Catherine Nakhabi Omanyo

Catherine Nakhabi Omanyo

Member of Parliament -Matayos-Busia County, International Affairs Secretary for Amani National Congress party | Kenya

Growing up in Busia, rural Kenya, I encountered many bottlenecks in life that would render many a life obscure. I was raised by a single poor mother working as a nanny. I had to sneak my way to school to afford an education and plead with teachers to allow me sit for exams without paying school fees. To be poor is a challenge; to be a rural, poor young woman is a grievous challenge.

Determined not to allow circumstances of life to curtail my growth and development, I embarked on a journey of self discovery, better living and fulfillment. My turning point in life was when as a nanny in Nairobi, I managed to decipher strength through hardships; I birthed and embarked on a vision to deliver many a destitute children from poverty and other social-economic injustices in third world countries. I took up responsibility for the education and social welfare of the orphans, sick and other vulnerable groups of people in society so they wouldn’t go through my experiences.

I have sacrificed every bit of my life, my comfort and resources and that of my family so that I can accord a meaningful life to the poor and destitute. My rural home is a home for many poor children, orphans and those with HIV. I fight for rights of women and orphaned children especially on inheritance of property. I pay litigation fee and fight for them to secure property after loss of their fathers and or husbands. Western Kenya culture denies women the right to inherit. Reforms in property succession law are yet to be fully implemented in rural areas.

I have successfully re-engineered community thought and attitude through initiatives that enlighten society and address the most immediate needs of the people. I have organized many campaigns on HIV awareness mainly targeting youth and women whose risk exposure is major in rural areas. I have a healthcare support program for those already infected by the deadly disease, both adults and young children. I offer free education for children whose parents are HIV+ and can’t afford school fees. I offer financial support to families bereaved with HIV/AIDS for burial expenses and get a chance to speak in the funerals to educate community about the disease.

I have a youth talent development program that has run successfully from 2012 to date. I focus on behavior and attitude change through value based mentorship for the youth. We teach life-skills, leadership, career development, sports and entrepreneurship. This program gives them space and exposure to further their dreams and access opportunities. More than 400 youth have been empowered. Some have successfully made a career out of talents like music disc jockey (dj) and arts. Some are gearing up to enter the political space, church leadership etc. Young girls have gone back to school, youth are living responsibly. This has saved young people from drug and alcohol abuse, crime and irresponsible sexual behaviour. We also provide free HIV screening services and encourage youth and community to be aware of the HIV status.

I work with over thirty (30) women groups in the rural area, building their capacity in order to improve their socio-economic wellbeing so as not to be dependants; most of the women are widows, HIV+ and divorced.  Women have been taught weaving, micro-finance and tailoring, (with tailoring machines bought for the same women), and operating posho mills. I have managed to take young mother back to secondary school in my school Imprezza academy. I am persuaded, empowering one woman is empowering society. For inclusivity, I also involve men in the Agriculture Conservation and building projects

Since 2006, I have spearheaded an antijigger and fumigation campaigns to eradicate jigger and bedbug infections in the community. Jiggers and bed bugs are a menace in rural area due to poor hygiene standards and high infection rate. Many households suffer especially children and the aged; children leave school, parents economic ability hampered, health compromised and poverty is further entrenched. Hardly will government intervene in such cases because it is unforeseeable and it is not a priority area for it. We have reached more than 400 households with this initiative.

I organize annual medical camps for people of Mattayos constituency in partnership with doctors from the UK. I undertook this initiative because I fully understand how the people are ignorant and negligent of their health wellbeing. This is due to illiteracy, socio-cultural norms and misplaced religious beliefs. The high cost of health services also contributes to this. Children and women suffer more. Our medical camps are a means of creating awareness to community on importance of leading healthy lives. This program offers PMTCT, MCH, dental, pediatrics and treatment for tropical diseases. 

To foster knowledge and education, I started Imprezza Academy in 2001. It is a premier academy in a rural setting. With more than 300 students, the school has produced good grades in National examination. Currently, 200 poor students are under school fees sponsorship and feeding. I have so far taken more than 200 students through high school, college and University. Many of these children are homeless, some couldn’t afford schooling because of long distance but we have offered boarding such students. I have also taken 9 teachers from to UK for an exchange program through DFID partnership.

 I seat in school boards, corporate boards. I have held senior positions in major sports clubs and political parties. I am currently the International Affairs Secretary for Amani National Congress party with which I have 3 times gunned for parliamentary seat, coming second in the 2017 general elections. I also serve as the Secretary-General of Women Candidates Network of Kenya (WOCAN) representing more than 150 women political contestants. I seat on TV panels shaping public opinion on political matters, gender and youth empowerment.

As an avid campaigner, crusader and grassroots mobilizer, I have a local political network through which includes women, youth and the poor to challenge status quo. We agitate for reforms, leadership change, condemn corruption and nepotism in political rallies, social media and door to door campaigns.  I continue to mobilize the locals in Matayos constituency to have me as their elected Member of Parliament so that I can influence policy and legislation from the National level.

To drive through my social entreprise, I have built sustainable networks and partnerships for more than 10 years now. My projects have given a chance to my partners to exercise their philanthropy; they have come from abroad to participate in local programs utilizing their skill and abilities. Locals are also motivated and as a pay-back, they voluntarily assist in projects by offering free manpower like in construction of school classrooms and amenities. I have single handedly mobilized for resources for all projects through the networks and friends.

My five year plan is guided by the theme “Think global, Act local”. I am positioning myself to develop my community with greater zeal. I am setting up my projects and engagements to have a global identity. I am projecting myself to have greater influence not just in my rural area but nationally and outside the nation too.