The little-known musician who sold mitumba before becoming MP

Kirinyaga Woman Representative Jane Njeri Maina.

What you need to know:

  • Fondly referred to as Gacheri, she had been a mitumba (secondhand clothes) seller and a singer (stage name Carola Jayne) under Grandpa Records.
  • Ms Maina had not made up her mind to run for any political seat in the last election but quickly seized the opportunity when her predecessor joined another race.

Before trying her hand in politics and trouncing political heavyweights last year, Jane Njeri Maina ventured into different careers.

Fondly referred to as Gacheri, she had been a mitumba (secondhand clothes) seller and a singer (stage name Carola Jayne) under Grandpa Records, although her music did not shake up the airwaves.

Ms Maina had not made up her mind to run for any political seat in the last election, despite harbouring political dreams. But when her predecessor, Purity Ngirici, switched from the Kirinyaga woman representative seat to the gubernatorial race, the youthful lawyer quickly seized the opportunity and declared her interest in the woman rep seat.

At 28, Ms Maina out-competed big names in the county to join the list of young legislators in the National Assembly. Her rivals included former County Assembly Speaker Anne Githinji, former County Director of Administration Shujaa Rose Wachira, Narc Kenya’s Elizabeth Kamami and businesswoman Emma Wambui. Ms Maina is a member of the United Democratic Alliance (UDA) party.

“On the campaign trail, I likened myself to a young woman who milks a lioness while sitting on a porcupine. That slogan was meant to assure the electorate that I’m tough and equal to the task, despite my young age,” says the Kabare Girls’ High School alumna.

She believes her impeccable credentials endeared her to residents. “The people of Kirinyaga wanted change; they believed that I am young and visionary and felt that I am adequately educated to represent them in Parliament,” she says.

“I’m new blood. I think as a country we need to switch and get new people in politics because you find that if we have the same leaders over and over, there’s no one to bring in the new ideas.”


Ms Maina has anchored her first term agenda on education, economic empowerment, agriculture and social welfare. In the legislature, she has already hit the ground running and sponsored two bills – the Health (Amendment) Bill, 2022 and the Kenya School of Law (Amendment) Bill, 2022 – and several motions.

Last month, Ms Maina, who serves on the Justice and Legal Affairs Committee, presented a motion to National Assembly Speaker Moses Wetang’ula, seeking to compel the Ministry of Education to introduce comprehensive health, wellness and sex education as a core subject in schools.

To her, the current adolescent health training programmes are inadequate and fragmented, resulting in limited access to healthcare information and services for young people and exposing them to sexually transmitted diseases and early pregnancies.

“It is important that we empower our children by giving them the right information so that they are able to protect themselves.”

The motion is among the items to be discussed next month when MPs return from a short recess June 6. Ms Maina, through the Health (Amendment) Bill, intends to amend the Health Act to provide for access to emergency treatment and healthcare services before meeting medical costs.

“When the Reproductive Health Bill sought to introduce sexual reproductive health education in schools, the church made a noise. The teenage pregnancies are going up and everybody is mad about it. But what are we doing about it?

“I’m not saying let us tell young people to engage in sex. I’m saying, let us tell them: ‘Do not engage in sexual activities, but if you find yourself in such a scenario, I want you to protect yourself. I want you to be safe. I want you not to have a baby when you are below 15.’”

Tupange Kesho initiative

Ms Maina says she is already implementing this idea in Kirinyaga through her Tupange Kesho – a bursary and scholarship programme – through which she pays school fees for needy children and supports them through mentorship and provision of the right information on matters of health, including mental health.

The Health (Amendment) Bill, which has been committed to the speaker, also seeks to amend the law to make it an offence for public and private healthcare facilities and providers to detain corpses as a means to enforcing settlement of outstanding medical bills.

“Dead bodies will never be property with any value. Even if you hold them for 10 or 20 years, they can’t be sold to recover the money. Detaining bodies in hospitals due to bills only increases agony to the bereaved.”

The Kenya School of Law (Amendment) Bill seeks to give the Council of Legal Education powers to prescribe admission requirements for courses at the Kenya School of Law (KSL).

Ms Maina, who is the managing partner of Njeri Maina Advocates, studied law at the University of Nairobi (UoN) before joining the KSL. Upon completion, she was admitted to the bar as an advocate of the High Court in 2019.

She also studied linguistics at Kenyatta University and is undertaking a course in applied psychology at the UoN.

"When I was on campus, I engaged in mitumba business. I had a mitumba shop at Imenti House in downtown Nairobi. Later, I opened a beauty shop, which I run to date. I also recorded songs with Grandpa Records, but they did not do well,” she says.

No genuine friends

On lessons learnt since joining Parliament seven months ago, she says there is no genuine friendship in politics.  “I have learnt that politics is volatile and fluid; people only engage with you on a cosmetic level. It’s hard to find genuine friendship in politics.”

In Parliament, Ms Maina works closely with National Assembly Deputy Speaker Gladys Boss and Deputy Majority Whip Naomi Jillo Waqo. She urges young people who thirst for leadership positions but are sceptical to look to her as a role model. She says nothing is impossible, but dreams only materialise when pursued.

“Young women who want leadership positions must empower themselves first from, say, an educational perspective so that you can have something to offer your people. They must be ready to go out of their comfort zone.

“Politics is about sacrifice, spending a lot of time running around convincing people, having many sleepless nights, draining up savings and being consistent in what you are doing,” she says.

“Most young people have a tendency of giving up so fast. You have to try until you achieve your dreams.”