What you need to know:
- While growing up, Kerubo never envisioned herself as a uniformed officer.
- She always wanted to be an administrator or a teacher.
Florence Kerubo Omundi-Momanyi is the first female Deputy Commissioner General of Kenya Prisons Service.
Kerubo, who joined the prisons department in 1987 as a graduate cadet in the rank of chief inspector, holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Anthropology from the United States International University Africa (USIU).
In 1990, she graduated with a Master’s degree in Social Development Planning and Management from Swansea University, UK. Her thesis was titled Women in Prisons: Advocating for Non-custodial Sentences for the Defenders. It was to advocate for rights of women serving petty offenses for them to go home and take care of their children.
But while growing up, Kerubo never envisioned herself as a uniformed officer. She always wanted to be an administrator or a teacher.
Her maternal grandfather was in the military and her paternal grandmother was a very aggressive woman who hailed from a leadership family. All that didn't attract her to the profession, but living with her uncle did.
After completing high school, she went to live with her uncle who was a policeman. Often she would iron her uncle's uniform, a chore she always did between 1pm and 2pm when the sun was out and bright. Not earlier, not later.
Her uncle's shoes also had to be thoroughly polished and he’d look very neat and clean in the uniform. From this experience, she developed a liking for the sharpness of those in the disciplined forces.
Growing up in a family of many girls, her grandfather always insisted that women must be empowered. Her dad used to equally encourage her to go to school, not for the job as the job would always find her if had the right qualifications.
"He always said whoever has beddings will never miss a place to sleep – and that is the inspiration that actually has brought me to where I am today," Kerubo recalls.
Ms Kerubo, who has an enviable experience in correctional management and one who has been credited with advocating for opportunities for the disabled, the marginalised, and the vulnerable, says defending and speaking for marginalised group is a natural thing to her.
When she was appointed as director, Gender NGOs and Sports at the Prisons Headquarters, her first assignment was to spearhead gender mainstreaming, upgrading of day care centres for children, accompanying their mother's to prisons and championing the rights of vulnerable offenders in Kenyan prisons.
Being that the prisons are mainly male-dominated, Ms Kerubo observes that there has been a lot of misunderstanding when it came to fronting women issues because all the positions were held by men.
They would make decisions for women, design and make the female uniforms, shoes, and never got it right. She was determined to change this.
She also says she fights for the rights of women because she has also been subjected to intimidation in the pas, particularly so when she came back from the UK after acquiring her Masters degree.
The clamour for multiparty democracy in 1992 coincided with her return to the country to serve in the department. She says somehow she was not wanted around.
“I faced a lot of hostility, but I stood my ground. I had qualified for the job and no amount of intimidation would put me down,” she says.
Interestingly, her career highlights revolve around being there for people who are going through grief. One such incident was the Garissa University College terror attack of April 2, 2015.
She flew there and mourned with the parents while at the same time assuring them that the government would do everything in its powers to see that justice was served.
A clip from this episode went viral.
For Kerubo, a typical day at work revolves around receiving reports from all the prisons in the country as early as 6:30am. She then responds to whatever needs to be addressed.
She also consults and briefs her boss, Commissioner General of Prisons Wycliffe Ogallo, on all matters she handles. Often, her day does not until around 7:15pm.
Ms Kerubo's faces lights up when she speaks about her family, which she says is her greatest support system with her husband a reliable source of advice.
She says her extended family is always praying for her and cheering her on.
Ms Kerubo also says that her son jokingly tells her she needs to upgrade given her new status.
During her free time, you’ll find her either reading a book, travelling or in the church.
A staunch Catholic, Ms Kerubo, believes her strong faith has helped her get solutions whenever she is faced with a challenge. Even at work, once in a while she locks herself up in her office and prays. She says it makes her feel so much better.
The one thing she wants to be remembered for is giving a voice and championing the rights of the vulnerable in the society.
She believes everyone, however small, has a contribution and it is only fair for everyone to be given an equal chance to make their contribution.
A strong believer of women's capabilities, Ms Kerubo is a focused individual who is hardly distracted by the sideshows. Whatever she sets forth to do, she accomplishes.