Community Update

World Pulse Toolkits Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits are all available here.

We are especially excited to share our signature Citizen Journalism and Digital Empowerment Curriculum. Start learning today!

FROM FISH MONGER TO POLITICAL LEADER

I found her preparing for her first party meeting with other village leaders. “We can talk before the meeting starts. It is an introductory meeting nothing much to worry about”. Meet Amimo a lady of medium height and a sharp memory. This unassuming little known alumnus of the prestigious Aga Khan School, living in the sprawling slums of Kibera, Nairobi has trounced the big names in political circles to be the first lady to win the Chairperson of the Orange Democratic Party (ODM) in that village. This is one of the most powerful parties in the country.

The UNHABITAT statistics estimate the population in Kibera to be a million comprising nine villages. The slum sprawls over a stretch of 600 acres crossed by a single railway line that connects Nairobi to Uganda. The sight of open sewers, poor road network and temporary shacks of mud and tin roofs is common.

Having seen her from childhood I would never have guessed her to be a strong willed lady, much less a person who would pursue politics which is believed to be a man’s domain. She was a fishmonger and since my child-hood days, has remained consistent in her business given the economic background of the villagers even when sales were not often easy.
She seems a simple fishmonger. But wait until she speaks! She has a wealth of knowledge, with a mastery of English and eloquence of speech beyond what you might expect of 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. Amimo was born to civil servant parents who had never lived in a slum. Their modest life saw all her 12 siblings receiving quality education. Remarkably, she attended the Aga Khan High School from 1978-81. This is a prestigious school associated with the rich and mighty at that time and still today. Her face lights up when she recalls her school days. ``I have great memories of a really great school. Now I am very wise and 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. She taught for a short time and was swept off her feet by the love of her heart who she married. Like any well educated young woman, she had big dreams of being in a white collar job. However her husband denied her the dignity of her dreams 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 only allow me to do business. So I followed the rules and I submitted myself to him. I felt stranded in the slum because I had never known people lived in such poor conditions I decided to sell fish at my door step. I have now lived in the slum all my adult life- 30years’’.

The fear of women becoming more powerful than their husbands has contributed to a high level of dependency and illiteracy among women. “Those were our men. Our culture dictated that a man as head of his family needed to remain strong and provide everything with little or no input coming from his wife. Even though my husband is supportive of my being in politics, he realizes that had he listened to more of my ideas he would have progressed”.

Amimo has three grown up boys. Her only daughter died in 2010 of a mysterious illness. She woke up one morning complaining of pains and within few minutes had fainted. She was never to recover. By the time they reached the hospital 2km away she had died. Amimo says sadly, “Up to now I cannot tell what really happened’’. The issue of healthcare in the slum is very challenging. There are no emergency ambulances to transport the sick. It is an issue that needs redress. Preventative health care is important because if you know your problem in time, you can deal with it early enough.

With charisma and clear vision. She nurtured her dreams for 30 years, aspiring to become a political leader. “I started slowly after being in business for so long. I was involved in OXFAM, CARE KENYA AND the UNDUGU SOCIETY. These organizations have been dealing at the grassroots level, imparting knowledge and awareness on community mobilization, gender rights and I saw an opportunity to also educate other women”. Her passion to teach led her to be involved in the local school board contributing significantly to its progress.

The greatest contribution of all is that Amimo plays a significant role to sensitize women and men on issues of gender violence. She has been a great champion for health matters and as a member of the community water committee has agitated for clean water. “I have always known that I could provide leadership. 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 and the resilience that comes with it are to be admired. Her parting message to women anywhere is, “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 a humble fishmonger who has become a dynamic community leader and visionary, we celebrate Amimo. Through her wisdom and determination, she is for sure going to advance conditions in Kibera in the next 5 years of her tenure.

Further reading: http:// www.kibera.org.uk

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

Farona's picture

Wow Lucia! I am thrilled to

Wow Lucia! I am thrilled to read about Amimo. Aga Khan is a prestigious school; even I grew up hearing about the school!
She’s an epitome of inspiration and diligence. It’s evident from your description how much you admire this wonderful woman. From a fishmonger, to a slum dweller, to a chairperson of a political party - you captured all the phases of her life beautifully. I got captivated instantly and remained inspired till the end. This woman is archetypal example of a leader, she beats stereotypes about slums, she ventured into territory few would dare to and despite her dreams initially crushed –she continued to dream and do the things she could. As she said “I can do many things on my own”. She proved leadership is not just about sitting at the top from a white-collar position and leading a country. She’s a perfect example of a grass-root leader solving and caring about grass root issues.

“The fear of women becoming more powerful than their husbands has contributed to a high level of dependency and illiteracy among women. …’Even though my husband is supportive of my being in politics, he realizes that had he listened to more of my ideas he would have progressed”.
This is the same script acted throughout different cultures; I could genuinely empathize with her earnest desire. Unfortunately, some men never realize until it’s too late. Thank you for highlighting her, I m going to make sure my women reads her story and be inspired! If only we could have 100-200 individuals like her in this world. We would all be better off! I am glad you shared additional info link about Kibera. Helped me better understand and appreciate the geographically challenging location she operates inside.

Awesome work!

Okeny-Lucia's picture

Thank you Farona!

Hi,
She truly inspired me,and I have been following her work.Being an Alumni of Aga Khan (myself),I saw a trend set by that school and that we share so much about grassroot leadership.Am glad it will help your people.Thank you for taking time to read.

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

Nusrat Ara's picture

Thanks for sharing Amimo's

Thanks for sharing Amimo's story.

Love

Nusrat

Okeny-Lucia's picture

Thanks Nusrat!

Dear Sister,
Thank you for words of encouragement.She has become my hero!

