There is a glass ceiling in Kenya, and while many focus on the ethnic and tribal element, I would argue that it is a gender-based ceiling.
While some of our neighbours in Africa, like Ethiopia, Malawi and Liberia, have had female presidents, for many generations the thought of a woman president was only a dream.
Is all that about to change?
As we have seen, change in Africa in general and in Kenya in particular takes time, but we would be in denial if we do not see it budding all over our nation in recent years.
Perhaps the most prominent example of some glass ceilings being shattered is the role of Ambassador Raychelle Awour Omamo SC as the Cabinet Secretary Ministry of State for Defense.
Ambassador Omamo is the first woman to hold a position traditionally the bastion of men, and by all accounts she is doing an excellent job.
An argument often made to exclude women from this position is their supposed lack of knowledge and experience in defense and security areas, because of the paucity of high-ranking women in the KDF.
However, President Uhuru Kenyatta changed all of that when he appointed Ambassador Omamo to her position despite her background which chiefly focused on law and diplomacy.
President Kenyatta saw in Ambassador Omamo a woman with professional and leadership skills who he felt confident would bring extra gifts and talent to the table, beyond military experience, which can always be supplemented operationally by the Chief of Defence Forces and the commanders of army, navy, air force and military intelligence.
By giving Ambassador Omamo this plum position, he wasn’t just recognising her credentials and suitability for the position, he was sending a message to all Kenyan women that there should no office in the land that is out of bounds to them.
President Kenyatta has shown that he is not afraid to break stereotypes and has been involved in a few other firsts for women.
Last year, he shocked the nation when he appeared in public with a female Aide-de-Camp. The ADC, identified as Lieutenant Colonel Rachael Nduta Kamui, is from the Air Force and serves as the President’s official assistant and guard.
The reaction to the image of a female ADC last year was telling with many commentators acting in surprise and astonishment. This position has historically been a male role so to have a female was an important statement, one buttressed by official statements from State House emphasizing the point further.
Only a few months previously, Commander-in-Chief Kenyatta oversaw and announced the promotion of Fatuma Ahmed to Major General in the KDF.
This was another first under Uhuru’s watch, who had previously promoted her to become the KDF’s first female Brigadier in 2015.
Since assuming office, he has done much to further the cause of women and especially the top positions in the country.
Uhuru has been unabashedly vocal in where he hopes this leads to.
He said as recently as February, at an event hosted by First Lady Margaret Kenyatta for 2,000 Girl Guides and their leaders: “I pray to God and look forward to the day that I shall be sitting and listening to the first female President addressing the people of the Republic of Kenya.”
I believe it is no coincidence that he specifically chose an event for girls and young women. He wanted to instill in them the idea that anything is possible and the path to the highest positions is open to them as they chose their careers and look to the future.
At the same event, he highlighted his confidence in Kenya’s women leaders and made note of the fact that many of his best performing ministers are female.
All of them, and those mentioned above, are role models, and they were put in their respective roles by President Kenyatta so it is clear that he is not just a man of words. He didn’t pick any of them just because they were women, but showed that one’s gender should not be a barrier to advancement.
I believe that these girl guides who sat on the State House lawn will, one day, sooner rather than later see a female Kenyan president. Perhaps it might even be one of them!
And when it happens, its roots will have been firmly planted in Uhuru’s tenure.
Mr Mugolla comments on topical issues; E-mail: [email protected]