What you need to know:
- Joyce Osogo, who is also an avid singer, runs different empowerment drives in her county, including Pad a Girl, Bathe a Boy and Mama County Back to School.
- In her maiden speech in September last year, Bensuda called upon MPs to avoid theatrics and serve Kenyans with unwavering honesty, transparency and accountability.
When the fiery Joyce Atieno Bensuda Osogo, the woman representative of Homa Bay County, takes the floor of the National Assembly, even her fellow Members of Parliament find themselves in the crosshairs of her hard-hitting speeches.
While reacting to President William Ruto’s memo to Parliament, where the Head of State asked MPs to expedite the passage of the two-thirds gender rule, Bensuda called her fellow MPs “pretenders”.
“When I was campaigning in Homa Bay, I promised the residents that I would push for the passage of the two-thirds gender rule. This Parliament does not need further debate on the matter. We should cease engaging in sideshows,” she said.
Article 81 of the Constitution stipulates that not more than two-thirds of members of elective and appointive public bodies should be of the same gender. Despite several attempts, no law has been passed to address gender disparity in Parliament, 13 years since the Constitution was promulgated.
Most Bills failed because of quorum hitches, with some male MPs accused of frustrating the two-thirds gender rule Bills. “I want to see all male MPs at the forefront of championing the implementation of the two-thirds gender rule. Women are leading this country, from the villages to our homes. When a woman takes the lead, everything runs smoothly. Let us not return here to discuss this issue called the two-thirds gender rule,” she said.
In her maiden speech, weeks after being sworn in in September last year, Bensuda didn't hold back – she eloquently called upon MPs to avoid theatrics and serve Kenyans with unswerving honesty, transparency and accountability.
“Some people often misconstrue my assertive speeches as arrogance. I am not arrogant in the slightest; this is simply my authentic communication style, ingrained from birth. It's an unalterable facet of my character, deeply rooted in my background among strong-willed individuals," asserts Bensuda, an educator whose experience spans the entire spectrum of education – from primary and secondary schools to technical training colleges and universities.
Bensuda holds a PhD in Project Planning and Management from the University of Nairobi, the institution where she also acquired her master's in project planning and management in 2007, and a Bachelor of Education (Geography and History). “I taught in various primary schools, including Migingo Primary and Sango Academy in Homa Bay County,” she says.
She was nicknamed Bensuda and has since adopted it as part of her official name. Before pursuing her education in the institution of higher learning, Bensuda was a primary school teacher, having graduated from Kamagambo Teachers Training College (TTC) in 1995.
“Before joining TTC, I was a tailor, hawked juice and sold mitumba – there was no time for idling around. While in secondary school, I was an actor and singer – in fact I still sing.”
She was picked from the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology by Kisumu governor Anyang’ Nyong’o to head the Roads and Public Works docket as County Executive Committee (CEC) member.
“I have taught as a lecturer on University of Nairobi's Kisumu campus. I currently serve on defence panels for master's and bachelor's programmes. I have supervised 14 master's students, am currently supervising one PhD student, and have worked with 28 undergraduate and 34 diploma students," she says.
Political leadership dream
It is while serving in Kisumu County that the urge to join elective politics reignited. She says the pressure to join politics, however, started when she was a young woman.
“Prof Nyong’o reignited my political ambitions when he picked me for the CEC position. But I once saw in a vision that one day I would become an MP. Therefore, this position I’m holding was unstoppable and irreversible,” she says amid laughter.
“There was a time I was interviewed by the Luo Council of Elders from Homa Bay as to why I wanted to become the county’s woman rep. I told them that it was a call from God and when I assess my ability, I confirm that I’m up to the task. But some of them seemed sceptical about the call from God. When I tell people that I saw a vision, most of them think I’m joking or just seeking attention; but I’m the one who saw it.
“As I was growing up, people kept telling me that one day I would be a great leader. Later, they started pushing me to join politics, but I declined because I was focused on my education and my vision was to become a professor.”
Bensuda sits in Decentralised Funds Accounts and Communication, Information and Innovation committees of the National Assembly. “Leadership is in my family – my great grandfather was a paramount chief and my father was a district livestock officer. My mother was a teacher.”
She was too certain of winning in the last election to the extent she drafted her strategic plan on how she was going to serve residents before she declared her interest in the seat.
“My strategic plan is anchored on 10 points, including environment, water support services, health and sanitation, education, SMEs and entrepreneurship, construction of modern markets and food and security,” she says.
“I have planted over 2,000 trees in various schools in Homa Bay County, and distributed over 60 water tanks. Just yesterday, I gave out 30 tanks in Ndhiwa Constituency.”
The legislator uses her three programmes, namely Bensuda Pad a Girl, Bensuda Bath a Boy, and Mama County Back to School, to support schoolchildren.
“I distribute sanitary towels to girls and soaps to male learners. So far, I have given bursary to over 3,000 learners from secondary schools and institutions of higher learning. All the learners that get bursaries are being mentored by professionals so that they see the importance of education.”
Bensuda plans to draft a law that will help Kenya achieve 15 per cent forest cover within the next decade.
“I have observed that leaders have been talking about increasing forest cover without a proper approach. In Homa Bay, I have established nine groups of environmental youth ambassadors and they are doing a wonderful job. I want the government to adopt this workable approach by engaging youths in greening the environment.”
Her critics in Homa Bay have been bashing her for distributing plastic basins, biscuits and blankets. But Bensuda defends herself, saying she buys the donations using her own money.
“I do charity work because we are instructed so in the Bible – to take care of the sick, to help the needy, among other good things. I buy these things using my own money, not from the NGAAF (National Government Affirmative Action Fund) budget,” she says.
“When I was campaigning, I was giving women basins. A wise woman knows the value of a basin, but the lazy ones don’t know. A basin is used to carry vegetables, tomatoes, water and other things. The women who did not get basins during the campaign are on my neck; therefore, I’m giving them now. In fact, I want to start distributing those basins in trailers so that I can close that chapter.”
She says the elderly have been enjoying her blanket donations and she only gives the biscuits to children who attend her functions.
“The biscuits I carry are meant for children. Money, basins and blankets are given to adults, but what do children get? Those attacking me are not aware of my agenda. I have built houses for some people, but my critics don’t mention that; they only talk about blankets and biscuits.”