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

ikirimat's picture

tagging

just be sure you have tagged well. the quotation marks seem to be not part of the tagging. please crosscheck. '' 2011 VOF MODULE 1" . I think it should not have " " Then copy and paste the last part don't just rewrite because its already formatted.

Grace Ikirimat

"It takes the hammer of persistence to drive the nail of success."


Okeny-Lucia's picture

I appreciate.

Hello,
Thank you Ikirimat for that.You are great friend ,for remaining keen on my work.I will check again the tagging.Am greatful for that correction.

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

MaDube's picture

The maturity of your voice

The maturity of your voice and the way you capture the stories of other women in your community is always so inspiring sisi Lucia. Amimo is a determined woman and we learn from women such as her.

Okeny-Lucia's picture

Madube My Sister!

Hi,
Thank you .I see a world of powerful women through the Pulse Wire and it is my hope the encyclopedia for this forum will be read by the next generation and worth something to learn from.

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

malba66's picture

sometimes the people need a fishmonger

Amimo sounds like an amazing woman. She is perceptive and sharp. I appreciate how self-reflective she is, and the fact that she was so open about male domination and her own husband's decision to limit her career and possibilities. While this is truly unfortunate, it makes me think that her community is lukcy. Perhaps her white collar job away from the slum would have kept her away from what is clearly part of her true purpose: to serve and LEAD the most marginalized people. I condemn her husband for stealing her choices away from her but I CELEBRATE her for overcoming the obstacles laid before her to become something perhaps greater than what she would have been. Her community needs a wise, confident voice like hers, and so I say, "sometimes the people need a fishmonger." For her humaility, resilience and wisdom are now there as a treasured resource for those in greatest need.

GREAT JOB!

malba66's picture

sometimes the people need a fishmonger

Amimo sounds like an amazing woman. She is perceptive and sharp. I appreciate how self-reflective she is, and the fact that she was so open about male domination and her own husband's decision to limit her career and possibilities. While this is truly unfortunate, it makes me think that her community is lukcy. Perhaps her white collar job away from the slum would have kept her away from what is clearly part of her true purpose: to serve and LEAD the most marginalized people. I condemn her husband for stealing her choices away from her but I CELEBRATE her for overcoming the obstacles laid before her to become something perhaps greater than what she would have been. Her community needs a wise, confident voice like hers, and so I say, "sometimes the people need a fishmonger." For her humility, resilience and wisdom are now there as a treasured resource for those in greatest need.

GREAT JOB!

Okeny-Lucia's picture

Amimo is honored

Thank you dear friend for the critical analysis of Amimo,s profile.It has given me encouragement to look for more women like.She has taught important lessons of life,that remaining consistent and focused in our purpose to uplift humanity is paramount and a process to be discovered.
Wish you well

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

Stella Paul's picture

Long live the fishmonger!

Dear Lucia

In India, 'fish market' is a metaphor used for an extremely chaotic situation. And it has always amazed to see how easily women in India manage to do their business day in and day out through that chaos. Unfortunately, women always earn less and live a life much poorer than men in the fish trade. So when I read your story, it made me feel really happy and hopeful that things are changing. Today its in Africa. Tomorrow it will be India. Thats how we will make it work, right? Love!

Stella Paul
Twitter: @stellasglobe

Rachael Maddock-Hughes's picture

Great story!

A very uplifting and positive story. Thank you so much for sharing. I love the way you interweave descriptions of the slum and of her activities. It paints a very coherent picture of her day to day life, struggles and dreams.

Great job!

Rachael

"In every human heart there are a few passions that last a lifetime. They're with us from the moment we're born, and nothing can dilute their intensity." Rob Brezny

Okeny-Lucia's picture

Thank you Rachel

I appreciate your comments.The stuggles of the slum can be overcome when more Amimo get inspirations.It has given me courage to go on and on.

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

Lisa Cox's picture

great piece!

Loved reading your piece about Amimo! I particularly love your use of language. For example "she was swept off her feet by the love of her heart" and "her husband denied her the dignity of her dreams" are really beautiful ways to describe Amimo's situation. Keep up the fantastic work - you are a great writer!

Okeny-Lucia's picture

Thank you Lisa!

Dear Lisa,
Thank you for the compliments,I thought of sharing Amimo,s work because she presents thousands of women in her situation who may not realize they have such potential.Currently she has been going round the villages to put meet the villagers and thank them for their support

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

Ruun Abdi's picture

What an inspiring

What an inspiring woman!!!

Thanks for sharing it, I really loved Amimo's story!

Cheers :)

Okeny-Lucia's picture

Shukran Ruun!

Thank you Ruun,I can see you too has done a lot of women awareness and rights issues .Keep it up!

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

mrbeckbeck's picture

Cheers!

Lucia, great work! Amimo is such an inspiring woman. While it was hard to hear about how her life's dreams were put on hold for 30 years because of her husband's wishes, I'm glad that she is following her passion for teaching and leading now. Kibera will be better off with her leadership, I have no doubt.

You've done a great job telling her story with clarity, a steady pace, and wonderful imagery. I applaud your work here!

Thank you for introducing us to this change-maker! I look forward to hearing how her tenure as chairperson goes.

Warm wishes for the new year,
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

Okeny-Lucia's picture

Happy New Year!

Thank you Scott for having taken time to read.I have been following Amimo closely and even last week introduced her to the Aga Khan Development Network contact persons.She is doing a commendable job of gender rights.

Lucia Buyanza
Reproductive Health

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

Mkandeh's picture

Ebola: Sierra Leoneans feel like prisoners

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

EMAGAZINE: Bridging Borders

EMAGAZINE: Bridging Borders

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative