On her first visit to her UDA party leader in Karen Linet Chepkorir Toto was met with obstacles as she was blocked by guards at the gate.
Deputy President Willian Ruto was meeting UDA Rift Valley Aspirants at hi Karen Residence, but Linet Chepkorir Toto was accused of blocking other aspirants.
The security officers told her she was “intruding into a leaders’ meeting way above her cut”.
One can fail to spot Linet Chepkorir due to her humbleness and casual dressing, and you would be quick to mistake her for a small girl.
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The officers cautioned her that the residence “was not a children’s playground” even as aspirants with whom she had travelled from Bomet County and other parts of the region, were respectfully ushered into the compound.
But the 24-year-old held her ground; she was no lesser aspirant. For lack of money to upgrade her wardrobe, she went to the November 9, 2021 event dressed in a yellow hoodie, simple hairdo, a green dress and rubber shoes.
During that visit, the third born in a family of seven, passed for a villager biting more than she could chew politically.
“Eventually, after about an hour, I was allowed in after I showed them my passcode to the meeting; electronically generated for members who have paid UDA aspirants’ fee of Sh6,000,” says Chepkorir.
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When she got in, the tents were full, with other hopefuls having taken their seats.
“I took a seat in the back row, then it occurred to me that the Deputy President had not arrived. I walked to the front and requested a person who was standing by to take snapshots of me using my phone so I could provide it as evidence that I went to the DP’s residence,” Chepkorir narrates.
Thereafter, she uploaded the photos onto social media platforms, then switched off her phone as was demanded by security officers. DP Ruto walked in and the meeting began. It ended a few hours later, after which she started her return journey.
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While offline, the three photos she had posted online had gone viral, with descriptions of how an ordinary and courageous village girl had presented herself as one of the hopefuls for the position of Bomet woman representative.
“After the meeting, my phone battery ran out, and I did not have the opportunity to charge it until I returned to Bomet. When I turned it on, I was startled by the number of missed phone calls. More surprising were the social media messages that came through,” says Chepkorir.
“For a while, I did not realise what the buzz was about, until people came forth with congratulatory messages. It dawned on me the photos I posted earlier had been shared all over the place.”
Linet Chepkorir, popularly known as Toto, is the youngest of the 18 candidates seeking to succeed Bomet Woman Representative Joyce Korir, who has shifted to the Bomet Central Member of Parliament (MP) contest. The current Bomet Central MP, Ronald Tonui, is quitting elective politics, after two terms at the helm.
Chepkorir holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Chuka University, where she graduated in April 2021. She has played leadership roles at Kapsimibiri Primary and Siwot Secondary schools and served as female captain at Tharaka University College, a constituent of Chuka University.
“I am a youth leader at Chemomul African Gospel Church (AGC) and chairperson of the United Youth group in Kapsimbiri in Bomet East Constituency and a member of the Weekend Mentorship Programme for Youths in our location.”
Due to her entry into the fray, Bomet residents are keenly following the woman rep campaigns, with many of them rallying behind her.
But she first has to contend with the UDA nominations that have so far attracted 18 hopefuls, including Jubilee-nominated Senator Alice Milgo; Jubilee-nominated MCAs Cecilia Mutai and Evaline Kirui; Susan Koech; Beatrice Tonui; Prof Emily Sitienei; Beatrice Chebomui; and Stacey Chepkemoi.
Boda boda campaigns
Chepkorir has been using a boda boda in her campaigns, with members of the public contributing cash for her transport and other needs. She has been branded the “people’s candidate”. This has helped her overshadow her competitors, some of whom are deep-pocketed.
To raise the Ksh125,000 required by UDA form youths running for parliamentary seats, Linet Chepkorir Toto depended on the general public donations.
“I strongly believe in God, that it is possible to deliver the seat with the overwhelming support from voters and well-wishers. I have faith in prayer and wish to demonstrate that leadership is not about how old you are, or how much money and connections a candidate has.”
If elected, she will focus on empowering women, the youth and people living with disabilities.
“As a youth, I understand the problems my age mates face. Majority have no source of income and have not been employed even after going through university and middle-level college education. It is an issue I will address with the national and county governments. I will also rope in the private sector to provide solutions,” says Chepkorir.
She says most empowerment programs take the wrong approach and wants target groups trained on business or related ventures first to curb losses.
“In many instances, the empowerment programs have failed because the approach has been top-bottom instead of bottom-up. Some groups have received equipment that has not been helpful to them because they were not approached to find out their management needs, weaknesses and strengths” says Chepkorir.
Dares to dream
On January 10, when DP Ruto held a rally in Bomet Green Stadium, she received overwhelming reception from UDA supporters, as others were jeered, an indication of how popular her bid has become.
“Unlike in other regions where we have youths running for positions by virtue of their social standing, looks and privileged status, Chepkorir’s case is that of a village girl who has dared to dream and carries the aspirations of many. The support she has got is overwhelming,” says Rose Kositany, a resident.
After trending on social media, a designer in Mombasa called her and offered to upgrade her wardrobe, for free.
“They requested me to send them my measurements, in what I initially thought was a joke, but I complied nonetheless. I was surprised when I was called and told to pick a parcel at the Ena Coach office in Bomet town,” she says.
“It contained a fashionable blouse, dress and a skirt. I am very grateful to them for their support.”
It remains to be seen whether the support she has will translate into votes come August 9, and whether the county is ripe for representation by a young person in the National Assembly.
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