Winnie Odinga:  My mom is my number one mentor

Winnie Odinga: She says she has created many things in two Presidential campaigns that have changed the game in Kenya.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Winnie's mother would buy her T-shirts that read, ‘Anything a boy can do, a girl can do better’.
  • When she was about 11,  her mum gave her Winnie Mandela’s book, My story, to help her understand whom she was named after.
  • She has written manifestos, launched conventions, rallies and events, and worked in five African Presidential campaigns, among other things.

Winnie Odinga is walking in her father’s footsteps, even though she is yet to show interest in a political seat.

Coming from a political family, the Azimio presidential candidate Raila Odinga’s daughter has become one of her father’s confidants, seen in most of his political events. In an interview with nation.africa, Ms Odinga, however, explains why her mother Ida Odinga, remains her mentor.

She also opens up on the death of her elder brother Fidel Odinga in 2015, saying he is one person she wishes she could get back.

What was your childhood or earliest ambition?

I just wanted to work and that’s where the name ‘Kazi’ came from, I was always helping out with house chores even those that were too heavy for me.

Who was or still is your mentor?

Several! My mom is my number one mentor. When I was young, it was mostly her and I, and she would tell me that I can do anything! She would buy me these T-shirts that read, ‘Anything a boy can do, a girl can do better’, and that really shaped my thinking. When she was running The League of Kenya Women Voters, she would take me around the country as they educated women on voting rights. That opened my eyes to the (un)limitless capability.  When I was about 11, she gave me Winnie Mandela’s book My story, to help me understand whom I was named after, and even though the book was above my years, I read every word and was completely enamoured by her strength, determination, vision and resilience. Winnie Mandela and Ida Odinga had similar stories and I am absolutely fascinated by both of them.

Ms Odinga has become one of her father’s confidants.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

Ambition or talent; which matters more to success?
A little bit of both, you can be naturally talented but for that talent to be of any benefit, it must be driven by ambition.

What would you like to own that you don’t currently possess?

Peace of mind. What good are possessions when everyone around you lives in squalor? My people live in places riddled with diseases, my people are dying from treatable conditions, my people don’t have access to food, and my people can’t afford school fees. That’s unacceptable to me. I will only own a peace of mind when there is universal improvement in the quality of life of Kenyans.

In what place are you happiest?

I’m a bit of a recluse, so anywhere that I can be alone. If you mean a physical location, then any of Kenya’s national parks. Give me a 4x4, some lions and a Kenyan sunset, I’m set. I’m happy.

What drives you?

See my answer on peace of mind above. The responsibility God has given me to serve my people is what wakes me up when I’m feeling lazy. Kenyans have never let us down and we don’t intend to disappoint them.

Ms Odinga sits atop a vehicle at Kasarani Stadium on December 10, 2021 during the Azimio la Umoja national conference where Raila Odinga declared his 2022 presidential bid.

Photo credit: Jeff Angote | Nation Media Group

What is the greatest achievement of your life so far?

I have done a lot of things that some may view as achievements. I’ve created so many things in two Presidential campaigns that have changed the game in Kenya. For starters, many people don’t know that I changed the length of the Kenyan political rally. (But that’s a story for another day). In 2017, I brought placards to Kenya, and I launched them at the ODM NDC with the phrase ‘10 million strong’. I’ve written manifestos, I’ve launched conventions, rallies and events. I’ve hosted heads of state. I’ve worked in thousands of community projects and I’ve worked in five African Presidential campaigns and many other things. But I think my greatest achievement is being able to do all this while still being me *laughs* (which is very different from the norm) and I have the support of my parents and friends in a society that is constantly trying to fit me in a particular box.

What do you find most irritating in other people?

I can’t stand meetings for things that can be discussed on the phone. I don’t like my time wasted, or liars. When someone takes too long to get to the point and wants to spend 10 minutes on greetings instead of just saying what they want, I just can’t get it! And please, whatever you do, don’t just text me “Hi”. Write a brief text with what you want, and keep it moving, who has time for small talk? *laughs*

In my father's footsteps: Winnie with her father Raila Odinga at a past event.

Photo credit: Pool | Nation Media Group

If your 20-year-old self could see you now, what would she think?

I think the more likely question for me would be, “What would Fidel think?” I’m not too sure, but he was my biggest believer and so I try to do things that would make him proud.

Which object that you lost do you wish you still had?

Fidel. Not really an object, but that’s the only thing I wish I could get back.

If you had to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score?

If I had to relate this to majority of Kenyans, then I would say 10 out of 10. I thank God I’m in good health. I am so thankful to Him that I have both my parents, and that he gave me the honour of being born to them. I have a roof over my head, and I have people that love me. What else does a person need?

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