Grace Akumu is not resting on her laurels as she seeks Kisumu County seat
Only last month Kenyans joined the rest of the world in celebrating the International Women’s Day (IWD), which was marked under the theme ‘Be Bold for Change’.
The theme, aptly suits Kenyan women particularly now that the country is geared towards the General Election and many of them are turning out in large numbers to be nominated. As the day was marked, women in Kenya were urged to be strong and focus on the bid to increase the number of women leaders across the country.
According to Grace Akumu, leader Citizens Convention Party (CCP), the only way to ensure that women’s voices are heard especially in matters to do with policy making is by women standing up now to be counted.
“Women should be bold, strong and focused. They should be able to stand up for their rights and access leadership at various stages in this country,” said Akumu. “We must have many women elected as leaders so that our voices can be heard; so that we can effect policy change to what is going to be favourable for women, youths and other marginalized communities.”
Akumu is playing in the same league with a few other women who are leaders of political parties in this country.
She is in the same league with the likes of Martha Wangari Karua who leads the National Alliance Rainbow Coalition Kenya (NARC-K) Party; Charity Kaluki Ngilu who leads the National Alliance Rainbow Coalition (NARC) Party and Wavinya Ndeti who is the leader of Chama Cha Uzalendo (CCU).
Akumu is the wife of former Nyakach Member of Parliament, the late Dennis Akumu. Her journey to forming a political party arose from what she termed as being defeated by male chauvinists from top leadership to the grassroots level in the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) party.
She was a member of the ODM when she announced her bid to vie for the Nyakach parliamentary seat in 2007. She lost but ended up vying on a NARC ticket after ‘the party’s top brass gave out a nomination certificate to her male competitor two weeks to the nominations’. However, she lost the election.
Akumu says the same fate befell her again in the run up to the 2013 General Election when the nomination certificate was once again dished out to a male competitor even before nominations were conducted.
“It is not Kenyans who decide their leaders before and during party nominations; it is the big shots in ivory towers that decide the people they want,” said Akumu regrettably.
It was after this experience that she decided enough was enough and went on to form the Citizens Convention Party (CCP).
According to the party’s website, CCP was registered as a political party on June 30, 2015, in accordance with the requirements of the Political Parties’ Act 2010.
“It is a national party and not a Nyanza region outfit,” says Akumu.
The party, founded on the basis of equity and social justice, has a membership of over 600,000 across the country. Akumu says the party was formed with the intent of championing for the rights of the minority and marginalized groups in Kenya.
She has announced her bid to vie for the Kisumu County Women Representative position during the August 8th polls, and will be running against among others, the incumbent Rose Ogendo Nyamunga.
“I would like to make a difference for the women who have been marginalized for a very long time,” Akumu says. “Since Kenya became independent in 1963, we have been promised that women will be included in leadership, women will be assisted in business; women will be assisted in so many ways to uplift them socially, economically and politically but nothing has happened.”
She adds: “Since the women representative position has a small budget, I intend to use it to uplift the welfare of women, youth and people living with disabilities within the county.”
She advices women to note that politics is not a preserve for men. “Political leadership in Kenya is not only defined for men, it is for all.”
Akumu says she is currently speaking to a lot of women, youth and marginalized communities to garner support ahead of the elections. Additionally, she is seeking support from faith based organizations such as churches and mosques.
She urges fellow women seeking political seats to humble themselves and use any given opportunity and platform to ask for votes. She urges them to sensitize and educate women on the need for voting in fellow women.
“Women have fallen in the trap of being told that women do not like each other. It is because a lot of women do not have education, and so a lot of men have capitalized on that to abuse the situation of women,” says Akumu. “The youth are also in the same boat with women. They have been used by the political class and later abandoned.”
She said that in Kenya very few people want to access political leadership in order to make a difference to communities.
“Many people want to assume political leadership in order to access wealth and power through corrupt ways. It is a sorry state for Kenya and unfortunately corruption hurts women and youth the most,” she says.
According to her eight page Curriculum Vitae, Grace Akumu is an expert in global climate change, development negotiations and project implementation spanning 20 years.
A graduate of Friboug and Webster universities in Switzerland, Akumu studied French and International Relations respectively. She also studied public administration at the Kenya Institute of Administration in Nairobi.
Between 2003 and 2006, she served as the patron Action for a Global Climate Change with among other responsibilities lobbying for leadership from willing developing and developed countries in the implementation of the climate change convention.
Akumu served as the Executive Director Climate Network Africa based in Nairobi between 1992 and 2010 and participated in the design of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the World Bank in 2002 among other positions.
In 2009, she received the Webster University Loretto Award in recognition of her commitment and dedication to social justice and humanitarian causes on climate change.
Currently, she is the chairperson and proprietor of the GAPCO Properties Limited, a real estate and property development company and is also the chairperson of Westway Enterprises Limited, an Agri-business Import and Export Company and Director and proprietor of Suntron Investments Limited, freight, forwarding and shipping firm in Mombasa among other capacities.
Politically, she served as the Kenya African National Union (KANU) Mbita branch chief Executive officer between 1997 and 2002.
She vied for the position of councillor in Gembe Greater Ward in 2002 on a KANU ticket and lost.
Ahead of this year’s polls, she is determined to become the second woman representative in Kisumu County, and add her name to the growing list of women coming out to show that politics is indeed not a preserve for men.