By Prudence Minayo
Samburu is a patriarchal society hence women have had to fight for their position and rights over the years. Joy Lenalwabene appointment as the first female chief in the county shattered the glass ceiling and paved the way for other women in the community to pursue leadership. She trounced three male aspirants to clinch this position. A huge crowd gathered to celebrate this achievement as she took office in a historical ceremony that was graced by the county’s elders on 31st January 2021. The elders blessed her and her office even as multitudes gathered to participate in traditional songs and dances.
Here is her story as told by WoK.
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In a segment on NTV, Joy grew up in a humble family of four children. The living conditions were very tough but she was lucky to be the only one among her siblings to be taken to school. Coming from a pastoral community that disregarded girls’ education, this was a life changing opportunity. While in class three, she lost her father. This forced Joy and her mother to venture into the business of selling illicit brew to provide for the family and raise her school fees. According to the Nation, she completed high school in 1994 at St. Theresa Secondary School, Wamba. Thereafter, she joined the hospitality industry where she worked for about a decade before going into conservancy work.
Peace Keeping Efforts
Her path in life has always led her to roles leaning towards community service. The 43-year-old has been hailed as a champion of peace through various peace-keeping missions carried out in her community. Joy has been involved in livestock recoveries and dialogues to prevent retaliation, enhancing community policing and supplementing national government’s security agencies efforts in peace activities.
Joy Lenalwabene served as chief in an acting capacity following the retirement of the former chief in 2018. Prior to this, she served as assistant chief for Waso West Location, Waso Division in Samburu East, Samburu county.
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On 28th January 2021, she was officially appointed Samburu’s first female chief. Top on her agenda, was dealing with the problems of early child marriage and Female Genital Mutilation and ensuring all girls go to school. She told nrt-kenya.org of her new role:
“I feel privileged with my new role, I am confident that I will discharge my duties effectively since I have gained experience of solving issues as a peace ambassador.”
In her acceptance speech, she encouraged women to work hard and not depend on men for everything. She added that she would continue to study as her future aspiration is to become Assistant County Commissioner (ACC).
Joy Lenalwabene was among the 125 peace ambassadors working across the NRT landscape to support peaceful co-existence for the Northern Kenyan communities. The mother of three was also a board member representing women at Westgate Conservancy for more than six years.
“It never crossed my mind that I would one day lead my community and help solve the challenges until I was elected to the board to represent women in WestGate community Conservancy,” she said.
Working at the conservancy, she pursued a certificate course in Community Development.
In January 2020, she was also among 25 women selected to take part in the Women Peace Ambassadors Program sponsored by Conservation International. She went on to recruit four people to help promote conflict resolution in a peaceful way, solve domestic and grazing disputes and spearhead peaceful co-existence with neighbouring communities.