What you need to know:
- Deputy Governor Achani came into the political limelight after the 2013 General Election as one of the pioneer female deputy governors. She has served in the position since.
- Vying on a UDA ticket, her candidature is largely motivated by a desire to consolidate the gains already made by the incumbent, who has endorsed her.
With less than two weeks to election day, Fatuma Achani’s prospects of becoming the next governor of Kwale County are promising. Several opinion polls have shown that she is the candidate to beat come August 9.
The deputy governor is known to her supporters as a performer and the best fit to succeed her boss, Governor Salim Mvurya.
She came into the political limelight after the 2013 General Election as one of the pioneer female deputy governors. She has served in the position since.
Vying on a UDA ticket, her candidature is largely motivated by a desire to consolidate the gains already made by the incumbent, who has endorsed her.
“We have a solid legacy of development set by Governor Mvurya and as he exits from the office, I am the only other person who is better placed to further this development agenda,” she says.
Education and empowerment
“There is still a lot to be done, including tackling issues of access to education, health, clean water, infrastructure, and women empowerment.”
On education, she plans to increase the number of students covered under the ongoing Elimu ni Sasa initiative. “We have done very well in education. Under this initiative, we are sponsoring 4,000 students in national schools. We have already given full sponsorship to 3,000 students in universities.”
On women empowerment, the county has established village savings and loans associations. “We started small but now have 6,000 groups supported by the county government.”
According to Achani, the initiative has seen women pool their money and get loans at low interest rates. “It is a simple but sure way of empowering rural women. Anyone able to contribute something can access a loan from her peers.”
Achani and her team have gone ahead and trained the women in how to form companies to benefit from government tenders. “We now have several groups that have formed companies and therefore will benefit from the 30 per cent of all public procurement opportunities in the county reserved for youth, women and persons with disabilities.”
If elected, she plans to enhance newly established health facilities and equip all dispensaries with maternity wings and staff houses. “We have started an oncology centre at the Kwale Referral Hospital, which has yet to be to be completed. I will not only complete the centre but also will ensure the renal unit is fully equipped.”
Water and food production
To respond to the perennial water problem in the area, Achani plans to do more dams in the dry areas of Kinango and Lunga Lunga. So far, the county has covered many homes with piped water, but she is afraid sustainability of such water is very low.
“I am planning to do more dams in Kinango, parts of Lunga Lunga and other areas so that people can engage in irrigation and become self-reliant on food production.”
In addition to dams, Achani has huge plans for the infrastructural development. “We will tarmac more roads to promote personal and regional development, and enhance access to services and markets,” she says.
“We need to make sure there is continuity, and, therefore, I am the only candidate who can forge ahead with this agenda. I have the experience having served as the first deputy governor in the county.
“I know where Kwale was, where it has reached and where it is supposed to go. I have traversed the entire county and I know what needs to be done. I have participated in all the budget processes from 2013 to date.”
But to succeed, Achani believes she has to work with residents. She pledges to operate an open-door policy and incorporate their views. “We have units at the village level run by village administrators. I plan to set up village councils to work with the village administrators and ensure every voice counts.”
She is banking on her track record and says most of her opponents have nothing to show despite holding senior positions in the public sector. It is this development record and the overwhelming support from women, the incumbent, local MPs and most of the community members that is contributing to her high ratings in the opinion polls.
Perhaps ability to make time with her constituents despite her busy schedule is another factor endearing her to many voters. Her humble demeanour has also made her appeal to the electorate and enabled her to relate well with the communities and understand issues affecting them.
She easily walks into ceremonies and joins women in cooking without anyone noticing she is a deputy governor, appearing like any other woman in a rural setup. This, Achani says, gives her an edge in having advanced knowledge and first-hand information on issues affecting the people.
“My happiest moments are when I am with other women sharing ideas and discussing our issues as women and mothers.”
Many are not happy with her popularity. She says her opponents and their supporters are subjecting her to verbal abuse and online violence. “My opponents have always spread unfounded propaganda and rumours about me, organising people to heckle me whenever I address public gatherings.
“It is very disappointing, but, being a lawyer and having trained women candidates through Fida-K, I know this is an old gimmick that has always been used to intimidate female candidates.”
According to Achani, her opponents have also been using the mosque to propagate a narrative that a Muslim woman should not be allowed to seek leadership position.
“They have been using sheikhs to spread the same messages but I have looked for other sheikhs and church leaders to counter this narrative.” But she has managed to get Council of Imams, Kwale County, to denounce this narrative.
To women seeking elective positions, Achani says that their only weapon is to be closer to their communities. “If elected be available and deliver on election pledges.”
She wants women not to behave like men while on the campaign trail. “Calling it a day at 6pm as a woman may seem like a disadvantage as men go on campaigning way into the night. But the idea is to concentrate on what works for you. The strategy can protect you from physical violence.”
With a win a heartbeat away, Achani wants civil society organisations to deploy more observers in counties where women candidates are running.