ICLD participant Judy became a pioneer

One of the main goals of our programmes is to empower our participants to be strong leaders championing democracy and human rights and good role models to their communities, and we are particularly pleased when we hear about their successes. Today, we want to share with you the success story of Judy Makira from Kenya who, inspired by ICLD’s leadership programme, decided to run for a seat that has never been vied for by a woman.

When participating in the programme Leadership in Local Governance 2021, Dr. Judy Makira belonged to a team of three who saw that women in their community were underrepresented in leadership roles and wanted to bring about a change. In the course of the training, the team was working on increasing women’s participation in leadership and political positions in Murang’a County. Today, Judy Makira proudly presents herself as the first woman in history who dared to vie for Kiharu Constituency Member of National Assembly (MNA) in Kenya’s recent election.

–  I see this as a great milestone and I attribute this daring move to my participation in the ITP programme. The training gave me confidence to set an example to the very women we were reaching out to.

The constituency has had ten MPs since 1963, the year when Kenya got independent, and none of these positions have ever been challenged by a woman. Even though she didn’t win the Kiharu parliamentary seat race (ending up at position three out of six), Judy Makira sees her defeat as nothing but a victory:

– The fact that I was the first one has set a pace for women in Murang’a. If you google my name, you will read: ”Meet the woman who is the first woman to vie for this seat.” When women in Murang’a read this, they now know that nothing is impossible.   

Running for office in Kenya’s election 2022 has brought Judy several victories: she has been elected the National Chair by the women and the Murang’a Chapter Vice Chair. And to our question why the former participant decided to enter politics in the first place, she answers that it was the natural choice, as during her participation in the ITP she was mentoring others in lobbying for more women to join politics; people were questioning why she didn’t do it herself. ”And I decided to be an example,” she adds.

Change project and future work

The goal of the change project that Judy Makira and her team worked on during the ICLD’s training was to eliminate the gender gap in leadership in their home county by helping more women to get involved in all aspects of the political process. In the previous term, there were only three women elected members out of 35 members of the County Assembly. The others have been nominated to comply with the two-third-gender rule in Kenya. Judy Makira reports that ten women mentored by her team were running for various elected positions, of which four have successfully entered politics.

Apart from that, the team has conducted a lot of media interviews as well as a talk show dedicated to the issue of women leadership. According to the alumna, the change project has not only brought changes in Murang’a, but also in the whole country:

– Many people from all over the country have called me and said: ”When I watched you, I knew I wanted to join politics.” We are happy that, for the first time, more women have been elected than in previous years.

Even though the leadership programme has come to its end, the work of the project continues. Together with her colleagues, Judy has formed an association which helps women who lost the election and are currently facing social, domestic and financial challenges, to recover and encourages women to pursue various leadership roles.

ITP, Leadership in Local Governance, Woman politician, Women's Empowerment,