For Sotik MP Joyce Laboso, to be a politician was the last thing she had intended.
But that political ‘‘accident’’ could now make her the first woman governor in the expansive Rift Valley region and the drop in the ocean of Kenya’s male dominated political field.
Tuesday, the National Assembly Deputy Speaker won the Jubilee Party ticket for Bomet County, beating her closest challenger, former MP Julius Kones, by more than 42,000 votes.
She garnered 115, 289 votes against Dr Kones’ 72, 546. Mr Stephen Mutai came in at a distant third with 8, 895 votes.
Dr Laboso is now set to battle it out with the incumbent Isaac Ruto of Chama Cha Mashinani (CCM) and who has since joined the opposition as one of the five leaders of the National Super Alliance (Nasa).
The woman who rose from the classroom at Egerton University 10 years ago to the high table of politics in the country, today claims her inspiration has always been to erase the bad perceptions about women leaders in the country.
The focus was governorship and senatorial seats, where none of the women who contested for these seats in 2013 was elected.
“Governors want the electorate to believe that no woman should be elected to that position since there are representative seats set aside for them,” she remarked in an interview with the Nation recently.
“The Constitution does not bar women from being governors,” she added.
Dr Laboso says she was first bullied based on “cultural barriers.’’
CONTEST IN KISUMU
When she announced her intention to contest for Bomet governor’s seat last year, some politicians started going round arguing that she should go contest in Kisumu County, where she is married.
Others told her to go for the ‘‘ready-made’’ Woman Representative seat where only women compete. She rode that storm, but some of the women organisations she worked with say it is only the first hurdle.
“Her victory, we think, is just the outcome of our work with female political leaders around the country, to educate the masses about the ability of our women,” Ms Josephine Mongare, the chairperson of the Federation for Women Lawyers in Kenya (FIDA-Kenya), told the Nation on Tuesday.
“This means the gap between men and women for political contests is being closed. Of course more work begins now for her to actually clinch this seat,” adds Ms Mongare.
Fida-Kenya has been working with the Kenya Women Parliamentarians Association (Kewopa), the body that brings together female MPs, to educate voters about the elusive gender balance.
In 2013, Fida sued to have County Assemblies nominate more women MCAs to balance the one-third gender rule. Somehow, counties succeeded, but Parliament has failed that requirement three times.
“Dr Laboso gives us hope that we will have more women on the ballot in August. We have seen more women have offered to compete for seats other than woman representative and we think they only needed an entry point. The most unfortunate bit is none of the women has offered to be presidential candidate,” the Fida boss told the Nation.
Dr Laboso, 56, only joined politics after the death of her sister and former Sotik MP Lorna Laboso in a plane crash in 2008.
Before then, she earned her living from teaching at Egerton University after attaining a PhD in gender and language education from the University of Hull in the UK.
A profile on Parliament tracker, Mzalendo, says her she has prioritised development of roads, education, water and electricity within the constituency and “holds close to heart” women issues.
Now she says her intention is to make sure Bomet people see more benefits from devolution. She has to beat current governor Isaac Ruto, whose political path has recently seen him cross to the opposition.
Bomet has about 252,000 voters scattered in Soti, Bomet Central, Bomet East, Chepalungu, and Konoin constituencies.
Seen as a stronghold for Jubilee, going by the 2013 election results, it will be a bruising battle to see how Dr Laboso fights it out with Mr Ruto.