Gusii Women In Leadership Network Celebrates the journey towards Equality

Delegates at Gusii Women Leadership Network Forum on March 8, 2024. PHOTO/Edinah Kangwana.
  • Kenyan women are shattering glass ceilings in politics, business, and civil society.
  • Highlighting these role models inspires future generations and demonstrates the vast potential of women’s leadership in shaping a more equitable Kenya.
  • Female politicians should work twice as hard, seek financial independence and avoid cutting corners.

Kisii is one of the Kenyan communities that has never elected a female leader to parliament, senate, or governor except for the affirmative seat.

As the world wraps up women celebration month, Gusii female leaders held a special forum on March 8 at Kwanza Place in Kisii, to embrace and push for women’s inclusion under the umbrella of Gusii Women in Leadership Network (GWILN).

The event dabbed GWILN high tea drew women from diverse backgrounds, ages, and professions, together with the ones who were differently abled.

Men championing for gender equality, were not left behind, including Amb. Elijah Nyaanga, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Scholar Media Group Africa (SMEGA). SMEGA was one of GWILN collaborative partners in delivering GWILN 2024 International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations.

The founding member and the lead curator of the networking forum, Edinah Nyaboke Kangwana, lauded the individuals who headed to the call as the organization marked its third annual get-together with the specific intention of getting women at the table.

“It marks 29 years today since the great women of the world including women from Kenya sat in Beijing to talk about women’s leadership development agenda, and up to recently I have not witnessed an intergenerational and diverse get-together coupled with powerful conversations like this,” Ms Kangwana remarked.

Drawing her inspiration from trailblazers such as Nyiva Mwendwa, Prof. Wangari Maathai, Zipporah Kittony of Maendeleo ya Wanawake, Charity Ngilu, Martha Karua, Phoebe Asiyo, Catherine Nyamato and present in the room,  Magadaline Mwebi, she openly gave them flowers as she asked young women to set foot on the path already curved by those before them.

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She challenged women to retrospect, and celebrate the hits and misses, as they pick on the lessons learnt to strategize on the next move that can take the gender equality call to the next level.

“As for the Gusii women and Gusii people, we have an opportunity to reflect on what has been the problem on women inclusion in leadership roles.”

“It is in Gusii where we continue to lead in retrogressive cultural practices like FGM, domestic violence, early forced marriages, and women disinheritance among others. We need to act now!” Ms Kangwana further lamented.

Opening the floor to other GWILN founding members, she made an urgent call to action on the need to embrace critical conversations around women empowerment for it plays as a strategic tool to advancing gender equality.

CPM Linet moruri, GWILN secretary and founder member took the participants through the journey of the organization urging other girls and women who were not part of them yet, to consider joining the network.

From Right: CPM Linet Moruri, Carolyne Nyaseti, Edinah Kangwana, Pamela Kintu and Prof. Margaret Barasa, event chief guest. PHOTO/Edinah Kangwana.

She was backed by Carolyne Nyaseti, who narrated her journey as a GWILN member and how it had transformed her life, especially in strengthening her social networks.

Damaris Atandi echoed Nyaseti’s sentiments saying there was need to embrace the GWILN platform, especially for women who were looking for mentors.

Pamela Kintu celebrated the women in the room challenging them to embrace meaningful connections with their elders if they meant well for themselves.

“We do not need to reinvent the wheel but build on the very strong foundations already built by those who went ahead us,” she posed.

Keynote speakers’ message

The forum witnessed nine keynote speakers drawn from diverse areas of specialisation.

Representing Kisii Teaching and Referral Hospital, Margret Mogaka urged women to forge and live a purposeful life, a statement that was supported by Dr. Binti Namai, a reproductive health champion and mental health and wellness advocate, “Despite the struggle for gender inclusion, we need to put a keen eye on our mental health to be effective leaders.”

Dr. Namai, the Kisii Center Manager for AAR Hospital recognized that for sustainable developmemt to be achieved in our communities, there was need to embrace the culture of inclusion.

“Let women, youths, those abled differently and other marginalized groups be let to the table. For the leaders to lead effectively, they must be well physically and mentally,” she said.

Joining the meeting virtually from Nairobi, Janet Machuka, a digital marketing consultant and trainer, emphasized on the need for women to embrace and incorporate technology in their daily lives.

