Mwea MP: Dust devil pushed me to leadership roles

Mary Maingi: My mum becoming blind prepared me for leadership

What you need to know:

  • Mwea MP shattered the glass ceiling last year by becoming the first woman to win the Mwea parliamentary seat, which had eluded female candidates.
  • She ran on the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket and trounced six opponents, including her predecessor, Kabinga Wathayu of Jubilee.

On one Saturday morning, a whirlwind swept across Kiarukungu village of Tebere location in Mwea, Kirinyaga County.

A seven-year-old Mary Maingi had accompanied her mother to their farm. And as the dust devil wreaked havoc, some particles entered her mother’s eyes, marking the start of a prolonged eyesight problem.

Ms Maingi, the current member of Parliament for Mwea Constituency, says her mother would frequent several hospitals. However, as fate would have it, she became blind two years later and could no longer do casual jobs to meet her family’s needs.

“This was the most devastating thing to us as a family. It was a major blow to us; our mother was very instrumental in our survival,” Ms Maingi says in an interview with Nation.Africa.

Her father's meagre pay as a catechist of a local Catholic church could not sustain the family. Being the eldest in a family of five, she had to step into her mother’s shoes of taking care of her siblings.

Ms Maingi says she resorted to small-scale business, selling arrowroots and sugarcane on weekends. Every Saturday, she would trek to Marura market to buy arrowroots and sugarcane.

On early Sunday mornings, she would boil the arrowroots and cut the sugarcane into small pieces and carry them to the local church where they worshipped and sell them after the Mass.

“I became the mother of the family. My siblings had to be looked after and I had to step into my blind mum’s shoes. It was a daunting task but I thanked God that I managed.”

Every Sunday, she discloses that she would go home with Sh40 from the sale of arrowroots and sugarcane. Out of this, Sh30 would be profit. “The business was booming and the money I got really went a long way in helping in supplementing my father’s meagre income to take care of my siblings.”

Looking back, she says God used their tribulations to prepare her for leadership roles. From that young age, Ms Maingi has never shied from taking up leadership roles in places that she has worked.

Last year, the soft-spoken lawmaker made history after she was elected the first female Mwea MP since Independence. She ran on the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) ticket and trounced six opponents, including her predecessor, Kabinga Wathayu of Jubilee.

She beat the odds to win the male-dominated race after garnering 50,667 votes against her closest rival, Mr Wathayu, who received 31,735.

On the day of this interview, she has a packed schedule. She has to issue bursaries to four secondary schools and use the visits to mentor students and sensitise them to the importance of education. She says she ventured into the murky world of politics after identifying a leadership gap that needed to be bridged.

“I realised that the leaders were not doing what the people of Mwea were interested in. I then decided to offer myself for leadership to right the wrongs that I was seeing.”

Her political journey, however, was not a bed of roses but one riddled with myriad challenges. She says her debut was a baptism of fire, characterised by insults and character assassination.

“I, however, ignored my detractors and focused on my mission to capture the seat. It is sad to note that even now when I am the MP, some people still call me names and spread propaganda against me.”

The marketing guru is thankful to residents for ignoring the smear campaigns and electing her. Boosting education ranks top of her development agenda. She says she is determined to ensure all boys and girls get education, with the needy ones getting bursaries.

Digital transformation agenda

Promoting the adoption of digital technology by residents is also a key item on her agenda. In partnership with some development partners, the lawmaker says she will soon be establishing a digital village that will see women and the youth being trained so that they can benefit from online jobs.

Residents are also set to benefit from agribusiness, with the MP saying plans are almost complete to East African Breweries Limited engage contracted sorghum farmers from the constituency.

She says locals from the dry part of Mwea will farm sorghum and cotton. Currently, only 23.1 per cent of Mwea is under irrigation, a situation making farming difficult. The area is mostly known for rice farming.

Her message to young women seeking to venture into elective politics is to ignore the naysayers and focus on their goal.

“I would tell them to ignore propaganda as it does not last long. They, too, should not engage in propaganda and as two wrongs do not make a right. They should keep going and be unstoppable.”

She traces her political journey to 2019 when she vied for the vice chairperson of the Vet Lab Golf Club and won. The lawmaker prides herself on development projects she initiated even before being elected to Parliament, among them the establishment of Kiarukungu Primary School.

“To the people of Mwea, you made the right choice by electing me as your MP. I am going to do everything humanly possible to live up to your expectations.”

Prior to joining politics, Ms Maingi has been a dynamic entrepreneur. She ran HP Insurance Brokers Limited for15 years as a founding managing director. She was a unit manager at AAR Health Services before establishing her own company.

Maingi went to Karira Primary School before proceeding to Kabare Girls’ High School for her secondary education. She holds a Bachelor of Commerce and Master of Business Administration, both from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa.

The lawmaker is currently pursuing a doctorate in business administration from the same university. She also holds a diploma in insurance from the College of Insurance and a diploma in public relations from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.