From being a great mobiliser, it’s time for Leah Mumo to take Harambee Ward
The old Swahili adage kuteleza sio kuanguka (To trip is not to fall) sits snuggly with Leah Mumo Matee, Nominated Member of Nairobi County Assembly under The National Alliance (TNA) of the Jubilee Coalition.
In Standard Five and at only 11 years she fell pregnant. Matee did not even understand what was going on with the changes in her body because she had not experienced her menses.
Her pregnancy would lead to challenges in the family as her father lost his stature in the community and the church where he was an elder holding the position of a deacon. He blamed Matee for disgracing him and the family as their home proved too small to contain both of them.
Matee had to shift base because the father wanted nothing to do with her. She went to live with her grandmother in the village. With schools far apart, she would walk a distance of about 11 kilometres to school and cover the same distance back.
However, she decided that the pregnancy was not going to stop her from realising her dreams.
“After Form Four, my grandmother could no longer support my education and there was nobody to pay my way to college,” recalls Matee.
“I realised that life is about the choices that you make. You choose what you want to be because God never created a junk,” she says.
From 2000m, Matee came back to Nairobi, and went to live in Harambee Estate, in Nairobi’s eastlands, the place where she had grown.
She joined politics as a mobiliser in Makadara and realised that she was very good at it. She had also been enlisted as a Community Health Worker and this worked to her advantage as she started creating awareness on leadership, and particularly that of women.
“What I know is that I can talk and I can heckle,” says Matee who declared that she would make a career out of heckling by suing her mouth.
“I could pull crowds and people listened to me. In any meeting people would respond to me in a big way,” explains Matee. She then knew that her mouth was her strength and it’s what she would use to earn a living.
Politicians also realised her ability to pull crowds and they started looking for her knowing the impact she would have in their campaign meetings.
Her heckling did not go to waste because in 2013 she was rewarded with a nomination to the Nairobi City County Assembly.
Matee, who is now aspiring to be elected as the MCA for Harambee Ward in Makadara Constituency, has realised that as a woman looking for an elective political position there are so many challenges that stand on your way.
“One of the biggest challenges for women who are vying against men is insecurity,” Matee says. “You are not safe from attacks.”
According to Matee: “Most of the incumbents, especially men are often threatened when they have a strong woman trying to unseat them.”
She notes: “They feel threatened because they know the woman is always the first on the ground and hence gains a few mileage ahead of them.
For women, Matee notes, financial resources will always be a challenge. “Very few women have made money which they can use on the campaigns comfortably,” she reiterates.
For instance, Matee notes, those women who were elected as Members of the County Assembly never made any money. “They just relied on their salaries and do not have the financial resources needed to sustain a campaign.”
However, the barriers aside, Matee says she has what it takes to win. “I was born and bred in Harambee. People know me and can identify with me in contrast to the incumbent who does not even live there,” instance,” she intones. “People call me when they have challenges in the Ward instead of looking for the incumbent. I am their true leader because I can identify with them.
Another strength is that most of her support comes from the Ward and she knows with that the seat which she seeks to take on a Jubilee Party ticket will be hers for the taking.
Her plans for the 2017 General Election are in top gear as she has already made herself visible. “My other plan is to make men understand the importance of electing a woman,” says Matee.
For the time she has engaged in politics, Matee says she has realised that as a leader you must never rush to speak.
“As a politician you must learn to be a good listener and be ready to reach consensus,” she advices. “Always allow other people to speak first and speak last as you offer your opinion.”
Another major lesson she has learnt is that as a politician you must always have an answer in your mouth regardless of what people say.
“You would rather tell people things they do now want to hear but they will later come and thank you,” Matee notes.
The third lesson is that you must never make unrealistic promises as these could be your undoing.
“Give promises of what you are going to do but with timelines. You must be specific; speak of what is achievable, realistic and time bound,” Matee points out. “We go wrong as politicians promising to deliver things that we may never actually achieve.”
As women are heading to the General elections where the stakes are higher this time around, Matee says: “Women must strategically engage in team work because they can move as a team regardless of the party.”
She notes that when women fail to support each other, men enjoy that they are being disgraced.
“As women, even if you don’t agree, do not disgrace each other on public,” Matee says. “A fellow woman must never intimidate another woman in front of men.”
Lastly, in her wisdom, she notes: “Hide your weaknesses because at the end of it all you are all losing.”
Her last word is for the people who will be voting in Harambee Ward: “Politics will come and go, but Harambee is here to stay. Let us not use politics to make enemies yet we are the same people who borrow salt and flour from one other because we will still need each other.”