Strength of a Woman: the untold Story of Deputy GovernorAdelina Mwau
Born to strict and religious parents, the Deputy Governor’s life story has remained a candid inspiration to scores of women inMakueni County and beyond.
BY FAITH MWENDE
By any description, Deputy Governor Adelina Mwau is a perfect example of the strength of a woman. Her life story is a one long and interesting narrative of intriguing experiences right from early childhood to adulthood, crowned by her entry into advocacy and politics. Born 62 years ago in the hilly terrains of Kilungu, today’s deputy governor of Makueni County has stood out as a shining beacon to the women fraternity not only in Makueni, but also in the entire country. Her parents, who were staunch Catholics, ensured she learnt responsibility early, being the first born in a family of three boys and five girls. As career teachers, and founders of several schools in Makueni and Machakos Counties, her parents ensured all their children went to school, more remarkably at a time when majority of parents were yet to see the sense of educating their children; particularly girls.Unfortunately, she would not live to experience much of her both parents’ love and guidance, following the death of her father while she was still very young.
It is at that point, she explains, that her mother took over the mantle and begun the struggle to provide for the huge family single-handedly. But what ignited her passion for politics and to pursue ‘genderoriented’ activism- and by extension, women empowerment? At some point while still growing up, she recalls, she begun to take issue with some of the doctrines advanced by the catholic religion, which she says, appear to depict women as inferior. She would later get in touch with liberation theology which made her more comfortable and appreciate religion and the bible. Liberation theology helped her realize the need to be a voice of the voiceless and the disadvantaged or marginalized. She has since been focused and committed to support the marginalized and the disadvantaged people, which made her visible within the County and beyond. “Personal struggles, triumphs and lessons learnt from my mother and other mentors have exposed me to leadership and prepared me for political battles.
The lessons learnt from their experiences and struggles have taught me to respect and appreciate women and have made me realize that nobody gives you power, you just take it. I also believe that women can actually beat the odds of patriarchy”, she says. And just as the saying goes, like mother like daughter, Adelina would eventually follow the footsteps of her mother, Teresia Mwau, who was at one point a nominated councilor in then Machakos County Council. Her mother was also the first woman in Kilungu to contest for a civic seat. Ms Mwau’s motivation to Strength of a Woman: the untold Story of Deputy Governor Adelina Mwau become the voice of the disadvantaged and the marginalized as well as a human rights activist is driven from her long time engagement with grassroots groups and communities and the need to engender laws and policies that aim at positive change in communities.
During her five-year stint as an Assistant Minister of Labor and Human Resource Development, and Nominated MP, she served as a member of Public Accounts Committee, where she worked behind the scenes with her colleagues to promote engendering of Bills, Motions and budget-making process in the 9th Parliament. In 2002, Ms Mwau was nominated to Parliament by President Kibaki’s Narc party, where she joined her fellow female colleagues including Martha Karua, Charity Ngilu, Beth Mugo, NjokiNdungu, NyivaMwendwa among others to promote the Gender-Agenda in Legislation, Policy Formulation and Budget-making. She was later appointed as an Assistant Minister in the Ministry of Labour and Human Resource Management. In 2012, Prof Kivutha Kibwana, now the Governor of Makueni County, picked Adelina Mwau as his running mate where the pair captured the gubernatorial seat almost with a landslide win.
Currently, the DG is a member of the Deputy Governors’ Forum chaired by Narok DG, EverlynArwasa. She also doubles as the treasurer of a newly established network of Women Deputy Governors dubbed ‘Kenya Network of Women Governors (KNWG)’ a network that envisages to consolidate the gains already achieved through the constitutional framework that set the a third gender rule, develop a robust structure and forum for addressing gender equality at county levels and to galvanize and provide necessary structures for advocacy. Her eight other colleagues include Hazel Ogunde (Mombasa), Fatuma Mohamed Achani (Kwale) and Mary NdigaKibuka (TaitaTaveta) from Coast region; Dorothy Nditi Muchungu (Embu); Peninah Malonza (Kitui) from Eastern region; Everlyn Arwasa (Narok), Susan Kikwai (Kericho) from Riftvalley region and Ruth Odinga (Kisumu) representing Nyanza and Western regions.
She holds a Master of Arts Degree in Development Studies from the Institute of Development Studies-The Hague, Holland and a Diploma in Adult Education from the Institute of Adult Studies-University of Nairobi. She trained in DELTA (Development Education Leadership Teams in Action) - a 4-phased training in Participatory approaches to development organized by Kenya Catholic Secretariat, Department of Development.Some of her major achievements She was in the forefront with fellow women leaders in mainstreaming gender in the new Constitution under the Ufungamano Initiative.In parliament, she was among the leading voices for affirmative action on gender equity and called for the zero rating of sanitary towels for school girls.She is passionate about engendering the newly formed Counties Integrated Development Plans (CIDP’s) in Kenya.
