Poverty is on the peak among the people. Access to proper land ownership, good roads, quality education and health services, clean water and information on adaptive farming in the wake of destructive climate change, is a problem.
And Sarah Osasi, has a first-hand experience in all these. Being a member of the community,she has seen and felt the deep impoverishment among Ogiek women, men and youth. She has witnessed children drop out of school because of evictions from the Mau forest.
She has consoled with families who have lost their loved ones due to conflicts arising from ownership of land in the Mau. But Osasi has chosen to rise above the obstacles and fronted herself to seek power and authority of the people in the August 2017 general election to emancipate them from the oppression and alienation.
She is seeking a political position of Member of the County Assembly (MCA) to represent Marioshoni Ward in the County Assembly of Nakuru in Nakuru County.
“I want to end the injustices we have been subjected to for many years,” she says.
Her case is a manifestation of taking by practice the Kenyan legislative framework that supports participation of women in politics despite the challenges she faces as a woman from an indigenous minority.
It is a mandatory under the Kenyan Constitution (2010) for the County Assembly or the Parliament to be constituted of both men and women.
It creates a cut out threshold of not more than two thirds of the same gender composition such that if the numbers are not met, parties are prompted to nominate the badly off gender in terms of elective representation, to balance the equation.
The Political Parties Act, Elections Act and Election Campaign Financing Act also have provisions encouraging engagement of women in the political activities and processes.
To win, Osasi who intends to vie on an Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) ticket knows too well that she has to convince other communities living in the ward to elect her.
She also has to deal with existing cultural orders which give prominence to men and create a perception of women as non-leaders; worse still coming from a community considered as a mere minority in need of affirmative action to be at par with other communities.
Despite the socio-cultural challenges, Osasi is hopeful of clinching the seat and be the voice of her people.
“I know there are challenges I will have to face but I will not give up,” she says.
“I want to change the lives of my people. They have suffered enough. I want to see their problems on land solved completely and eliminate illiteracy and poverty from the households,” says the strong willed Osasi.
Leadership is not a new phenomenon to her.
For seven years, she has been sitting at the board of management in a local primary school, three of which she served as the chairperson.
She says her vision as a woman from an indigenous minority ethnic community is to see an empowered generation able to fully enjoy their lives.
The community is currently awaiting judgment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Development Rights in a case in which it has sued the Kenyan government for consistent evictions from the Mau Forest, abusing their rights to land and inflicting human suffering.
In December 2016, the community through Ogiek Peoples’ Development Program (OPDP) sought help of Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) in fastracking resolution of their land and human injustices directly linked to intricate disputes on legitimate ownership of land within the boundaries of the Mau Forest Complex.
The commission raised their hopes having promised to look into their concerns through a seven-member committee which would collect and compile information regarding their troubles and provide the necessary support in finding a long-term solution.