The widow who weathered family storm to win MCA seat

South East Alego MCA Scholastica Masidis Madowo during an interview at a hotel in Siaya on April 14, 2023. As a widow, she weathered discrimination to emerge victorious in last year's election, having defeated her brother-in-law at the ODM nomination.

Photo credit: Ondari Ogega I Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Scholastica Madowo had never been a politician; it was her first attempt at elective politics.
  • All of her 30-plus years of career life have been in the humanitarian field, working with the United Nations.

When Scholastica Madowo informed her extended family of her intention to compete for the South East Alego Member of County Assembly (MCA) seat, the reception was dismissive.

“They thought I was crazy,” she says.

She had never been a politician; it was her first attempt at elective politics. All of her 30-plus years of career life have been in the humanitarian field, working with the United Nations.

“They said the political environment in Kenya is dirty. I said: 'Yes. But we can clean it.'  And with that faith, I went ahead and started selling my agenda.”

Meanwhile, her five children stood by her for they knew she was a change maker and her presence in the local legislature would translate into better lives for the locals.

But the in-laws were still on her case. Her brother-in-law was also eyeing the same seat. The extended family felt she was an outsider who ought to give way to their own. Her husband died in 2015.

They asked her to shelf her ambition and support him, but she declined. “I said I have enough support so let the people decide.”


She competed against him for the Orange Democratic Movement ticket sailed through. In the August 9 General Election, Ms Madowo garnered 17,164 votes, standing out as the most voted for MCA in Siaya County, which has 30 wards.

Going by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission 2022 voter register, of all the wards, South East Alego has the highest number of registered voters at 28,845. She acknowledges that elective politics is an expensive affair as the campaigns require huge amounts of money.

“I didn’t have much money. My family and friends helped me fund-raise.”

With the much she had, she opted for a less resource-intensive strategy but a popular one. “I repaired 30 boreholes in the ward and word went the rounds that that 'Mama (mum) has come and she has brought us water.’”

She also facilitated officers from the civil department and registrar of persons to conduct village-level registration for identity cards and birth certificates. She created temporary one-stop centres where locals would fill out forms and have them signed by a chief or assistant chief.

The documents were then processed in two weeks and brought back to the centres where those who had applied would collect them.

“There are mothers who had struggled for years to secure birth certificates for their children, but in less than a month, they had them. To them, that was a huge relief,” she says.

“The people were very happy. They had confidence in me that yes, she doesn’t give money but she does things for the community.”

Ms Madowo is now one of the four elected women in the Siaya County Assembly, out of which three are widows.

Widows' rights

As a legislator, she vows to lobby for the passage of bills defending the rights of widows. “Widows in our community are still seen as a nobody,” she says.

“When women are married here, they are viewed as outsiders and the husband is her protector. Once that man is no longer there, then you are open to all manner of abuses.”’

In her regular engagements with the locals, she takes time to educate them on the rights of widows and why it is important to safeguard them.

“We trap our communities in a cycle of poverty when we dispossess widows of the land they are supposed to till, farm and use harvests to feed their children or sell the surplus to send them to school.”

She says she wants her people to remember her for “creating a safe and better environment for widows to thrive".