By Prudence Minayo
The Kenyan military has for years been male dominated with women playing a peripheral role. Fatuma Ahmed shattered the glass ceiling to become the senior most female in the military after she was promoted to major general in the Kenya Air Force. The promotion came barely three years after she had been promoted to a Brigadier, another position no woman had held in the male-dominated Kenyan military.
Here is her inspiring story as told by WoK.
General Fatuma Ahmed holds a degree from the National Defence College and the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies. She also has a diploma in management from Strathmore University.
The Major General got into the army by accident. After completing high school in 1983, she returned to her hometown to get her identification card. By chance, a recruitment was being conducted by the military at a stadium near the ID offices.
In 1984, she got into the military academy as an officer cadet and after graduation became a second lieutenant in the Kenya Women Service Corps. She served mainly in the human resources department.
With a career spanning over 30 years, she got into the military when the deployment of women was limited. There was also a separate unit for women called the women service corps (WSC). Those in the WSC were forbidden from getting married and if one fell pregnant they were summarily dismissed. WSC was disbanded in 1999, and those serving at the time were moved to various organs in the Kenya Army, Kenya Air Force and Kenya Navy.
Fatuma Ahmed joined the Kenya Air Force (KAF)where she served as deputy commander of the battalion and then as head of personnel at the KAF.
Some of the position she held on her way to becoming a Major General are:
• Battalion Second in Command (BN 2IC)
• Staff Officer II Audit Personnel and Records
• Staff Officer I Personnel and Administration
• Colonel Personnel at the Kenya Air Force Headquarters and Managing Director, Defence Forces Medical Insurance Scheme.
In 2018, news outlets and thousands of Kenyans took to Twitter to celebrate Kenya’s first female Major General Fatuma Ahmed. In military rankings, a major general is a general officer ranking above a Brigadier general and below a lieutenant general. This was not the first major feat for Fatuma Ahmed as in August 2015 she grabbed the headlines when she was promoted to the coveted position of a Brigadier. This made her the first ever female Brigadier in the Kenyan military.
On her appointment as major general, she said it was totally unexpected as she hadn’t even held her previous position for more than three years. To Major General Fatuma, this was a demonstration that focus, commitment and hard work indeed pays and that women in the country could effectively lead to the development of the country and attainment of Vision 2030.