The first elected female MP from North Eastern region since independence Ms Sophia Abdinoor termed her struggle to capture the seat as rough and full of “pot holes”.
Ms. Abdinoor, the Ijara legislator recalled how she edged out former MP Mr. Ahmed Ibrahim Abass of Jubilee with nearly 300 votes. Abass is the current Garissa County Assembly Speaker.
Sophia garnered 6,001 votes against Abass who polled 5,705 votes at the election.
Speaking openly for the first time about her struggle in politics at a Garissa hotel during a mentorship forum for women aspirants in the county, Sophia said that that for a woman to win a seat in North Eastern, she has to “develop a thick skin”.
A teacher by profession, Sophia who ventured into politics in 1997 losing by 100 votes said that it has not been an easy journey for her to break in the male dominated field.
“It has been a long, tough journey of 20 years for me to secure this eat. The first time I got my foot in politics was in 1997 and I was the first woman in this region to do so. I was called all sorts of names that exist in this world but I soldiered on. If you stop to worry about these things you will never go far”, said Sophia who was nominated by ODM in 2013.
Sophia who is the founder of Woman Kind, a Garissa based NGO, narrated how men have had their minds “poisoned” into believing that voting for a woman was ‘haram’ (sacrilege) and against Somali cultural beliefs.
The Ijara legislator said that she has all along worked hard to counter the narrative and which has not been easy.
“You need to be firm, strong and focused. Personally I have never looked back since then because I was determined and believed that one day I will make it. Thank God it finally paid off”, she added.
Sophia challenged women in the region to wake up from their comfort zones and stop looking down upon themselves because it only works against them and to the advantage of men.
“I want to appeal to my fellow women that start by doing the small things that will make a difference in society. That is how you will build a brand. Slowly by slowly the community will start appreciating your work and that is how you make a step”, Sophia noted.
The Kenya Women Parliamentary Association (KEWOPA) has been conducting, mentorship forums in several counties bringing together incumbent women parliamentarians and aspiring women to learn and share strategies of increasing women participation in politics through capacity building.
The campaign is aimed at increasing the number of women who will participate in 2022 general election.
By Jacob Songok