Agnes Mataine Pareyio beat all odds to clinch the Narok North Constituency parliamentary seat in an environment that views women as children.
Since independence, the county has not had any other woman elected as an MP apart from the compulsory County Women Representative seat.
When we visited her at her Narok town home, tens of people were still trickling into her compound in what seemed as a celebratory mood for her victory.
The mother of four says the journey has not been a walk in the park as many top political leaders had already opposed her victory and were backing the men whom they believed deserved to lead the community.
This is not the first time the anti-Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) crusader was attempting to vie for a political seat, she had tried in the 2017 general elections but lost in the Jubilee party primaries that she says were marred with malpractice.
“When I ran for the party primaries in 2017, the officials refused to hand over the certificate to me despite having been declared the winner. Instead, they gave to my opponent, Symon Rotiken who was later defeated by the outgoing MP Moitalel Ole Kenta,” she said.
In 2013, Mrs. Pareyio had tried the County Women Representative seat but lost to the outgoing County MP Soipan Tuya.
Nevertheless, Mrs. Pareyio is not the type that gives up easily, in the just concluded election, she tried her luck and garnered 20,821 votes against her closest challenger; prominent advocate Martin Kamwaro, who ran on an independent ticket and got 18,852 votes.
UDA’s Kirimpuoti Sadera, who is a renowned business man had 9,248 votes while Allan Meingati of ODM, also an advocate got 8828 votes.
The newly elect MP recalls how she worked extra hard by moving from house to house and spending a lot of time with the low-income earners and business community whom she believes voted for her in large numbers.
However, this is not the first time Mrs. Pareyio is winning an election; the 66-year-old woman served in the defunct County council for 15 years when she was elected to represent the people of Melili area.
“I have served the people of Narok North before and I have moved in every village in this constituency and I know what they need. I am equal to the task and I promise to give them the best,” she affirms.
The renown anti- Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) crusader started her education journey at Ole Sankale primary school and later moved to Kilgoris secondary school before completing her secondary education at Narok secondary school.
She later became a teacher and taught for a while before actively being involved in the Maendeleo ya Wanawake forums.
“The Maendeleo ya Wanawake was a strong organization with leadership at the grassroots and head offices in Nairobi. I was elected the Narok district treasurer in the organization,” she recalls.
This is when she started fighting for the rights of young girls to ensure they completed school just like the boys.
“We were concerned by the high rate of girls who joined primary school but only a handful would finish up to the secondary level,” she remembers, adding that this was in the late 1980’s.
The women carried out a survey and realized that the reason girls dropped out of school was due to FGM, a culture that was dominant in the area.
“The girls believed that once they are cut, they become mature enough to get married and start bearing children,” she says.
However, fighting the deep-rooted cultural practice was not easy as her fellow women rejected her and she was left to fight the vice alone.
“There was a push for me to speak about FGM but it was not easy as all politicians and local leaders were against the idea. They would openly oppose you for criticizing FGM,” reiterates the MP elect.
Her passion to rescue girls from the outdated cultural practice inspired her to open a girls’ rescue center dubbed ‘Tasaru’ girls’ rescue center’ that is situated in Lenana estate, Narok town.
The institution has seen thousands of girls from the Maa Community, who survived FGM, taken through a process of healing and helped to complete their education.
“Currently the institution is educating over 200 girls in high school and several are in primary school. We have other girls who have managed to the university level,” she says.
In 2018, Mrs. Pareyio was appointed the Anti-FGM board chair, a position she served until early 2022 when she resigned to join politics.
The passion of Mrs. Pareyio is to see families in Narok North Constituency have easy access to clean water, electricity, improve infrastructure and minimize Gender Based Violence in the area.
The first Narok woman MP also has a vision to empower her fellow women to get into elective positions as their male counterparts.
Others are Lorna Nkokuwa and Lucy Ololngojine who served as councilors in the defunct county council administration for Ildamat and Shartuka areas respectively.
“My success is proof that women too can attain a position equal to men. I challenge more women to raise up and be counted in various leadership positions,” she adds.
By Ann Salaton