Former Aga Khan Student and a fishmonger turned politician
I found her preparing her first party meeting with other village leaders. ‘We can talk before the meeting starts, it is an introductory meeting nothing much to worry’’. Meet Amimo a lady of medium height, with a sharp memory .The little known past student of the prestigious Aga Khan School, living in the sprawling slums of Kibera has trounced the big names in the political circles to be the first lady to win the Chairperson of the Orange Democratic Party (ODM) in her ward. This is one of the most powerful parties in the country .The UNHABITAT statistics estimates the population in Kibera to be a million comprising of nine villages. The average villager lives on a dollar a day.
Having seen her from childhood I would never have related her to be a strong willed lady, much more a person who would pursue politics which is largely believed to be a man’s domain. She was a fishmonger and since my child hood days, I would see her busy preparing the fireplace awaiting for customers to buy her fish ,sometimes it was not easy given the background of the villagers mainly who worked in the Industrial area.
But wait until she talks! She has a wealth of knowledge, with a mastery of English and elonguence of speech that she does not pass as an ordinary woman living in the slums, after all there is a notion that slums are places of crime and illiteracy. It leaves one amazed at how underutilized she has been. As a daughter born to civil servant parents they had never lived in a slum. Life was modest and the parents ensured that all the 12 children got quality education. And for sure she attended the Aga Khan High School from 1978-81.This is one of the schools that was associated with the rich and mighty at that time and up todate.And as she recalls her school days ,the face lightens up as if struck by a great idea . ‘I have great memories, I like that school, it is really a great school and now am very wise nobody can challenge me. I can do many things on my own’.
After high school Amimo was enrolled in a teachers training institute and graduated as a primary school teacher, only taught for such a short time before being swept off the feet by the love of her heart and got married to. And Like any young woman back then with big dreams of being in a white collar job, the husband denied her dignity and instead took her straight to the slum to start a family. ‘My husband knew I was highly educated but he told me that I could not work any longer as a teacher and would allow me to do business. So I followed the rules, I submitted myself. And after two months of feeling stranded in the slum because I had never known people live in such poor condition, I decided to sell fish at my door step I have lived in the slum all my life-30years’’.
The fear of women becoming powerful than their husbands decades ago contributed to high level of dependency and illiteracy among women. Those were our men. The culture dictated that a man as a head of family needed to remain strong and provide everything with little or no decision coming from the woman. Even though my husband is supportive of my being in politics ,stills feels that had he listened to some of my ideas he would have progressed by far.Amimo has three grown up boys, the only daughter who was the eldest died in 2010 out of mysterious illness. She woke up one morning complaining of pains and within few minutes had fainted, and she was never to recover, by the time they reached the hospital which is 2km away. Had been confirmed dead. ``Upto now I cannot tell what really happened’’.
The issue of healthcare system in the slum is very challenging, because there are no emergence ambulances to transport the sick. It is going to be an issue that need address .Health is important because once you know your problem in time ,you can deal with it early enough. To realize health for all by 2105 is a huge task that needs community support.
A truly iron lady to reckon in the village with a charisma and clear vision for the community. Her dreams have come true after nurturing it for 30years, knowing too well that she will be a Women Leader or Political Leader. ‘I started slowly after being in business for long, I saw an opportunity to educate myself and other women in community mobilization and lobbying skills. I have been engaged with the OXFAM, CARE KENYA AND UNDUGU SOCIETY”. The passion to teach led her to be involved indirectly in the school board who she has contributed significantly in its progress.
The greatest of all is that Amimo plays a great role to empower women and men on gender violence. Has been a great champion for health matters in agitating for clean water in the slums of which she is a member of the water committee. ‘I have always known that I could do much better in leadership, being the Chairperson, I will use my skills of dialogue to reduce conflict within the communities. I aspire even to be more than a chairperson’’.
Her political mileage is one to admire, and the resilience that comes with it. The parting short to women anywhere is that ‘Women need to know how to live in whatever lifestyle there is, if it lower or higher. And they should struggle to uplift themselves to reach their targets’’.
As we wind up this fascinating story of humble beginnings, Amimo is for sure going to move the agenda of Health for all for the next 5years.
`KINDLY I WILL BE HAPPY TO HEAR YOUR INPUTS ABOUT THIS PROFILE. THANK YOU’