Politics is not for the faint-hearted. And no one knows this better than Peris Tobiko, who had to summon all her energies and strategies to clinch the Kajiado East Parliamentary seat in 2013.
Battle lines were drawn from the onset. Maasai elders had “cursed” her after she trounced seven TNA aspirants in the primaries.
The elders maintained that it was against tradition for women to eye leadership positions and threatened to put a curse on anyone who supported her bid.
“The women, on the other hand, became jittery and were not sure if I had made the right move,” adds the MP.
However, Tobiko managed to pull a surprise by capturing the seat to become the first Maasai woman to be elected in the parliamentary history.
This was her second attempt after she unsuccessfully contested for the parliamentary seat in 2007.
Although she did not win, the votes she garnered helped her to strengthen her resolve to seek political office.
“I think the idea of a woman leader was still new to my people,” she said of her 2007 loss. “But the votes I got gave me the confidence that I could not stay down.”
After her loss, she went on to initiate development projects in Kajiado, including drilling boreholes to provide water for residents of the semi-arid area.
To her, these initiatives gave her an edge over her opponents during the 2013 elections.
Her campaign agenda focused on empowering women and youth. And today she has embarked on a number of development projects to meet these very election pledges.
At the constituency level, the MP has started a Sh1 million motivational trophy for schools.
“Any school that leads in national exams at the divisional level receives Sh1 million from the CDF kitty.”
She says that schools in the constituency are now competing for the cash and this has helped uplift the standards of education in the area.
“Once they get the money, the schools are able to finance projects of their choice. Instead of building a classroom for them, they compete for the money to put up the project. This has excited them a lot and uplifted the standards of education in the constituency,” she explains.
The MP has also been able to educate many children to the university level and thereafter secure jobs for them.
“I have not just stopped at educating them but ensuring they get jobs,” she says and cites Equity Bank, the Teachers Service Commission and the Public Service Commission among institutions that have helped to boost this initiative.
The MP has further ensured that locals benefit from contracts awarded under CDF.
“This seeks to encourage the community to diversify their sources of livelihood. Instead of relying solely on livestock, they can still prosper as entrepreneurs. It is very exciting when you see the Maasai engaging in construction work,” she adds.
Through Uwezo funding, the legislator has been able to encourage a number of women and youth to start businesses.
“I have seen beneficiaries prospering among them young men who have started a petrol station while others are planting tree seedlings and selling them.”
The legislator points out that the women beneficiaries are doing very well and the repayment mode is commendable.
Tobiko has also embarked on projects to improve the roads in her constituency and takes credit for the completion of Sultan Hamud-Mashuru Road, Ilpolosat-KAG University-Kajiado Road, Ololtepes-Sholinke Road and Sholinke-Erankau Road.
In the National Assembly, she sits in Labour and Social Welfare and National Cohesion and Equal Opportunities committees.
“I have contributed to a number of Bills. They include the Water Bill, the Transfer of Prisoners Bill and the National Social Security Fund bill.”
She has also sought a statement from the Departmental Committee on Transport, Public Works and Housing regarding the effects of the Standard Gauge Railway on her constituents.
The MP though says that challenges are many and just because she is a woman, people have higher expectations.
“Anybody who has a financial problem expects you to resolve it.”