Aisha Jumwa makes history as first woman to get constituency seat in Kilifi

Aisha Jumwa displays her certificate after winning the Malindi Constituency Parliamentary seat. Photo:  Alphoce Gari
Aisha Jumwa displays her certificate after winning the Malindi Constituency Parliamentary seat. Photo: Alphoce Gari

Coming from a county where girls get married at the onset of puberty, Aisha Jumwa has come out to prove that all dreams are valid.

Having made it as the first woman in Kilifi County to be elected as a Member of Parliament, then as Woman County Representative, Jumwa scored another first by being the first woman to be elected Member of National Assembly through single constituency.

Jumwa’s achievement has become the point of reference for girls and young women in the county ‘that you can be what you want if you follow your dreams’.

Having dropped out of school in Form Two, Jumwa is now working on her degree at a time when many may have written off her journey in education. Jumwa joined Takaungu Primary School from 1983 to 1991 when she sat for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examinations.

“In 1992 I joined Ganze Mixed Secondary School but dropped in form two,’’ she says.

Knowing that as a woman she will not go far without education, in 2011 Jumwa enrolled as a private candidate at Chandaria Hall in Mombasa where she sat for her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) examinations.

Against all odds

Known for her deep voice and being fearless, Jumwa has beaten all odds to emerge a political heavyweight not only in Kilifi County but across the country. She beat seven men to win the highly contested race setting a record of being the first woman to contest and win a seat in the male dominated Kilifi County political scene.

In 2012, she graduated with a Diploma in Governance from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT). Currently she is studying a bachelor’s degree in International Leadership and Governance from the International Leadership University.

A member of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party, Jumwa was first elected as a councillor in 1997 and retained her seat until 2007, when she contested for a parliamentary seat and lost. In 2013, she won nominations for the woman representative position and went ahead to win on an ODM ticket.

To reach where she is today, Jumwa was forced to make many sacrifices along the way including sacrificing her marriage for politics.

Journey

When she indicated she wanted to join active politics, her husband refused and this forced them to part ways. Her husband did not support her political ambitions because he believed ‘women who joined politics never respected their men’.

He demanded that she pays him dowry with a bull as a way of dissolving their marriage.

“My husband said if I wanted to continue with my life I should pay him dowry. I took him to the sub-chief to be a witness to his demands and I paid the bull as was demanded of me,’’ she says.

By this time Jumwa had already set her eyes for the Malindi seat and her aim was to oust the incumbent MP. When a by-election was called for the Malindi Parliamentary seat in March 2016, Jumwa did not contest. She joined other ODM leaders in supporting William Baraka Mtengo to victory. However immediately after he was sworn in Parliament, she declared her interest in the seat.

True to her words she made sure of winning the ODM nomination ticket forcing Mtengo to vie as an independent candidate.

Jumwa won the seat after garnering 28,788 followed from a distance by Phillip Charo of Jubilee Party who got 14,219 votes. Others included  Rashid Odhiambo of Wiper Party who garnered 4,859 votes, Justus Marry Mwimalu (KADU Asili)  610 votes, Richard Otara  (UDP) 358  votes, Fuad Wasi Kombe (DPK) 150 votes, and FPK’s Benjamin Gunga who got 128 votes.

Campaigns

During the campaigns, most of the male candidates attempted to undermine her bid as a woman but all this was futile.

For instance, Mtengo is alleged to have argued that ‘Malindi has never elected a woman MP’ and urged voters to reject her.

All the propaganda did not succeed and Malindi decided she would be their leader in the National Assembly in the next five years.

Jumwa’s success is attributed to strategies laid out over a period of time on how to conquer the women bloc vote as they are a majority.

To ensure that she captured the women, Jumwa created women’s groups cells all over the constituency, and got them all to come up with different projects that ensured constant contact with her. This made it easier for her to mobilise them very fast any time.

The Malindi MP-elect is perceived as a key pillar in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party and this has made her to be very close to the party leader Raila Odinga, Deputy party leader who is also Mombasa County governor Ali Hassan Joho as well as Kilifi County governor Amason Kingi.

Tenure

During her tenure as the Kilifi County Women Representative, Jumwa proved to the ODM party that she could stand firm and fight any battle for the party’s sake.

Jumwa has no regrets for the decisions she has made including divorcing her husband to join politics.

Coming from a polygamous family, Jumwa says almost all her family members did not go to school because her jobless father had many wives.

“I have been the sole bread winner for all the 62 dependants,” she says.

Born in March 28, 1976 in Takaungu, Kilifi County where she grew up and got married, Jumwa is the fourth born of 28 children. She is also a mother to three children.

Since she came to power the legislator has embarked on a mission to empower members of her family to enable them sustain their livelihoods. She has taken some of her brothers to driving schools and bought them trucks which are used for business in Takaungu.

She also bought modern fishing equipment for her brothers who are fishermen.

Jumwa who begun taking full responsibilities for the family in 1997 when she was elected councillor, is also facilitating the education of the younger ones.

She recalls with agony how as a young girl from a poverty stricken family she could not even get sanitary pads when she started menstruation. “My first pad was made from neem tree leaves. It caught me unawares and there was no money to buy pads,’’ she recalls.

Today she is running the Aisha Jumwa Foundation which supports adolescents with sanitary towels.

How was she able to get into politics that is viewed as a male domain by the Giriama? Jumwa says it all started in 1996 when a group of 25 women known as the Mawazo Women’s Group approached and urged her to join politics. It’s this women’s group that contributed funds through their merry-go-round to help her get into politics.

In addition, one influential leader in Takaungu — the late Shariff Alwi — called her and promised to support her political dream. This earned her the first political seat as a councillor in 1997 which she went ahead and retained until 2007 when she quit to go for a parliamentary seat but lost.

“As a councillor my biggest project was making water available because it never existed in my area. Remote areas of Takaungu had no water and through my project lives were transformed,’’ she says.

Achievements

Jumwa remains on record as the first Woman Representative in Kilifi County. During the campaigns in 2013 she made many pledges that she was unable to meet because there was no allocation or kitty for them like the Constituency Development Fund.

“I came up with the idea of harambees and was supported by Governor Amason Kingi. We also came up with table banking,’’ she says.

She has also partnered with Deputy Presidents wife, Racheal Ruto through her organization called Joy Women Organisation (Joy-Wo) to support women in table banking and micro projects.

In the affirmative action cash, Jumwa got KSh49 Million out of which every constituency got KSh7 million in her tenure.

She says the funds were too little and after administration and other expenses every constituency remained with only KSh4.5 million.

In the funding she has managed to buy market shades all over the county as well as bought agricultural facilities including ploughing machines and a tractor.

“The agricultural machines help in ploughing quickly and are cheap at KSh1,500 down from the normal KSh3,000. Every woman with physical challenges gets the services free of charge,’’ she says.

Jumwa believes in dealing with whatever challenges that come her way head on. However, she does not forget that she is a single parent raising her children alone.

The legislator used to stay in Takaungu until early 2016 when she moved to her new home in Kakuyuni in Malindi Constituency where she has settled.

Challenges

She affirms that women’s leadership has a lot of challenges but tells women to take it head on. “Culture, religion and intimidation are there but if you decide to go you will make it,’’ she says.

Her partying shot is that as the women representative, she has broken the belief that women cannot be elected as MP in Malindi.
When asked why she chose Malindi Constituency and not any other of the seven constituencies, Jumwa had this to say. “Malindi is one of my constituencies I decided to come and vie here because as a Kenyan I am free to live anywhere.”

Already Jumwa has hinted she could be going for the Governor position in 2022 though she has not made it clear.