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MONDAY 12, 2018

Your Excellencies,
Distinguished Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I feel deeply honoured to have been accorded this opportunity to contribute to

this discussion on governance and women leadership.

For decades, society was hinged on a narrative that there were things that
women could not do – we were told that we could not do certain jobs, we could
not hold certain positions, and we even could not eat certain foods.

While there has been a progressive change in attitude over the years, there is
still a lot to be done to build a world that recognises women as equal to men and
not lesser beings or second fiddle.

Transformative leadership is focused on influencing positive change in

individuals and social systems. It is built on a foundation of integrity,
authenticity and driven by self-awareness and a sense of purpose. A
transformational leader is non-gendered. They are not a man leader or woman
leader. They are a leader full stop! So our first journey as women is to move
away from boxing women leaders in a framing that further reinforces the
stereotypical notion that men own the space and women follow somewhere in
second place.

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What, therefore, do we need to do to become transformational leaders?

Firstly, to be transformative leader, we should be prepared for battle

We should be awake to the fact that no one will hand us chocolates and flowers
for challenging the status quo – no. They will fight us with everything they

Prior to being Governor, I was the Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of

Devolution and Planning.

My ministry then was at the forefront in championing for the advancement of

women and youth. I led the development of a policy framework that until today
ensures 30% of government tenders are allocated to the youth, women and
people living with disabilities; and, a youth empowerment programme through
the National Youth Service. We further instituted reforms in service delivery by
setting up one-stop shop service delivery centres called Huduma Centres.
During the first three years we won a total of 15 awards in Africa and globally,
among them the 2015 United Nations public service award – for public service
delivery improvement.

Sadly, however, my achievements made me a target for political witch-hunt,

malice and hate from antagonists. I was hounded out of office on all manner of
accusations. Investigations by all investigative agencies were done, probe
committees were established and three years later, and after all that, nothing
came out of it – because it was all political! I took the matter to court and sued
the Leader of the Opposition party and two of his contemporaries for
defamation – having been the ones who led the smear and political campaign
against me.

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What was clear was that the condemnation was not based on what I had done
wrong but what I had done right - which is improving the lives of Kenyan
youth, women and people living with disabilities, and political implications of
such an achievement. I had challenged the status quo.

Rather than weaken my resolve and force me into submission, however, these
attacks made me stronger, wiser and better.

There after I decided to join politics and announced my candidacy for the
Kirinyaga Governorship seat. At the time out of the forty seven county
governors, non were women. This too was a gruelling ride.

Against all odds, I managed to win the race with a landslide, in what is
symbolic of the great confidence that the people of Kirinyaga have in my
leadership. I was elected as one of three first women governors in Kenya. I went
further to be elected by my peers as the first Woman Vice Chair of the Kenya
Council of Governors.

As women leaders, facing battles should not discourage us, instead it should be
an indication that we are on the right path. The only way to march in such cases
is forward!

Secondly, as Transformational leaders we should have a vision

As governor, in the five months I have been in office, I have already rolled out
several projects aimed at improving the living standard of the people of
Kirinyaga. This is in line with the Kirinyaga Rising Vision 2032 – Mountain
Cities Blueprint. While governors in Kenya only get two 5 year terms, I believe
in setting a vision that outlives me. The 15 year blue print focuses on
Agriculture, Health, value addition trade and tourism, as well as infrastructure
development. What is unique about our blue print is that it features a women

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empowerment umbrella programme called Wezesha Mama (translated –
“Enable the woman”) that cuts across all sectors.

In healthcare, I have already began infrastructural upgrade of our hospitals such

as our main hospital in Kerugoya whose bed capacity will increase from 250 to
500 beds in the coming year. We have established a first ever renal unit in the
county providing relief to many patients. Further, we have empowered women
in Kirinyaga by giving them sole rights to stitch and provide all our hospitals
and health facilities in the county with linen and uniform – thus supporting the
establishment of a linen factory for women and by women in Kirinyaga County.

To further enhance the well being of mothers, I have also rolled out a
registration drive to ensure all above eighteen years women enrol for the
National Government-sponsored “Linda Mama” (transalated – “Protect our
Mothers”) initiative that seeks to provide free antenatal care, post natal care,
and professional attendant service during child birth. In agriculture, i resolved a
long standing water issue that has seen the rice growing county double its

Kirinyaga county provides 65% of rice needs in Kenya. By way of introducing

value addition, we are in the process of setting up a factory that will convert the
environmentally hazadarous rice husks to MDF to be used for making furniture.

Thirdly, we should mentor other women and girls

Transformative leadership is about building teams and passing on the baton. As

leaders, we need to be deliberate about building the next generation of leaders
by passing the knowledge and experience we have gathered.

In my view, this process is a lot like relay races, and Kenyans know a thing or
two about races. Relays, as we know, are won or lost in the passing of the baton.
Teams can be disqualified because of a bad pass. Learning from relay races, the
following are in my view the essentials of a good pass:

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a) Both runners must be running so that they do not lose time;
b) There must be trust and confidence that the team member will hand
it over properly;
c) It requires knowledge of each other’s ability.
Like in relay races, participants in mentorship programmes must share the same
vision. They should also run together for a distance before handing the baton to
the next generation of leaders and exiting the stage.


In conclusion, I would like to encourage all of us to believe. Believe that no

challenge is too big to overcome; that no goal is beyond reach! We can achieve
anything we set our eyes on if we put our hearts and minds to it.

The road ahead may be bumpy and foggy – but if we believe in God, if we stay
the course and support each other, we will change the world.

Thank you!
And God Bless!

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