She gave a powerful contribution on personal and business branding, and how to make sales and do business digitally.

“I emphasize on personal branding because I know what it means. Female leaders need to build their brand on different social media platforms that will boost their visibility and networks. The two are important ingredients in our quest for personal growth.”

Esnahs Nyaramba, an award-winning human rights defender urged the participants to believe in themselves so that they can make notable strides wherever they set their foot in.

“I encourage you to believe in yourself, celebrate yourself, keep on improving on yourself, learn from your mistakes even as you serve your communities,” she advised virtually from USA.

Shairoz Shamji, a certified practicing mediator, award winning women and girls empowerment champion, and public health professional spoke on aunthetic leadership.

She urged the participants to embrace honesty, integrity, patience, empathy and team spirit as they serve.

“Shun instant gratification, trust the process. Always know that leadership is a priviledge to serve. Don’t compete nor compare yourself with others, embrace the drive from inside,” she advised.

Amb. Dr. Dominic Obadiah, a humanitarian diplomat and presidential Hero honoree on Philanthropy added that the congregation needed to embrace and develop leadership from a point of service while embracing civility.

“Leadership is servanthood, we all find meaning in life through serving others.”

On her part, Nancy Omweri (Nana), the head of programs at Royal Media Services and the Founder, Breaking the Glass Celing, a women empowerment platform also gave her input.

She challenged women to rise up and push with a zeal and determination to shutter the glass ceilings, overcome fear, imposter syndrome and self sabotage.

“Work very hard and deliver effectively in your respective roles in society,” Ms Omweri noted.

She reiterated on the need to practice DEI +B in leadership development, taking the opportunity to applaud the abled differently who were participants.

Joyce Bosibori, one of the participants with visual impairness represented the voices of the abled differently.

Appreciating the opportunity accorded to her to speak and the invitation by GWILN, and other members of her community to attend, she noted that a number of times they were a forgotten group and reminded the team that disability was not inability.

“The differently abled still have something to bring to the table,” Bosibori stated as she was delivering her speech.

Gladys Mokora, a sign language professional was the volunteer event sign language interpreter.

Prof. Magret Barasa giving her keynote address during the event. PHOTO/Edinah Kangwana.

Prof. Magret Barasa, who was the chief guest drew from her personal experiences and challenged the women to work hard and appreciate themselves for their achievements.

“Don’t over-consult or wait to be praised and celebrated. Celebrate yourself. Don’t surround yourself with hawks and you are an eagle, fly high and find your tribe. Be comfortable with a lean group.”

“Don’t mind cheap gossip, be assertive, confident and courageous. Don’t be a gossiper and don’t entertain gossipers. Self-love is important, look good. In any meeting, you add value. Ask those tough but necessary questions,” Barasa reinforced.

Madam Debrah Osoro, Principal Nyanchwa Girls High School called upon the women leaders to mentor the young women, starting with the young girls in schools.

“Sometimes the young girls make mistakes due to ignorance, misinformation or peer pressure. In this ever-evolving world with many emerging issues affecting the young generation, we need to rise up and show them the way.

Yes, we can role model them so that they can grow and become responsible members of the community,” said Ms Osoro, as she lauded Edinah for organizing such high level event that offered a learning and networking opportunity.

Panel Discussions: Why Gusii Women Leadership Development is not ticking?

From left: Jairus Kibangedi, Founder A Million Hugs and the panel discussion moderator, Judith Ongiri, Ednah Kwamboka, Maureen Moraa Obino, Purity Kirera, Mary Otara and Dr. Magdalene Mwebi during the Gusii Women Leadership Network Forum on March 8, 2024. PHOTO/Edinah Kangwana.

Mary Otara, the pioneer Member of Parliament (MP) Kisii County, Magdalene Mwebi, the pioneer female to raise a hand for an MP seat in Gusii at large, Maureen Obino, 2022 Kisii County Woman Rep. aspirant, Edinah Kwamboka, a Kisii County nominated MCA, Purity Kirera, a political strategist and Director Bomas of Kenya, Judith Ongiri, female politician and Racheal Otundo, a former Kisii County Governor aspirant were the members of the panel.

Opening the session, Mrs Otara opened up on her political journey as a leader, mentor and how the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party was a strategic tool that propelled her to power in 2013 elections.

