“First women are not in leadership position by mistake, it’s the duty of every country to ensure women are in leadership,” explains Migori County’s Women representative Dennitah Ghati when She Agenda visited her office in Migori town
For a woman who started her life at Maeta village in Kuria East constituency, Dennitah Ghati has scaled the heights of journalism, activism and politics to become the first woman from the marginalised Kuria community to be elected a legislator.
The young legislator laughs easily and gesticulates energetically as Kenyan Weekly sought to know about her life in politics and work she did to end Female Genital Mutilation in her community and empower women across the globe.
“I think activism had stayed with me for long time before joining Migori politics. I ran a women rights NGO championing for women rights, end of FGM, campaign for girl child education and women empowerment in my native Kuria community,” Ghati said.
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She adds: “If you Google my name you’ll find I did enough gender work preceding my election into politics. I didn’t have to join politics to champion for women.”
The legislator who wears a happy smiley face throughout our conversation says the urge to take her activism and push for the She Agenda a notch higher through active politics caught up with her during the campaigns ahead of the passing of the Constitution of Kenya (CoK) in 2010.
“We were campaigning to have a new constitution in this country as a civil activist where I invested my time and resources to push the agenda through. That is when I realized we can do more at a higher level of policy formulation,” she recounted.
Through her NGO, she managed to raise funds that she used to sponsor girls from her marginalised community that is still striving to embrace girl child education.
She also held forums with stakeholders from the community to stamp out the retrogressive cultures of ‘the cut’ and subsequent early marriages.
Since her election in 2013, she continued to preside over various activities that are aimed at improving the lives of women and girls within the county and the nation at large.
When she came to power, the first thing she did was helping women register themselves into groups and forming Saccos to help increase their voice in seeking tenders and funds.
The legislator also launched table banking in the county to promote economic and social empowerment of women as they loan each other at low interest rates at a function that was presided over by the Deputy President’s wife, Rachel Ruto.
As the county patron of Uwezo Fund, Ghati notes that her office has helped train women and people living with disability to be economically empowered before receiving the funds.
“My office has also partnered with development partners and financial institutions to offer financial training on entrepreneurship and offer soft loans to youth groups and women Saccos,” said Dennitah Ghati.
The Women Representative also has plans lined up to have the affirmative action funds, though she says they arrived late, to help at least two groups in Migori county’s 40 wards. Already eight have benefitted in Rongo constituency.
Elsewhere, in order to improve girl child education through her ‘Sister Mentors’ programme where girls are encouraged on the value of education, good communication and sound reproductive health, the MP is set to give bursaries worth 3.6 million to over 300 girls in the first round.
She however confesses that the fight and push for the woman agenda has not been an easy task. For instance, though she has performed tremendously in order to stamp out FGM from the Kuria community and others that practice the vice, there has been a lot of resistance.
The Migori county legislator says though culture is not something that you can wake up and wish away, a lot needs to be done in terms of creating awareness and push for political goodwill, which she emphasizes still lacks. This makes many women shy from speaking against FGM.
“From where I sit I have to fight alone as a leader as my colleagues fear if they raise the issue they might lose votes in elections. This has been painful,” the women representative noted.
The otherwise detrimental factor, which she attributes to intimidate women from leadership, generally, is the patriarchal history of the National leadership. This has scared off most first time legislators but again, she affirms that women leaders have adapted appropriately.
Another factor that she admits has slowed her down but has not dampened her spirit is an accident that occurred to her resulting to her being ridden on a wheel chair. Migori women representative appreciates the heart of understanding that people of Migori accorded her even as she continues to serve them.
“My constituents gave me time to heal; it has been two years since I went down on a wheelchair. They never gave me a lot of pressure and they have been kind, which has made me to continue with my work without any hitch as I have done exceedingly well in covering all eight constituencies and 40 wards as I have done good ground work,” explained Ghati.
She also credits her family members together with her six year old daughter to have been of “a lot of support’’ to her in adopting to the reality that she has to move around in a wheel chair.
But Ghati, who is the secretary at Orange Democratic Movement’s (ODM) NEC, can’t stop without boasting of having great support from CORD co-principle and ODM patron Raila Odinga who has been with her throughout her difficult times.
“The best supporter has been my party leader Raila Odinga who has been with me from the days I was in hospital. I always see it in his eyes and it’s every time we meet that he remembers my energy before the accident. That’s enough,” Ghati said.
On women leadership, Ghati who floored four contestants to emerge Migori County’s premiere Women representative on an ODM ticket feels that legislator’s in previous and current governments have not prioritized women. She believes that with the Constitution of Kenya (CoK) promulgated in 2010, the country is headed for a bright future.
“It is sad that as a country at this era we still struggle to see if we can add more women in leadership while other countries have gone far ahead from Tanzania, Rwanda and even Sudan. We still can’t prioritize women, but as women legislators we will struggle to reverse this since it is not over until it is over,” notes Dennitah Ghati.
The Secretary of Communication at NEC who urges minority groups and women from marginalised says her condition will not stop her from serving her people and hopes to still be in politics come 2022
“I only urge my members never to feel intimidated to campaign across the county because I did it without a godfather like others had. I got votes across all communities as my position was never negotiated by communities,” she implored.
Ghati who decries that flop of the ‘Gender Bill’ a second time says women who have ascended to various leadership positions, though few, have done much to front the gender agenda and deserve a pat on the back.
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