The Makueni Deputy Governor has a wealth of experience and is the Advisor and Founder Member of Women’s Research Centre & Development Institute (WRC-DI)- a platform she has been using to fight gender violence and engage grassroot communities in Makueni County She is the Founder and Board Member of several organizations and political parties e.g. COVAW-K, Kenya Women PoliticalAlliance, Narc-Kenya and Institute for Social Transformation in Uganda among others. She worked as a Regional Programme Officer at WILDAF (Women in Law and Development in Africa) based in Harare – Zimbabwe and is a Co-founder & Facilitator of Training for Transformation (TFT) International Diploma Programme. She worked as a Gender Program Officer in Oxfam Kenya and as an Adult Training Coordinator, Dioceses of Marsabit and also served in the National Adult Education Consultants with Catholic Dioceses of Kenya.
She is the author of various publications for instance,the Oxfam Gender Training Manual and Coauthor of a Training Manual on Gender & Human Rights-a publication of the World Health Organisation (WHO). She was nominated for the Award of OGW (Order of the Golden Warrior) by the Devolution & Planning Ministry. She spearheads a project that seeks to address menstruation management 17and hygiene practices in rural public primary & secondary schools in Makueni County. Advocating for Affirmative Action and the 2/3 representation in all processes in Makueni County. She supports the girl child education and women’s movement through table banking and formation of cooperatives to ensure that women’s merry-go-round move from private reproductive activities to public productive ventur She is a co-founder and director of St Teresia Kilungu Academy & Formation Centre that was established to help underprivileged and vulnerable children.
A majority of women feel encouraged that she is a Deputy Governor and continues to mentor and motivate them to start dreaming and affirming themselves that they can too be great leaders. Others are advocacy, lobbying and community awareness on gender, adult education, reproductive health, human rights and development issues in addition to continous education and awareness creation on devolution and the opportunities available for women, youth and people with disabilities through the tendering process. We are also encouraging formation of groups in order to benefit from above. As a mentor and a leader, she continues to encourage girls and young women that they can be whatever they want to become if they concentrate on their education by working hard, setting goals and focusing on achieving them so that they can live better lives and become powerful and influential leaders in the future.
Her views on women’s role in devolved government “Makueni residents are full of expectations for the first time in more than 50 years of Kenya’s independence. They see devolution as their savior”, she adds. For instance, there has been a major boost in health care services and women’s leadership is visible because of affirmative action and the two thirds gender representation in all processes in our County. According to her, the major priorities that require urgent implementation include:-
•Taking off a burden out of women’s backs so that they can concentrate in productive activities and children can concentrate on their learning by distribution of water tanks, gutters and emphasis on water knowledge and harvesting practices.
•Economic empowerment for women by ensuring that merry-go-rounds move from private to public domain through formation of strong cooperative movements.
•Addressing women’s reproductive health issues -construction of a women’s hospital.
Second in command as a Deputy Governor, her role includes deputizing the Governor in the execution of his functions as well as coordinating operational matters within the county. It is worth noting that this is the most challenging job that she has ever done in her life simply because the job is new and she is among the first crop of Deputy Governors in Kenya. They are setting especially structures, policies, and translating them into devolution laws. Besides, there are challenges with the National Government particularly with the functions and powers of devolved units, E.g. County Roads and Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KERRA) and Education. It is therefore difficult to explain what has been devolved and what has not been devolved and this sometimes brings confusion and blame by citizens. “Attending and participating in field activities at the community level and giving inspirational motivational talks to women and young people is the most enjoyable part of my job,” she says.“I really like that I am making an impact in the community where I live and the county at large”, she adds.
Leading by example-An Environmentalist and a farmer “I am passionate about farming and environmental conservation. For instance, am creating awareness and education on water harvesting to farmers through construction of farm ponds. In addition, I have planted over 500 avocados for export, 1500 passion fruits and bananas. I practice dairy and poultry farming and my three (3) Fresian cows that are being milked currently produce 74 litres of milk per day and this is likely to increase because of availability of pasture due to the rains. I am a member of several cooperative movements like Nunguni FSA, AKA Housing Cooperative and Universal Traders Sacco among others. I have also taken the initiative to create a man- made forest in pursuit of environmental conservation. I encourage you to take the initiative to plant trees especially this rainy season where there is a lot of soil erosion and destruction of property. These trees do help as wind-breakers and prevent soil erosion to a great extent.” she adds.