She has no formal education, she is woman in a male dominated community, she vied on a minority party ticket, yet she made history as the first elected female member of Turkana County Assembly since the advent of devolution in Kenya. Leah Nachere, 67, beat four male aspirants, with high academic credentials to become the first elected female member of the Turkana county assembly in the 2017 elections.
Her Journey Into Leadership
Nachere grew up in a community where it is believed that “women shouldn’t speak in front of men and should not be involved in decision making”. “Girls did not go to school but were mainly taught how to cook,” she told us. “They were married off in exchange for cattle that brought wealth to the family,” she added.
But Nachere’s fortunes changed in 1980 when she received training in leadership. Because of the training, she started engaging in leadership responsibilities. “I started in the village and contributed to decision making at Chiefs’ barazas (meetings) and local chiefs recognized me,” she revealed.” They henceforth called me and sought my views on issues affecting the community,” she added. Married, with three children, her family has played a key role in her journey into leadership. “My husband was councillor before and when he stepped down, I contested for the position,” she indicated. “My family has been very supportive,” she added.
Nachere started as a chairlady of a local women group and went on to vie as an elected councillor for her local county council in 2002. She won the same seat again in 2007 and was a nominated member of the county assembly in 2013. In 2017, she was elected as Turkana County Assembly Member.
But her journey to leadership has not been smooth sailing; she has met several obstacles along the way. Because of lack of formal education, she has been disrespected and abused and told that she “did not have the capacity to lead”. She lacked finances to fund her campaigns and she was reminded that she was a woman not fit to lead the community. But people believed in her, people believed in her leadership abilities owing to her work with communities. “I won the elections because people believed in me even when I did not have money,” she offered.
“I started in the village and contributed to decision making at Chiefs’ barazas (meetings) and local chiefs recognized me. They henceforth called me and sought my views on issues affecting the community,” Leah Nachere, MCA Turkana County
Discharging her duties as a member of the county assembly
To enable her discharge her duties in the county assembly, she has constituted a team that will work with her to plan, prioritize and implement the ward’s development agenda. The team will also help her understand county assembly proceedings communicated in English. She will also build alliances with fellow county assembly members to enable her push her agenda in the county assembly, especially given that she comes from a minority party. She also hopes to get support from stakeholders to enable her enhance her skills in leadership, priority setting, budgeting, and resource mobilization to enable her better discharge her duties.
Desire to mentor women in Turkana to ascend into leadership
She notes that women still face a myriad of challenges that prevent them from seeking elective political positions: “women often do not have money to finance their campaigns and hence drop off the race,” she noted. “At the same time, many women still lack requisite skills to run successful political campaigns,” she added. “Again, the violence and intimidation targeted at women during political campaigns keep many women from seeking political positions,” she concluded.
Now her main desire is to mentor many women in Turkana County to ascend to political leadership because she believes that women have what it takes to transform the lives of their communities. “Leadership is not a preserve of men,” she noted. “I am a living example that women too can be leaders,” she offered. She hopes to mobilize resources to reach more women. She also hopes to prioritize activities in the ward that target women issues including water and other economic activities like fishing and income generating activities. For her, women play a key role in transforming the lives of their families and improving the lot for women means creating a better world for their communities.
“Leadership is not a preserve of men. I am a living example that women too can be leaders,” Leah Nachere, MCA Turkana County