Wambui Kabiru describes herself as a lawyer, mother, wife, farmer and environmentalist. She speaks to Sunday Nation about her career journey from a tea girl to a lawyer with political ambitions.
Tell us more about your family and educational background
I come from a humble background. We are four siblings. My parents are police officers so we moved around a lot when they got posted in different stations when growing up.
I love protecting and advocating for the environment. I have planted over 5,000 indigenous and fruit trees from 2016 to date. Through this, I have managed to pay school fees for thousands of school children across the country. Farming is also deeply rooted in me.
I went to Nyakiambi Girls High School in Dundori. I studied Law at the University of Nairobi then attended the Advocates Training Programme at the Kenya School of Law.
How did your career development start and ultimately lead you to the field that you are in?
Having been raised by parents whose job was law enforcement, I wanted to do something related but definitely not join the police force. I fancied joining the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or becoming a lawyer.
I received my invitation to join Law School for my Bachelor of Law degree at the University of Nairobi but unfortunately, my parents couldn’t afford the university fees then. That broke me, but to stay in line with my dream career, I had to settle for less. I went for a Diploma in Criminology & Social Order at the University of Nairobi. I thought maybe I would find a job and see myself through law school, which is what exactly happened.
After graduating, I started working in a law firm as a cleaner, tea girl, and messenger. I would work during the day and attend law classes in the evening. After a short while, my employer noticed that I was very smart and she started giving me some clerical duties so I could learn.
I later moved to another law firm, where I got the position of legal intern for a year. The firm mostly handled Conveyance and Commercial Law matters. I got admitted to the bar two months ago. Currently, I am an associate at the firm of Mirara and Associates LLP, where I handle mostly litigation matters, employment and labour relations disputes, commercial and conveyance practice, family law and children law.
You are aspiring to become the Ndaragwa Constituency MP. How did your involvement in the political and electoral field start?
Globally, women make up more than half of the population yet we are the majority who are under-represented in Parliament and in other top leadership positions. As a young woman and a lawyer, I decided to find a way to represent us, be a voice and most importantly play a crucial role in making laws. I decided to not be the lot that waits for things to happen, but make them happen. I would rather fail trying.
What are some of challenges that women face in politics?
Historically, educating the girl child was not embraced. Women became tied to domestic work, nurturing, and caring for children. A hard-working woman was admirable but there was a glass ceiling limiting her full potential. Sadly, society still frowns upon women vying for a political position. She is not fully supported compared to our male counterparts. It is only in recent years that we have seen efforts being made by governments to include women in leadership positions and decision-making.
Our economy is also majorly driven by men. We have many young women who would like to come forward but they are limited financially, unfortunately.
If you were to give advice to girls and women who want to pursue a career in law or politics, what would it be?
There still exists a very huge gap in leadership positions that need to be filled by women. It can only happen if you and I stand up and take up the challenge. The voices of women still go unheard. Girls and women have for a long time been sidelined. This is the time to take up the mantle. To the older women, support and lift the younger girls. Cheer them on.
What role do you plan on playing in promoting women’s and disabled people’s rights as well as their participation in the electoral processes?
Encourage the community to allow persons living with disabilities, especially women of the voting age, to exercise their right to vote. The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission staff should be trained on how to handle persons living with disabilities during the whole voting process such as providing sign language interpretation for the deaf. Those with physical disabilities should not be made to queue.
As regards the electoral process, I encourage persons living with disabilities and women to take advantage of the reduced party nomination fees. Some parties have reduced their fees by half and for others, it’s absolutely free. This is an opportunity for people living with disabilities and women.
How do you maintain a work-family balance especially now that campaigns are gaining momentum?
It is easy to get lost in the thick of campaigns and rallies. My family is way too valuable. They come over and above anything or anyone. I intentionally plan my days ahead and dedicate quality time for my children and spouse. I try not to overwhelm myself because at the end of it all a girl got to work and live life.
When you’re not working, how do you like to spend your time?
I love growing trees, farming, and painting.
What’s your favourite book?
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho.
How much did you earn at your first job?
I earned Sh8,000 per month as a cleaner at a law firm.
What’s one thing you’re excited about that’s coming up in 2022?
Launching my environmental and free legal awareness projects in my community.
What’s one thing about you that surprises people?
That I am a good farmer. And the most recent one, my political ambition.
Who or what was your biggest teacher?
My own life experiences and those of others.
Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your 18-year-old self?
Start now. Whatever dream, ambition or desire, start them now. You’ll look back years later and give yourself a pat on the back. The beginning is always the most difficult. Wasting time is not an option.
Where can we find you at 10am on a Saturday?
At home with my boys or at Karura Forest picnicking and painting with family and friends.