Homa Bay, the county where women have broken leadership barriers

What you need to know:

  • The devolved unit has a female governor, three women MPs representing single constituencies and six others elected MCAs.
  • The commanding officer for County Critical Infrastructure Police Unit is a woman, and out of nine sub-county police commanders, three are women.

Homa Bay is perhaps one of the few counties on the path to meeting the two-thirds gender requirement in key leadership positions.

Some of its women have broken the glass ceiling to be in positions previously dominated by men. From politics, through national government administration, to security, more women are likely to rise, with the current ones having set the pace for the up-and-coming leaders and future generations.

At the top is Governor Gladys Wanga, who made history by becoming the first woman governor in Nyanza after the August 9, 2022 election.

Together with Anne Waiguru (Kirinyaga), Susan Kihika (Nakuru), Wavinya Ndeti (Machakos), Kawira Mwangaza (Meru), Fatuma Achani (Kwale) and Cecily Mbarire (Embu), she has certainly opened door for election of more women governors in the region.

Ms Wanga is confident that she will lead Homa Bay for 10 years. “Let nobody cheat you that I will get tired on the way. My dream of transforming this county cannot just be achieved within the first term in office,” she says.

At the constituency level, voters re-elected Millie Odhiambo (Suba North), Lilian Gogo (Rangwe) and Eve Obara (Kabondo Kasipul) as their members of Parliament. Voters showed confidence in them and gave them another term.

Until 2017, there were no multiple female MPs from the county at the same time. Former Karachuonyo MP Phoebe Asiyo paved the way.

She was elected to Parliament in 1980, and held the seat until 1983, when Parliament was dissolved. Ms Asiyo was re-elected in 1992 after the return of the multi-party system and served until 1997.

Six elected MCAs

A record six female MCAs were elected in Homa Bay. Two previous houses were dominated by men as women only had a chance to be nominated. In 2013, only one female was elected. The number increased to two in 2017.

The current ones are Joan Ogada of Kojwach, serving her second term; Alice Winga (Kabondo West); Monoflorita Ondiek (Homa Bay Town Central); Dorine Aoko (East Kamaga); Susan Onyango (Gwassi South); and Sophie Salim (Lambwe).

Besides politics, the security sector is another area where women rule. The commanding officer for County Critical Infrastructure Police Unit (Cipu) formerly Administration Police (AP) is a woman.

Ms Betha Wesaya has led a team of hundreds of Cipu officers from 2019 when she was elevated to the county commander position. She previously served as the Homa Bay Cipu sub-county commander from 2015.

“I was transferred from Machakos where I served under the same ranks. I got elevated to a county commander after being in Homa Bay for three years,” Ms Wesaya says.

As a female police boss, other female officers look up to her. She says she is approached by junior female officers when they need help. “Women can easily share their problems. Female cops are always afraid of approaching their male bosses.”

Ms Wesaya’s position has further proved that women can lead. When working, Ms Wesaya, besides giving directions to junior officers, engages in team play with her counterpart from the regular police, Samson Kinne, other police departments and County Commissioner Moses Lilan where security issues are concerned.

She encourages other policewomen to work hard and be counted as commanders. “I am a role model to a number of junior police officers who have dreams of serving at my position. It is a challenge to them to work hard to reach where I am,” Ms Wesaya says.

Police officers

Besides the Cipu commander, Homa Bay has other senior officers who serve in high ranks. Out of nine sub-county police commanders, three are women. They are Lilies Wachira (Rachuonyo South), Lydia Parteyie (Rachuonyo North) and Magdaline Chebet (Rangwe).

Ms Judith Achieng Ojijo joined the list of female administrators when she was installed as assistant chief of Lower Korayo in Rangwe. Rangwe Deputy County Commissioner Alfet Jillo lauded residents for entrusting women with leadership responsibilities.

“I am proud that the sub-county is headed by women from the parliamentary seat to security. I always walk with my head held high knowing that people in Rangwe know the value of women leadership,” Ms Jillo said.

Gender activists say the trend where more women are taking up leadership positions is an indication that Homa Bay is on the path to achieving the two-thirds gender rule.

Zahra Hassan, chairperson of the Community Aids Transformation Alliance, says having more women in leadership will help eliminate vices that threaten the future of teenage girls.

She challenged the women leaders to mentor schoolchildren to encourage them to work hard.

“All schoolchildren should have role models. This will be possible if women in leadership have one on one engagement with them at school,” Ms Hassan said.