kisumu, Ms Odinga, has opted not to seek an elective seat, but has joined the campaign team for National Super Alliance (Nasa) presidential candidate Raila Odinga, her elder brother.
Her boss Jack Ranguma, whom she fell out with, is running as an independent candidate after losing in the ODM party nomination to Prof Anyang’ Nyongo, the senator.
Ms Odinga had initially shown interest to run with Prof Nyong’o but he has since picked Mathews Owili from Nyakach constituency.
Additional reporting by Pius Maundu, Ruth Mbula, Lucy Mkanyika and Fadhili Fredrick