On 9th September 2016, a young woman took to the stage during the launch of the Jubilee Party, amid political heavy weights and declared that she would be running for political office. The young woman was 25-year-old Gertrude Chemutai Kurgat who is vying for the Member of Parliament seat for Turbo Constituency, Uasin Gishu. She is in the Akili Dada’s Young Women Political Aspirants Program that is funded by Forum Syd in the Wajibu Wetu Initiative.
Gertrude is vying for political office inspired by her desire to influence policy making and articulate issues that affect the society realized through the different community service initiatives that she has initiated. “For a long time, I have been involved in community work, particularly on women and youth empowerment. From my experience, I realized policy plays a big part on implementation of such issues. I believe if we had better policies in place we would easily sort out most of the problems facing these women and youth,” she says.
Born and raised in Turbo, the Political Science and Public Administration graduate says that she understands and associates very well with the issues affecting the people of Turbo to adequately represent them at the national level. “My motivation to vie was sealed by a call from my community and friends who asked me to vie for the seat. Many of them say they have acknowledged my leadership and they have trust in my capacity to lead and solve issues that affect them and represent their interests.” She is currently training youth on entrepreneurship and working with partners who train farmers on value addition. In addition to that, Gertrude also plans to hold mentorship sessions in schools where she will enlist volunteer professionals to motivate the young children.
Gertrude is not new to politics and has always been an avid politician. She served as a house captain in Kipkeino Primary School and a house prefect while at Moi Girls Secondary School in Eldoret. While in university, she served in the Moi University Students Organization Constitution Review Commission before being elected the Vice Chairperson of Moi University Students Organisation (MUSO) where she lobbied for students welfare on bursary allocation, scholarships for needy students, welfare for students with disabilities, women empowerment and attending to bereaved students.
While in parliament, she hopes to tackle unemployment in Turbo constituency through promotion of entrepreneurship among the youth as well as quell negative ethnicity and tackle the high illiteracy levels and lack of health facilities. She also hopes to bring clean water to the homes in Turbo and empower farmers in her area by setting up a small trade information center and working with groups to access markets such as the AGOA market.
“My hope for the community is that they may be able to embrace new and innovative ways of mitigating the basic problems that have taken away our human dignity since independence such as poverty and illiteracy. I also look forward to a community that embraces societal values and does not glorify vices like corruption, which have severely eroded our national fabric,” she added.
Gertrude has been able to take up several opportunities that have come her way like speaking at the GES Summit and at the launch of the Jubilee Party where she extensively spoke about the entrepreneurship opportunities for youth afforded by the government. She also had the opportunity to address the nation and seized the moment to ask for votes. “The response from the constituency was overwhelming. It was like they had all watched me on TV. It also helped elevate my image nationwide. At least most of the country and party leadership now recognize me when we meet,” she says of the turning moment in her campaign.
For now, she has to contend with travelling from Nairobi where she works to Turbo every weekend so as to maintain a presence as well as gender stereotyping from other aspirants.
Gertrude believes that by clinching the parliamentary seat in Turbo not only bring change to her community, but also serve as a role model to young women aspiring to run for political office in a patriarchal society.