From Student Leader To Senator: Meet Esther Okenyuri Anyieni

December 13, 2022

Esther Okenyuri Anyieni was nominated to the Senate to replace Soipan Tuya following her appointment as Environment Cabinet Secretary. She spoke to the Standard about her journey from student leader to a legislator.

How did you find yourself in the Senate?

It was upon the nomination of Soipan Tuya as the Environment Cabinet Secretary that it became a reality for me to join the Senate.

How so?

I was the next in line in the party list submitted to IEBC. Interestingly, Soipan is someone I have known since my days as the Vice President of the Students Organisation of Maasai Mara University as she served as the Narok Woman Representative.

What can you say about your nomination?

My nomination to the Senate is an affirmation that if anyone works hard and diligently shows up for duty, dreams do come true. I am a living testimony that your background, surname, temporary setbacks and blips in life must not define our destiny.

What are your aspirations as senator?

I promise to live up to my new role and I am promising Kenyans that I will not let them down or disappoint my party and its leadership.

You have worked with the President…

Until last year, I worked as a researcher in the Strategy and Delivery Unit at the Office of the Deputy President, now President William Ruto.

What exactly were you doing?

I was tasked with developing concept papers to support the implementation of technical and vocational training institutions in every sub-county which was in line with the Jubilee Government’s agenda of equipping youths with technical skills to tackle youth unemployment.

How would you describe the President?

President William Ruto is one leader who is resilient and focused and has the ability to work calmly under pressure while keeping his teams motivated in such circumstances.

What don’t Kenyans know about the man?

He rarely gets distracted, and in times of crisis, he acts fast to provide leadership. The President leads by example. He is known to wake up early and sleep late.

How did you get into politics?

My political and leadership journey dates back to my primary school as a bell ringer. That inner urge to lead was irrigated with belief and passion then and I have all along offered myself to serve my people.

What kind of leader are you?

If quote Dr Martin Luther King Junior, “sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.”

You campaigned for the President in Kisii County. How was it?

I took an active role in popularising the United Democratic Alliance party in Kisii County where I mobilised youths and women to register in large numbers and also to support my candidate. I am glad that the votes he got from the region contributed to his victory.

I am also proud of having been part of his team since he led by example by campaigning across the country and going deep down to villages that had never seen a leader of his stature unlike his rivals who concentrated mainly in urban areas.

What are some of the activities you have engaged in the past?

I founded Kisii Youth Alliance, a community-based organisation based in Kisii County to develop abilities of the youth to create and access opportunities to improve their livelihoods.

While at Maasai Mara University, I founded Raising Noble Sisters; a mentorship platform to sensitise young women to participate in leadership at the University.

What were some of your political engagements before your appointment to the Senate?

During the by-elections that the United Democratic Alliance party participated in before the General Election, I was instrumental in setting up Command/Call Centres and I am proud to say that the team I worked with did a sterling job. Just to mention a few, I was involved in by-elections in Msambweni Constituency, Kiambaa Constituency, Bonchari Constituency and Kiamokama Ward in Kisii.

What would you describe as your worst moments in politics?

Being shortchanged in 2017 as a Jubilee nominee to the Kisii County Assembly must have been one of the worst moments in my life.

However, with time, I appreciated that politics requires strategic patience, hard work, a clear vision of a better future, an unshakeable belief that future to life and the ideal opportunity to make it all come together.

In your personal life?

That would be when I lost my dad in 2006 while in Form One at Kenya High School.

What is your role in the Senate?

It is an honour and privilege to serve the people of Kenya and voice the interests of the women and youth in the Senate as a true reflection and example of the bottom-up economic model.

I serve in the committees of Devolution & Intergovernmental Relations, Powers and Privileges and Health Committees.

Can you tell us about your academic journey?

I went to Taranganya Girls Primary School in Migori where I did my KCPE in 2005 where I was an active debater and the school bell ringer.

I joined Kenya High School in 2006 where I served as a class and house official and an active member of the school football and environment clubs.

I joined the Maasai Mara University in 2011 where I studied for a Bachelor of Information Science Degree where I served as a class representative and later the first Female President of Students Union.

Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?

It is about finding the right moment to act and when the moment chooses you.

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