What you need to know:
- Dorice Donya Aburi has sponsored a Bill seeking to boost the fight against gender-based violence, including female genital mutilation.
- She says she joined politics to tackle the problems facing women.
Before switching from a radio host to a politician in 2017, Dorice Donya Aburi was already a household name in the Kisii region, thanks to her ‘Omugusii Nekebago’ show that ruled the airwaves from 10am-1pm on Egesa FM.
After 12 years of listening to her audience, especially women who called in to share their ordeals, Ms Donya quit radio for another calling: politics. Her intention was clear – to get elected to the august House and champion the rights of women.
“When I was a radio host, my show had phone call-in sessions. During these sessions, some women would open up on how they were being forced to flee their matrimonial homes to hide their girls from female genital mutilation (FGM).
"Some women complained about being beaten up for failing to give their husbands a baby boy,” she says.
Worse still, the Kisii Woman Representative says some women narrated how they were being mistreated for giving birth to boys only.
“A certain lady called in and told me that she had 11 boys but was being mistreated by her husband for failing to give him a baby girl whom she wanted to name after his mother.
“Another caller narrated how she was kicked out by her husband for being barren. But when she remarried, she gave birth to three children. That clearly shows that the first husband had a problem but placed the burden of childlessness on his wife,” she recalls.
Unbowed after loss
After quitting her job, Mr Donya vied for the Woman Rep seat on the Jubilee ticket but lost to ODM’s Janet Ong'era. But the loss left her unbowed.
“After failing to clinch the seat, I focused on my education. I enrolled for a degree in communication and media at Mount Kenya University, where I graduated in 2021. Initially, I had a Diploma in Mass Communications and Media from the Consolata Institute of Mass Communication.”
In the last election, Mr Donya went for the same seat on a Wiper party ticket and floored her predecessor, Ms Ong’era. She jumped ship to Kalonzo Musyoka–led Wiper after ODM handed Ms Ong’era a direct ticket. She had paid the nomination fee in ODM but the money was refunded.
Ms Donya, who is a member of Labour and Diaspora Affairs and Migrant Workers parliamentary committees in the National Assembly, has sponsored a Bill she believes would reduce drastically cases of FGM and gender-based violence (GBV).
The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (Amendment) Bill, 2023, which is still at the initial stages, recommends that primary and secondary schoolchildren be taught the adverse effects of FGM and how to avoid or report GBV.
The deputy patron of the Kenya Young Parliamentarian Association (KYPA) also wants learners to be taught teenage pregnancy prevention and health impacts of drug abuse.
“FGM has no health benefit; that is why our children need to be taught that the practice is useless. In the United States, for instance, children have been taught to report any form of mistreatment to the police or teachers in school.
“If our girls are taught early on the negative effects of FGM, they will not allow it to be done on them. They will report to the police or teachers any attempts to subject them to the outlawed practice,” says Ms Donya, an alumna of Kaplong Girls High School in Bomet County.
She blames high cases of teen pregnancies in the Kisii region on FGM. Nationally, data released last year by the Ministry of Health shows that one in five adolescents aged 15–19 are already mothers or pregnant with their first child.
Kisii was ranked among top counties with the highest number of pregnant teens. The other counties where teen pregnancy is rampant include Nairobi, Kajiado, Homa Bay, Meru, Kericho, Narok, Mandera and Bomet.
“FGM also exposes girls to early pregnancies; that is why Kisii has very many cases of teen pregnancies,” she says.
According to the recent Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, the Kisii community is ranked third in the prevalence of FGM after the Somali and Samburu.
“Some politicians avoid speaking against FGM for fear of losing their seats. I cannot shun the truth for fear of losing a political seat. There is life after losing a seat – you rise, dust up and find something else to do.”
Ms Donya is optimistic that the Kisii region will have the first female governor, MPs elected from mixed-gender constituencies, and more female ward representatives in the next general election.
“Reports indicate that schools headed by women in the Kisii region are performing well in national exams. People are drawing lessons from this and slowly changing their perceptions about women's leadership. It is shocking that the entire Kisii region – Kisii and Nyamira counties – has only one female elected Member of County Assembly,” she says.
Besides the war on FGM, Ms Donya says she has opened another war-front against the high cost of connecting households to electricity.
“In April, I applied to be supplied with electricity in my rural home in Kisii County. Upon making the requisite application for installation, I was issued with a quotation amounting to Sh2.2 million. This cost is beyond many households and it is unacceptable,” she says.
She has already filed a statement seeking answers to the high connection cost to ensure affordable rates. She also wants the Ministry of Energy to shed light on the status of the Last Mile Connectivity Project that is being financed by the government and the African Development Bank (AfDB) targeting more than 800,000 households in the 47 counties.