Phoebe Asiyo, has celebrated many firsts politically and career wise. A while back, she was enthroned as a Luo elder, the only woman to ever get that honour. Despite her advancing age, she remains active
At 84, expectations would be that she would slow down or spend time away from the hectic schedule of a politician. After all, she has had many firsts in her life as a civil servant and a politician.
She was the first African president of Maendeleo ya Wanawake and the first African woman to attain the rank of senior superintendent of Kenya Prisons. She became MP and was the only South Nyanza MP to side with former Vice President Oginga Odinga during former president’s era.
In 2001, she was one of the few women appointed commissioners to the Constitution of Kenya Review Commission that was charged with the task of drawing up a new constitution for Kenya.
However, Phoebe Asiyo says she is not slowing down any time soon because her services are still needed. Currently, she is the chair of Caucus for Women’s Leadership formerly called Kenya Women’s Political Caucus where she is mentoring young women to take up leadership roles. She left a mark in the political arena during her three terms as MP for Karachuonyo.
Asiyo says she believes women should be involved in competitive politics instead of waiting for the benevolence of political parties. She is also a strong advocate for the girl-child.
“Our girls should have access to quality education. If we fail to put up proper mechanisms to make their dreams come true, then we shall have failed as a country,” she says. Asiyo is also pivotal in the war against HIV/Aids, where she is encouraging responsible behaviour change in the communities with high HIV prevalence.
At the grassroots, the former MP is fighting for the release of people from the jaws of abject poverty. To ensure this is achieved, she urges the youths to embrace hard work to earn a decent living and desist from drug and substance abuse.
“In this century, poverty should be a forgone case. We must do what it takes under the devolved governments to kick out poverty,” says Asiyo. She joined politics in 1979. The following year, she contested for the Karachuonyo parliamentary seat in 1980 and won in a contentious by-election.
Asiyo won the by-election on a Kanu ticket, a position she held until 1983 when Parliament was dissolved. She again contested on a Ford-Kenya ticket in subsequent elections in 1988, but lost to the late Okiki Amayo.
During the inception of multiparty system in 1992, Asiyo bounced back into the parliamentary seat beating the then powerful incumbent MP Amayo who was the national Kanu chair.
She served until 1997 when she retired from active politics and was the only woman ever by then to serve as an MP for that long. Asiyo says she bowed out of politics after the three terms when she lost to the immediate former area MP the late Adhu Awiti.
She says she mentored the late Awiti. However, as a female politician she admits it was not easy. “It was not easy clinching the seat for the first, second and third time because most of the electorates had negative perceptions on electing a woman,” Asiyo says.
The former MP also says getting resources for campaigns was another big challenge for women. The veteran politician says she gave her best in the political sphere. During my three years tenure as Karachuonyo MP, I did my best to serve the people,” Asiyo says.