….The Trailblazer……The Making of a Leader Series…..Women and Power…
By Collins Matubwi
Jackline Mwaka Okanya is a distraught leader with the fact that over 1636 girls aged between 10-17 years in Mumias West constituency are mothers.
There are also over 3000 other girls who have been impregnated during Covid-19 times.
The underage girls have fallen prey to sexual predators in the constituency and what astonishes her is the fact that their close relatives are responsible for the pregnancies.
Okanya avers that moral decay and having absentee parents is what has led to the ever-increasing cases of teenage pregnancies adding that abject poverty and poor leadership from the current leadership is what has failed to address the menace.
“Mumias West has 1636 gals aged between 9-14 years who have given birth. If we cannot take care of the kids, who will look after them. Am forced to use my salary to cater for their needs but I don’t have a kitty to reach them as am just a nominated ward rep,” said Okanya.
She added; “The kids after giving birth, they lose direction and that is how their dreams of becoming responsible adults in the society is killed. The perpetrators are people who are well known to them but can’t be punished as they are well connected,”
The Nominated MCA at the Kakamega County Assembly in an exclusive interview with the County Splash News said that everyone is to be blamed for the mess, saying parents fear talking about sex with their daughters and leave that responsibility to teachers.
With such problems in place and lack of good leadership in the area is what makes Okanya to make her first stab for the Mumias West parliamentary seat in the next elections.
The constituency has at least 111,862 registered voters as at 2017 elections according to the records at the IEBC. The electoral area has four wards namely Mumias Central, Mumias North, Etenje, and Musanda.
Okanya was born in Matungu Sub County and attended St Treza’s Girls Primary – Nairobi and then St James Bulimbo Girls Secondary School for her ‘O’ levels.
She joined Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology (Mmust) and graduated in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Commerce (Finance option).
After her university education, she worked at Unilever, Cadbury and Royco as a sales and marketing personnel before moving to the Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT). It is while at KWFT here that Okanya’s dream of joining active politics was actualized.
She is also the treasurer of ACK Mumias Diocese and her hobbies are traveling and driving sporty cars.
However, her dream of joining politics started back in 2005 during the Ndizi and Chungwa plebiscite calls.
As a Chungwa supporter, she was actively involved in mobilization, printing and distribution of Chungwa t-shirts to supporters who were opposed to the plebiscite.
In 2010, she joined ODM party and was elected as the youth leader for Lurambi constituency.
“Youths wanted me to run for Lurambi parliamentary seat in 2013 general elections but declined to venture into elective politics. In politics, you must have the correct timing, the correct place, environment, and that time Lurambi was the right place for me but I squandered the chance,” said Okanya.
“Am open and I have integrity but the current leaders are liars. They do not tell the electorates the truth. Am a staunch Anglican and my faith tells me to say the truth. Our leaders are not honest and their style of leadership lacks inclusivity,” she added.
In joining, the murky waters of Mumias West politics where she will battle it out with the incumbent MP Johnson Naicca, Former Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa and Fada Mulla in the 2022 polls.
Okanya says she wants to improve the education standards of the area, sports, empower women and improve the area’s economy.
“The current leadership has failed to live as per the expectations and it’s a high time we get a new leader who will work for the people of Mumias West and that person is me,” said Okanya.
She is already making inroads in the constituency by constructing houses for the needy and vulnerable families. Recently, she run a football tournament across the constituency that has so far increased her rating as compared to her competitors.
Okanya says she knows her competitors are very strong but she will give them a run for their money to become next area MP.
According to Okanya, gender parity in elective seats can be achieved if women will be given the same opportunity as men to go for elective seats, saying they do not want to be nominated but fight for their space.
“Women can be elected if they are given that equal chance as men. Even we have men who cannot be elected. If we put men and women on the same scale, we shall be elected. We have very few women seeking elective seats because they have not been enlightened and if they come out vocally, they will get elected,” said Okanya.
She draws her inspiration from Millie Odhiambo, Phoebe Asiyo, Gladys Wanga, Prof Wangari Maathai, Rachel Shebesh and Orio Rogo Manduli who she says they have shown them the way and that they are up to the task to fight for their space.
“We don’t want favours but the constitution should be followed. If you are nominated, next time look for elective seat. We are not flower girls and we must wake up and go for the seats,” said Okanya.
Last year, a move by Amani National Congress to suspend Okanya from the assembly made her stronger after she staged a spirited fight in the courts with the party’s erstwhile Secretary General Barack Muluka who accused her disrupting party activities at the Assembly despite having warned.
“It has since come to our attention that you have not refrained from your chosen path of misconduct contrary to Article 50 of the party’s constitution. Within the next 30 days, you will be summoned to appear before the disciplinary committee and an appropriate action taken. You are hereby suspended from ANC with immediate effect and during this period, you will not conduct any business on behalf of the party.”
“Muluka wanted to micromanage the party and which seats we should get. I refused to be intimidated by the party because am a woman and stood firm to date. The fight was not easy but with God’s grace, the courts vindicated me,” said Okanya.
She describes Musalia Mudavadi like a father figure when it comes to politics since he does not interfere with local politics, arguing that when you saw people being chased out of ANC party it is not Mudavadi’s ideologies but a few selfish individuals.
Okanya believes ANC is better placed to produce the next President of Kenya after 2022 polls.
“When Kibaki came to power, he stabilized economy as compared to previous government and the current one killed the economy and only Mudavadi can revamp the economy and get jobs for our youths,” said Okanya.