These are the women breaking new ground in Kenya’s politics and business. I’m in the process of translating them into English and am looking for volunteer readers’ help.
On the right is Sibongile Nyandeng, the first female candidate elected to a Kenyan parliamentary seat. On the left is Nzuri Osman, a leading businesswoman who has become a leading voice for women in business in the country.
Nyandeng was running against the incumbent. Osman was running against a woman who had been elected mayor of the capital city, a woman who had made a name for herself as the champion of gender equality.
The women had strong records of achievements in business. In 2004, Nyandeng founded Maitama, a small company dedicated to making and packaging baby clothes. In 2013, she and her husband bought their first shopping mall, Maitama Tower.
Nyandeng, however, had to battle against an entrenched conservative culture in the Kenyan private sector. She was the first woman to run for office as a Member of Parliament but had to fight on two fronts. On one side, she had to convince businesspeople of her intentions to make them see her as an advocate for them. On the other side, she had to combat a female candidate who was fighting to change the mindset in the system.
On her side, Nyandeng started off by making an opening speech. This was very unusual. In Kenya, women cannot speak in the opening of parliamentary debates. When women do speak during these debates, they are considered to be expressing their opinions.
This was a problem. The Kenyan population is patriarchal. They believe that men are the only ones that should be speaking. Therefore, the role of women is secondary. They are supposed to be silent at the meetings of Parliament, but when they get the chance to speak, they often feel like they are on a stage.
Nyandeng’s opening speech put a few minds at rest. She is a tough yet soft-hearted woman with a heart of gold. The majority of her speech was about personal stories, about losing love, and about how she overcame trauma.
The audience began to