Turbo Constituency MP-elect JANET SITIENEI, who vied for the seat as an independent candidate, trounced six men to become the Deputy President’s Member of Parliament. She spoke to Silah Koskei about being the only woman in the North Rift to make it to Parliament
What is your take on the just concluded elections?
The race was a struggle, especially facing off with male competitors. I am glad that the locals believed in my leadership and voted for me. As a woman, I stood tall, selling my policies to the electorate as an independent candidate, besides traversing the agriculturally rich region. My family also played a critical role by standing with me.
Do you think the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) results were credible?
They conducted a credible exercise and I am certain that most of my competitors will not challenge the outcome in court because the people of Turbo made their voice heard. It will be critical for political parties in future to also borrow a leaf from the way the electoral body conducted its work, so that many aggrieved candidates will not have an excuse to move out, but instead support and grow within the party.
The Kalenjin refer to women as children. How come then that they elect so many women into leadership?
Culture has socialised us to the extent that roles are specifically structured for men and women. The advent of modernisation and people going to school has changed the perception. Society has now realised that there is good leadership in women because they are transparent, honest and capable of bringing change. I am happy about the progress, that is the reason why many women trounced men as they jostled for elective seats in the recent polls.
Is it true that ‘Kale’ politicians rallied behind you because the Jubilee nominee is from another community?
No one backed me as claimed by many. What the electorate wanted was good leadership and they spoke loudly when they cast their ballots. The constituency is cosmopolitan and I received many votes from different communities.
North Rift is considered a Jubilee zone. What prompted you to seek the post as an independent candidate?
Initially, during the party primaries, I contested on a Jubilee ticket, but the outcome was not pleasant. The entire process was marred with irregularities and most of us were locked out. I however never lost hope because I believed that if given another chance, I will prove to them that I am the best choice. It finally came to pass because they saw a leader in me. Being a leader on an independent ticket is challenging and I call on the government not to sideline us when we enter office.
How do you feel representing the home turf of Deputy President William Ruto?
I feel honoured to represent him in the 12th parliament. I would like the DP to know that he can count on me because I will do my best to bring honour to his constituency. My focus will be on serving the people. Ruto has been my role model and I will offer him my full support as we seek to transform the constituency. He should not doubt me because I am a woman. I can deliver.
Does being the DP’s MP put you under pressure?
Sure! Expectations are high as the former MP took over from DP Ruto in 2013 but the public advocated for change to elect someone who would fit in the DP’s shoes. I am trying as much as possible to ensure that all their demands are met.
How has your upbringing shaped your political journey?
My leadership star started shining while I was young. I loved standing out and defending the interests of my peers. I have a degree in agriculture, nutrition and dietetics from Egerton University. I have been a political adviser to Uasin Gishu Governor Jackson Mandago and from past leadership, I have matured politically. In 2013, I vied for the same position on a United Republican Party (URP) ticket but again, the nominations were flawed. I opted for Narc party at the time but failed and the outgoing legislator, Elisha Busienei, was declared the winner. I did not give up and patiently bade my time.
What is your take on the number of elected women compared to their male counterparts?
Women make up more than 50 per cent of the country’s population and we have proved that we can do better in realising the country’s economic goals through medium enterprises. The recent polls proved that society is changing. They are now embracing women leadership which is a good step in nation building. We are no longer lesser beings, but critical in shaping opinions just like our male counterparts.
What are some of the areas you want to focus on while in office?
My priority will be to ensure provision of quality education to bridge the gap between the poor and rich. Similarly, I want to empower the youth and women and encourage farmers to diversify to other viable cash crops so that they can export their produce given that we have the Eldoret International Airport. Special groups such as Persons with Disabilities will also not be left behind.