The Ministry of Public Service and Gender in collaboration with stakeholders championing girls and women agenda has established the Trailblazer Programme to identify, recognise, reward and celebrate women leaders who have made significant contributions to Kenya’s political and socio-economic transformation.
This is in line with the Government’s commitment to promote gender equality and women empowerment programmes as spelt out in the Beijing Platform for Action and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The steady progress made in implementing these global commitments has earned Kenya international recognition.
Nairobi hosted one of the four UN World Conferences on Women in 1985. Others were held in Mexico City (1975), Copenhagen (1980) and Beijing (1995). Kenya is therefore playing a strategic role in shaping the global agenda on women empowerment and gender equality, particularly in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
At the heart of this progress are transformative women leaders who have championed and expanded horizons in various subject areas such as education, politics, governance, law and jurisprudence and literature. They have inspired many in the cause of their campaigns, and continue to contribute to nation building through peace efforts, diplomacy, arbitration, public policy reforms, community service and as advisors in both public and private institutions.
Another key pillar of the Trailblazer Programme is youth leadership. We seek to tap the experiences, lessons and achievements of women leaders to mentor and inspire the next generation.
- To identify, recognise and reward women who broke new grounds in various areas of human endeavor.
- To identify role models for mentorship of young women and girls.
- To create awareness on the contributions and achievements by women.
- To comply with global standards in gender equity and equality.
As a reward scheme, Trailblazers is expected to articulate and record all issues affecting women development and recommend policy initiatives for empowerment. It forms the basis upon which gender equality gains will be actualised for sustainable development.
The historical journey of the trailblazers has been long. The significant gains made must therefore be shared with the younger generation who will carry and pass the baton at the right time. These trailblazers have institutional memory of the country’s struggles on gender equality, a history that is critical to unlocking the current challenges faced in this journey. They will brighten the dull paths of equality with priceless messages of hope.
Trailblazers are women who pioneered the gender equality movement in Kenya. They have held top government, non-government and international jobs, leaving footprints of commitment, distinction and success.
They are readily available to mentor young women and girls to work hard, build confidence and pursue their dreams in transforming their lives and make significant constributions to their communities.
The State Department for Gender Affairs is, therefore, keen to partner with these icons in such initiatives. In previous electioneering seasons, the State Department worked with eminent women to promote peace and reconcile communities.
The Department also coordinates the annual International Women’s Day celebrations to recognise gender champions and rally individuals, groups and lobbies for collective action and shared ownership in creating awareness and driving gender parity campaign.
On this day, emiment and upcoming women leaders get opportunity to share ideas and experiences, which feed into the gender policy of the Ministry. The women leaders are key stakeholders to the advisory committee on the implementation of the two-thirds (2/3) gender rule.
Mama Phoebe Asiyo is one of the most respected and influential women leaders in Kenya. She is a former Member of Parliament for Karachuonyo Constituency, first African chairperson of Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization (the largest grassroots women organization in Kenya) and Ambassador to UNIFEM.
Mama Asiyo began her career as a teacher having successfully trained at Embu Teachers Training College. Although brief, her stint in school classrooms was a stepping stone to the future. She later joined the Prisons Service, which was male-dominated, but she rose through the ranks to become the first female Superintendent of the Kenya Prisons Service. It is during her time at the Prison Service that women prisons were established across the country.
In 1979, she ventured into politics, contesting for and winning the Karachuonyo Constituency parliamentary seat, which she held for two consecutive five-year terms, making her the first woman in Kenya to serve that long in the history of National Assembly. Mama Asiyo lost her seat during the infamous Mlolongo elections of 1988 only to bounce back to Parliament in the 1992 multi-party elections.
After retirement from politics in 1997, she was appointed to the defunct Constitution of Kenya Review Commission (CKRC) as a commissioner. She has since devoted her time and energies in community work and philanthropy.
She works closely with the State Department for Gender Affairs to mentor upcoming female leaders and in the promotion of women agenda. Mama Asiyo has just authored her memoir, whose launch will be supported by the Ministry of the Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs as a way of honouring and recognizing her as a trailblazer.