Prof Oduol: Politics is not a game, it's an opportunity to change lives

Nominated MP Prof Jacqueline Oduol who wants to be the next Alego-Usonga Constituency Member of Parliament.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Prof Jacqueline Oduol is banking on her performance as Nominated MP to win the Alego Usonga parliamentary seat.
  • She sits in two parliamentary committees through which she has sponsored two bills addressing issues close to Kenyans’ hearts: Good governance and land.

As the August 2022 elections beckons, Prof Jacqueline Oduol is banking on her performance as Nominated Member of Parliament (MP) to win the Alego Usonga parliamentary seat.

She believes that the many development and legislative achievements she has recorded in the past five years, are what she needs to endear herself to the more than 100,000 voters who will decide the next Alego Usonga MP in the August poll.

Says Prof Oduol, an Associate Professor of Linguistics and African Languages: “I have been tried and tested and proved that I can deliver for the people of Alego Usonga.”

As MP and member of the Parliamentary Committee of Sports, Culture, and Tourism, she played a key role in the construction of a sports academy in her constituency. She has also used her networks to empower and build capacity of her people, especially those categorized as special groups.

Her support to Abedo Women Group through table banking and training them on strategic plans, financial management and marketing farm produce, for example, has seen their livelihoods change for the better.

Land boards

She sits in two parliamentary committees through which she has sponsored two bills addressing issues close to Kenyans’ hearts: Good governance and land. One of the bills is the Public Finance Management Bill 2020 that seeks to introduce provisions that engender the policy, planning and budgetary process in the country.  The other is the National Land Commission (Amendment) Act, 2021 that seeks to establish county land management boards to manage public land.

She has also assisted in the development of various projects through partnerships with non-governmental organizations, national and county government officials.

“If I am elected, I will ensure that if the CDF (Constituency Development Fund) is not enough to help school fees for the vulnerable, orphans and the destitute, I will use my networks to get well-wishers and donors to chip in. Education is the best weapon to help the children to have a bright future,” she says.

Her performance has endeared her to the constituents, who now fondly refer to her as ‘Min Alego Usonga’ (Mother of Alego Usonga).

Prof Oduol believes her experience in the government, academia, and social spheres will be valuable in delivering greater things for the constituents.

Vulnerable groups

She served as Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Children and Social Development between 2008 and 2013, a position that helped her contribute to policies and actions that have impacted positively on women, children and other vulnerable groups.

At the global level, Prof Oduol is the President of the High-Level Advisory Group on Counter-Terrorism and Violent Extremism Committee of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). She also serves as the Africa Geopolitical Region representative and previously was Vice President of the High-Level Advisory Group

Even with such enviable standing in the society, politics has not been easy. Like many other women leaders, patriarchy, culture, attitudes and perceptions of her community about women leadership, remain challenges that need to be surmounted.

Says Prof Oduol: “We still have people who tell me that they recognize my leadership competence, but they would rather vote for me for the Siaya Woman Representative’s position! I don’t believe leadership has anything to do with gender. Leadership is about solving problems, developing relevant policies, and serving the people.”

She is, however, happy that a lot is happening, and society is slowly becoming receptive to women’s leadership.

Elected women

The recent trend where scores of women have been elected as governors, senators, MPs and Members of the County Assemblies is a pointer to that. She cites Homa Bay and Murang’a counties which elected three women MPs each in 2017.

They include Milly Odhiambo (Suba North), Lilian Gogo (Rangwe) and Eve Obara (Kabondo Kasipul) in Homa Bay County, and Alice Wahome (Kandara), Ruth Mwaniki (Kigumo) and Mary Njoroge (Maragua) in Murangá.

However, funding her campaign, the culture of gonya-gonya (handouts), and electoral violence, remain among her biggest headache in the 2022 election. These are among the challenges that have been weaponized to deter women from competitive politics.

But Prof Oduol says the challenges offer her opportunities to learn. “I have learnt from my previous elections attempts that I must know wheremy weakness and strength lie, who my viable opponents are, and then develop effective strategies to win voters to my side.”

The MP says she derives inspiration from her role models including Dr Achola Pala of UN Women, former Karachuonyo MP Phoebe Asiyo, and her late grandmother Rosa Mlal, when things get tough.  

She believes these lessons, the experience, and the success she has recorded as a leader, have prepared her well to serve the people of Alego Usonga.

“I have been in government, academia and politics, and I feel I can lessen the untold suffering among the people of Alego Usonga, give hope to the youth and other vulnerable groups.  Politics is not a game for me; it is an opportunity to change the lives of the people of Alego Usonga.”