She remembered her family unwavering support, especially her spouse who was very instrumental morally and financially during the journey, with campaign financing being a tall order for women.

As the only woman against 26 men, Dr Magdaline Mwebi discussed the challenges she faced while campaigning for the Kitutu Chache larger MP seat over a decade ago, a seat she would later emerge in the sixth position.

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From sole financing, Dr. Mwebi used her savings to campaign transversing the entire Kitutu region giving vulnerable families blankets, clothes and shelter.

As this was happening, her male counterparts threatened and coined political propaganda as they spread rumours of why she had so much money and was giving all the freebies.

Delegates at the Gusii Women Leadership Network Forum cut cate gifted by Shairoz Shamji, CEO Bakers Delight, and GWILNF keynote speaker on March 8, 2024. PHOTO/Edinah Kangwana.

Following the loss of the seat, she jumped back to the business that has since kept her afloat as she asked the women not to shy away from anything, saying even losing in an election teaches lessons.

Maureen Obino, a seasoned lawyer, who also vied for Women Rep’s MP seat during the last elections pointed out female political challenges such as sexism, ageism, name maligning, political blackmails and propaganda.

She pointed out that for a female politician to finance her campaign, political parties and political entanglement was quite an unfair ride and posed one of the major challenges.

She however urged women to work hard, create solid networks, embrace continuous personal development, be intentional about entrepreneurship to build financial muscle, and never compromise and cut corners along the way.

Madam Joyce Bosibori airing her views during the Gusii Women In Leadership Network Forum. She noted that a number of times the differently-abled persons were a forgotten group and therefore appreciated GWILIN for the invitation to participate in the event. PHOTO/Edinah Kangwana.

Edinah Kwamboka, nominated MCA in the Kisii County Assembly, touched on the fair portion of challenges women in nominated positions face, be it in county assemblies, parliament or senate where most times the elected see them as lesser leaders, adding that the nominated positions lack resources to help them participate community activities and address challenges.

Purity Kirera, a political strategist and Director Bomas of Kenya, spoke on the need for women leaders to work hard, be intentional about their personal branding, show up and speak on what they believe in, embrace strategic collaborations and importantly be ready to serve including at the grassroots.

Touching on patriarchal systems, Rachel Otundo spoke on her political journey and how the patriarchal structures in Gusii have always hindered her political quest.

Being the first woman to eye a gubernatorial seat, Otundo opened up on the thorns and bumps of choosing a man as her running mate.

Left alone in the last hour, she recalled how she pumped her money to create a brand, produce posters, fund their campaigns together with her colleague only to find herself starting all over again as the man packed and left, a move that demoralized her making her change her quest for another post that did not need a running mate.

Even though she urged women to continue working hard, be financially independent, never stop and be intentional about supporting fellow women.

HER SEPARATE EXCLUSIVE STORY: Women and Leadership: Otundo’s journey in the political space

Representing the young female politicians in the room, Judith Ongiri reiterated the fact that women aspiring to lead especially in politics continue to face challenges and that there was a need to call off the retrogressive cultures that are hindering women from advancing in the political space.

About Gusii Women in Leadership Network (GWLN)

Gusii Women in Leadership Network is a platform for women’s leadership development in Gusii and Kenya at large.

The platform holds space for women’s leadership capacity building through peer-to-peer learning, mentor-to-mentee learning and experiential learning.

It was founded on the need to build and enhance women’s leadership capacity.

The platform stands to contribute to the achievement of gender equality in Kenya and beyond, with a keen interest in Gusii where systemic patriarchy has served as a major hindrance to the women’s leadership and development journey.

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The event had many collaborative partners with AAR Hospital Kisii taking up the premium sponsor position. The hospital offered free wellness check ups to the participants and a wellness talk by the Center Manager, Dr. Binti Namai.

Others include, Minto Foundation that sponsored several womenn to attend, Scholar Media Africa, Ndizi TV, Kangwana Media, Nordic Dew Water, Dynapath Diagnostics, Arise Circle KE, E Generations Photography, A Million Hugs, Jasmine Suites, Picadilly Dry Cleaners, JCM, Bakers Delight, Summer Winters, Women for Peace and Climate Justice, Mayos Pharmacy and EDIKA among others.

Delegates posing for a group photo at the Gusii Women Leadership Network Forum on March 8, 2024. PHOTO/Edinah Kangwana.


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