ECDE teachers’ dream, battles to be first female MP in Kajiado Central

When Rachael Lenku celebrated her 40th birthday on January 25, she knew her dream life had just begun. She, therefore, decided to put more effort campaigning for a political seat, something she could not do previously.

The Early Childhood Education (ECDE) teacher says her community culture could not allow her to vie for a political seat at the same time with her late father who served for thirty years as a councillor, a position currently known as Member of County Assembly (MCA).

“In my Maasai culture, I could neither vie nor vote against my father, or stand to speak in front of him. So I thank God that I have given their generation time. It’s our generation that is on the throne,” Rachel, married for 18 years to David Lenku, and is a mother of four, says. 

With August 9, 2022, General Election only months away, Rachel has fastened her campaign strategy ahead of the party primaries for the Kajiado Central constituency seat. 

She becomes the first Maasai woman to vie for the Kajiado Central Parliamentary seat previously dominated by men. 

“I am challenging the cultural norms,” she notes of her campaign ethos. 

Joining politics has also come with additional responsibilities. Rachel is also the founder and director at Ilbissil Rise and Shine Academy, a school she founded in her rural community in 2012 which has an enrollment rate of 184 at any given time.

“I started the school out of my teaching passion and also to bridge the gap between children in the village and those in towns. I noticed that the level of academic understanding between my children who were learning in town was different from those in public primary schools in the interiors of Kajiado County,” she says.

The school has a primary school wing and a technical college. “The college offers Early Childhood Education courses and also has classes for the elderly. These are those elders who did not get the opportunity to be in school during their childhood. They are taken through primary and secondary education syllabus and then enrolled for either KCPE or KCSE examinations depending on the level of each candidate,” Rachel says. 

Rachel also runs an online business under Aim Global company as a distributor of natural products for health. 

“I deal in natural remedies products for example that helps in reducing body weight, diabetes treatment, high blood pressure, and other ailments,” she says. 

With all these responsibilities it’s little wonder that the first-time MP aspirant has to wear several hats at the same time. 

“My calendar, especially on weekends, has been infiltrated by political engagements; many meetings and visits,” Rachel says.

She is the firstborn in a family of five children, and additional five half-siblings since her late father was polygamous. She is a born-again Christian who also provides leadership at her church where she has been serving as the chair for 16 years.

“Being a firstborn child I was brought up to be responsible. I was able to welcome all types of people in our family as well as take care of my younger sibling, so I don’t have issues with accommodating anybody,” she says.

Her late father was a medic who worked at Kajiado referral hospital before joining politics. This made her live a better life compared to her age mates in the pastoralist community who encounter several cultural challenges in regards to their gender. 

“After my high school, I joined several colleges where I studied computer and theology. I also got into the teaching career where I specialised in ECDE. I am grateful for that experience,” she says.

In 2002, Rachel started teaching at Milkan academy in Kitengela before proceeding to Ideal School Limited where she taught for eight years. She teaches languages and humanity subjects (Social studies, CRE, English, and Kiswahili). 

This year, Rachel has fastened her campaign strategy ahead of the party primaries for the Kajiado Central constituency seat. 

As the first Maasai woman to vie for the Kajiado Central Parliamentary seat she knows the journey ahead is anything but easy.

“No woman in Kajiado Central has ever vied for this seat because men do not give us any chance to try it. We’re still deemed as weak and inexperienced— we are taken as children, to be seen but not to be heard,” she narrates.

Her role model is the current Kajiado East Member of Parliament (MP) Peris Tobiko, who is the first and only woman MP elected in the county. She is currently vying for Kajiado County Gubernatorial seat, making her the first woman to vie for the position which has been held by men. Rachel looks forward to becoming a role model to many other Maa girls and women.

“Our people still believe that a woman cannot lead, but I want to let them know that these seats don’t exist just for them. I trust that once we bring change down to our people, we’ll also create a path for our generation of young girls,” Rachel says.

She says despite the challenges including the cultural pressures once she declared her interest in the seat, her husband has been very supportive. 

“Being a girl child, a woman, and a mother, I have the drive that we need a change. At our ward, Matapato North in Kajiado Central constituency, we do not have any lady in either county or national governments so we feel that we are left out,” she notes.

In addition to her many roles, Rachael is currently the director of the Chamber of Commerce, Kajiado county chapter, a position she says she has been holding since April 2019 after she was elected. 

“The position helped me to realise that I am a leader,” she notes. Some of the problems that Rachel wants to address are insecurity, slow deliveries of government services like identification cards, and provision of quality health services due to less number of health staff and medical supplies. Water shortages, is also a pain she wants to address.  

“So many women spend a lot of time covering long distance to get water,” Rachel, who says she will achieve all this through government funds and partnerships, notes.

As an entrepreneur, she works with several women groups on different projects to enlighten Maasai women. She believes empowering women is a great achievement for any leader.

“God willing, when I win this position, it will be a victory for all of us as women, not only mine,” she says.

Rachel is also currently a board member of three schools in Kajiado where she foresees their smooth management. 

“These have been great opportunities and platforms for me to exercise my leadership skills,” she says. 

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