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Ms Joan Mjomba: First Female Mayor Of Voi, Her Rich Legacy Of Shattering The Glass Ceiling

Born and raised in Mraru village on the outskirts of Taita Taveta, Ms Joan Mjomba is a woman ahead of her time who pioneered women leadership in the coastal region.

She was born in a humble background. Her father was a farmer and a businessman while her mother was a housewife. She was destined to be a housewife too but decided the world was her stage.

Here is her story as told by WoK.

Heat teacher

Ms. Mjomba went on to become the First female mayor of the defunct Voi Municipal Council. In 1975, she was also chosen to represent Coast women in the International Women’s Year General Assembly in Mexico.

The former head teacher, who describes herself as ‘Lady Dynamite’, has endured critics and many challenges and is still standing strong.

“My critics would refer to me as a ‘man in a dress’. I do not know why. Maybe it is how I expressed myself and my leadership that they had not seen from any woman,” says Ms Mjomba.

Entry to Politics

She got married to Alan Mjomba, who is now deceased, and the two set up their home in Kikambala, Kilifi County. In 1967, Ms Mjomba was promoted from a headmistress to a District Education Officer, and her husband was then her boss.

In 1973, Ms Mjomba, a mother of seven, lost her husband in a road accident. The accident prompted her to quit her job as an educationist to join the dreaded field of politics.

Her inspiration to join politics was also influenced by Grace Onyango, the first East African woman to serve as a mayor in 1965 and a Member of Parliament for Kisumu in 1969.

She recalls facing discrimination and harassment being the first and only female education officer. She would later serve as board member of Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organisation, aiming to convince women to send their girls to secondary school.

The first woman to vie for MP seat in coast

In 1974, Ms Mjomba contested for a parliamentary seat becoming the first woman to do so in the Coast region. Her campaign symbol was a bicycle.

“It was really hard. You could barely spot any woman in politics, not just in the Coast region because of our culture and beliefs, but also in the national arena,” says Ms Mjomba.

She came second after long-serving former MP Eliud Mwamunga.

“I was competing with four male politicians. They made bad and nasty jokes about the symbol, including terming it a representation of me being there to be ridden by men. But I did not give up,” says Ms Mjomba.

Despite her loss, she says the run raised her profile in Kenya.

Honoured by President Uhuru Kenyatta as an exemplary woman

In 2022, Ms Mjomba was recognized by Kenya’s 4th President Uhuru Kenyatta for her outstanding contributions in promoting gender equality and nation-building. President Uhuru awarded her with the Kenya Eminent Women Trailblazers Recognition and Award.

On February 22, Ms Mjomba was among the few women who the Ministry of Public Service and Gender visited in recognition of their immense contribution in shaping Kenya as part of that year’s International Women’s Day celebrations.

“I am honoured. I lack words to describe how excited I am to receive this award. It is God’s blessing to see this day. I fought hard during my era to pave the way for women in leadership and today I can say I am happy,” Ms Mjomba said as she fought joyful emotions.