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Yvonne Apiyo’s Inspiring Journey: From Hotel Worker In Kenya To MP In Switzerland 

Yvonne Apiyo Brandle Amolo is the real definition of a go-getter. 

A few years ago, she was struggling with her bachelor’s degree at the United States International University (USIU) while working part-time at the Sarova Hotel. 

At the time, she thought the glass ceiling of her career would be if she completed her degree and got promoted. 

Little did she know that within a few years, she would become one of the most globally recognized parliamentarians in Switzerland. 

This is her journey as told by WoK

A Chance Encounter

Her journey began unexpectedly when she crossed paths with a Swiss man while working as a guest relations officer at the Sarova Stanley Hotel in Nairobi. 

One day, Swiss Air had rented an apartment at the hotel for their air crew’s brief sojourn in Kenya. 

They had to ask Apiyo for everything they needed since she was the guest relations officer. 

That was how she met and fell in love with one of the crew members. 

“We became friends, we were talking back and forth via email. After a while our friendship blossomed and he requested me to visit him in Switzerland,” said Apiyo. 

Consequently, she took a three-month visa and paid him a visit. 

A month later, they married.  

Divorce

Moving to Switzerland meant leaving behind her familiar life in Kenya, and soon after the marriage, Apiyo found herself grappling with loneliness.

Her husband’s job meant he was constantly traveling. She did not even know her neighbors. 

Consequently, after three years, the loneliness became too much for her and she decided to try and make some friends and integrate into the Swiss society. 

Coming from a family of musicians in Kenya, and being herself a singer from an early age, she decided to teach herself to Yodel, i.e. learn the traditional music of Switzerland. 

In the process, she made new friends and even landed a job at a casino. 

Although the pay was good, the demanding job took a toll on her marriage, resulting in a divorce after nine years of marriage. 

That was in 2009. 

Immigration Uncertainties

Yvonne Apiyo challenges didn’t end with her divorce. 

The Swiss immigration department threatened to revoke her citizenship, as she had relinquished her Kenyan citizenship for Swiss citizenship.

In essence, if she lost her Swiss citizenship, she would be stateless. 

Luckily, her ex-husband had taught her a bit about the country’s legal framework. 

The experience prompted he to make the film “Not Swiss Made” which portrayed her unique struggle between two cultures and her integration into a new society using her heritage

The film went viral and won about 28 awards globally. It also led to her retaining her Swiss citizenship.

Political career

Her film caught the attention of a prominent politician from Switzerland’s largest left-wing party  – the Social Democratic Party.  

“He told me he was impressed on how as a migrant, I was fighting for my rights on a whole new level,” she recalled. 

The party contacted her to ask if she would be interested in politics. 

However, Yvonne Apiyo made it clear that she would only enter the political arena if they supported her education.

That was how she got into the Swiss parliament. 

Her political career has been defined by her commitment to advocating for gender equality and representation. 

Her most memorable proposal was to increase the number of women in male-dominated departments such as the police force and firefighting by 30%. 

Although narrowly missing out on passing the proposal, Apiyo was not deterred. 

She joined the army, breaking stereotypes and encouraging other migrant women to follow suit. 

In Switzerland, being in the army is an added advantage and often a way of earning a promotion at work. 

Despite many setbacks, Apiyo managed to join and has even been so far able to convince 12 other migrant women to join, and they have been able to get promotions at work as a result. 

Her efforts have been recognized not only in Europe but also in Canada, the USA, and even by the parliament of Kenya.

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