Meet the ex-chief who wants to be Mathare MP

 Juliana Kamwara who wants to be MP for Mathare Constituency after serving Mathare residents as a chief.

Photo credit: Photo | Pool

What you need to know:

  • After serving residents of Mathare in Nairobi as a chief, Juliana Kamwara now wants to serve them as Member of Parliament.
  • Among her biggest achievements as chief was the rehabilitation, vocational training and transforming lives of youth who had dropped out of school, were jobless, or victims of drug and alcohol abuse.
  • Her competitors are using online and offline tactics to intimidate her.

Juliana Kamwara is a woman on a mission. After serving residents of Mathare in Nairobi, as a chief and helping to transform lives; she now wants to serve them as Member of Parliament.

Ms Kamwara says while the journey to winning the Mathare Constituency seat looks tough, she is confident her track record will help her win the hearts and souls of the electorate.

She boasts of her many good performance while serving as a chief.

“One of my biggest achievements during my tenure was to promote the rehabilitation, vocational training and transforming lives of youth who had dropped out of school, were jobless, or victims of drug and alcohol abuse,” says Ms Kamwara who is vying on a Wiper ticket.

Sleepless nights

In conjunction with the Ministry of Education under Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and the Ministry of Youth under the Kenya Youth Employment and Opportunity Programme (KYEOP), they were able to reach more than 5,000 youth aged between 18 and 35 years. This programme has significantly improved the lives of many young people, and helped them to turn away from crime.

Her campaign against drug abuse is another feather to her work.  As a chief, she led a campaign against illicit brewers and organized criminal gangs that were giving the residents sleepless nights. She managed to dismantle them, while others were arrested and prosecuted. 

How did she do it? To fight the drug problem, Ms Kamwara formed Mathare Youth Anti-Drugs organization five years ago. Its objective was to spearhead the war against the vice. The programme’s success impressed many, but a few were unhappy.

Uwezo Fund

“During a recent campaign and meet-the-people tour in Kosovo (within the slum), some irate youth recognized me and forced me to apologize for driving them out of town, saying they will campaign against me. But I told them the move was not meant to destroy them, but to make their lives better,” she says.

True to her promise to better their lives, Ms Kamwara has managed to link the youth, women, and the business community to devolved funds like Uwezo and Youth funds.

Popularly known as Mama Mathare, Ms Kamwara says access to such funds and education for the children in these low-income residential areas is the best gift to the people.

Security is another big issue on her agenda. Under her Kamwara Initiative, she plans to ride on the Nyumba Kumi initiative to use her model of having 10 leaders to represent every 100 households for purposes of knowing their needs and how to address them. This will involve bringing on board everyone, especially the professionals and business community to share their views on how to develop the constituency.

Political violence

Mathare has a population of more than 200,000 people and is second biggest informal settlement in the capital city. It has 116,000 registered voters in six wards; namely Kiamaiko, Huruma, Ngei, Mabatini, Mlango Kubwa and Hospital Ward.

Like other women political aspirants, Ms Kamwara has to confront many challenges while campaigning.  Among them is political violence.

“As women aspirants, we want peace, and are not keen on hiring political goons to harass our male rivals because the same can be used against you. We want to be the change makers,” says the former teacher who holds a diploma in Biology and Agricultural Engineering from Kenya Technical Teachers College (KTTC).

Her competitors are using online and offline tactics to intimidate her. She says the intimidation and harassment does not stop at the physical level but extends to the cyberspace where some female aspirants have been attacked by hired bloggers. At one point, a blogger who had maligned her had to apologize when she confronted him.

Greenhorn

“My biggest challenge, just like it is for most female aspirants, is lack of funds. There are times I have traversed the constituency until the fuel in my car runs out!”

Experts say the cost of running a parliamentary seat campaign is about Sh10 million, and could be even higher in the capital city.

Understanding the inner workings of politics is another challenge Ms Kamwara faces.

“I must admit that I am still learning the ropes as a greenhorn in politics. I was recently shocked to discover that my name was not on the Wiper Party register at the last minute! I had to call, protest and demand to know what was going on,” says Ms Kamwara.

Her competitors have also tried to stop her from addressing major political forums that would enhance her visibility. Sometimes she is forced to demand for a chance to do so.

She says that such incidents sometimes make her feel scared when she is on the campaign trail. She recalls how some hired goons once threatened to undress female aspirants in public for exercising their constitutional rights.

Even as things get tough, two things are her greatest consolation. She feels she has an upper hand over her rivals by virtue of having lived and worked in the area for more than 10 years.

The second one is the backing of her husband, children, extended family members and staunch supporters, who are standing with her every turn she makes.

“I am now more confident of myself and of winning the August 9 General Election.”

“I don’t believe in telling lies to woo voters; they know me as their former chief who does what she says.”

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