What you need to know:
- Umra Omar, a native of Lamu who wants to become the first female governor in a county where male chauvinism is real.
- She says she won’t allow the region’s selfish, demeaning mentality and culture continue denying women a shot at leadership.
- In 2014 at the peak of Al-Shabaab attacks in Lamu, she founded the Safari Doctors, an organisation that delivers medical care and health education to Bajuni and Aweer or Boni minority communities in Lamu’s Boni forest.
“I have learnt a lot from the inauguration of Kamala Harris, the Vice-President of the United States, which makes me view everything as possible regardless of age, gender or someone’s status.”
“It’s a milestone that ought to be celebrated by all. It has presented an opportunity for us to reflect on what we can learn about leadership from the first black woman to hold such a big office.”
These are the words of Umra Omar, a native of Lamu who wants to become the first female governor in a county where male chauvinism is real.
The 37-year-old mother of two, has already declared her interest to run for the county top seat come 2022.
She makes history as the first female Lamu gubernatorial aspirant since the devolved system of governance came into place in 2013.
Ms Omar says she won’t allow the region’s selfish, demeaning mentality and culture continue denying women a shot at leadership.
“That’s why I am willing to be the talk of town but achieve the target of becoming the first female Bajuni to contest for the county top seat,” says Ms Omar.
In Lamu, male chauvinism has over the years made able women shy away from even attempting to vie for top political positions, including governor, MP and senator over the fear, stress and intimidation that comes with it.
During each General Election, many women in Lamu have been witnessed resigning themselves to only pursuing what are considered the softer and easier positions such as the MCA positions and others.
Ms Omar says Kenya has many strong women with the ability to lead the country at various levels, but the lack Constitutional and societal support, making their efforts almost futile.
She challenges women in Lamu and the country at large to rise to the occasion and go for top leadership positions anyway.
“I am a Bajuni woman but that won’t deter me from pursuing what I feel is right. I believe a good leader must not be afraid of the obstacles before them. I, therefore, encourage fellow women here not to let the immense chauvinism weigh them down,” says Ms Omar.
Born in Mombasa in 1983, the first born in a family of three daughters was raised in Tchundwa village in Lamu East Sub-county.
She attended Tchundwa Nursery and Primary School in 1989, before being transferred to Aga Khan Primary School, Mombasa between 1990 and 1996.
She then joined Rusinga School, Nairobi from 1996 to the year 2000.
Immediately after completing high school, Ms Omar was admitted into the United World Atlantic College (UWC) in Wales in the United Kingdom to study International Baccalaureate program between 2000 and 2002.
She then earned a scholarship to attend Oberlin College in Ohio, United States, where she completed her first degree in Neuroscience and Psychology.
She later joined the World Learning Institute in Vermont where she pursued her master’s degree in Social Justice in Intercultural Relations.
After completing her studies, Ms Omar came back to Kenya and engaged in humanitarian and conservation activities.
In 2014 at the peak of Al-Shabaab attacks in Lamu, she founded the Safari Doctors, an organisation that delivers primary medical care and health education by boat, air, and land to Bajuni and Aweer or Boni minority communities in Lamu’s Boni forest.
In 2016, Ms Omar was named a Top 10 CNN Hero. Then the following year, she was named the United Nations in Kenya Person of the Year along with the rest of the Safari Doctors team.
Other awards and recognition she has so far received include Safari Doctors, African Leaders 4 Change Award, 2017, Top 40 Under 40 in Kenya, 2017, OKayAfrica’s 100 Women 2017 and WEF Young Global Leader in 2019.
Among her main goals for the Lamu community include bettering the living standards for all, with a focus on improved access to healthcare, education, land rights and a well conserved environment.
She also intends to strengthen local economies by significantly tapping into the Lamu Port (Lapsset), blue economy, leveraging technology, clean energy and ensuring food security.
Ms Omar is also focused on fostering a united and thriving people of Lamu with appropriate infrastructure, security apparatus and investment in women and youth.
Raya Famau, an activist in Lamu is excited about Ms Omar’s declaration to contest for the gubernatorial seat.
Ms Famau termed the move as positive to women in Lamu.
“Chauvinism is selfish and suffocating. We can rise and overcome all the chauvinism thrown our way and lead this county and country too. I support Umra Omar’s move. There is absolutely no harm in having a woman as a governor, MP, senator or even a head of state,” says Ms Famau.