Janet Leina Sankale believes she has what it takes to become the next Kajiado Central Member of Parliament and in the process bury incumbent Memusi Kanchori in a mountain of defeat.
“I have a vision for the people of Kajiado Central,” she says. “I plan to tackle basic issues like food security and education. When you have the passion to provide solutions, you go for it.”
Seeing as she will be competing against experienced politicians like Memusi, the 26-year-old lawyer told Kajiado Star that she would not let fear and intimidation dampen her ambition to represent the people of Kajiado Central in Parliament. “I am young and vibrant, energetic and well educated. I also know that the youth and women are the majority in this country, yet they are the most affected when things go wrong. It is absolutely necessary that we sit at the decision making table and chart the way forward,” she explains.
She explains that the manifesto of her party, The New Democrats (TND), ‘resonates very well’ with her overall vison for Kajiado Central. “Kenya is not where it should be,” Says Leina, who is a former life member of ODM. “We can do better. A better economy, which is the result of good leadership has to start somewhere. Leaders need to be honest with the people about the serious challenges we are facing today.”
She says that she has been doing door-to-door campaigns in Kajiado Central, selling her policies to the people and that their response to her candidacy has been ‘awesome’. In the course of her campaigns, Leina, who hails from Maili Tisa, in Namanga, reveals that some adults have been asking questions regarding her relatively tender age.
She has a stock response to such queries. “Since most of them are parents, I challenge them to tell me why they take their children to school,” she explains. In most cases these parents say that they send their children to school so that, among others, they can secure better lives for themselves and to become leaders of tomorrow.
“I then tell them that my time to become a leader is now,” she adds.
In the course of traversing Kajiado Central, Leina says that she has witnessed, first-hand, the huge crisis facing the educational sector in the constituency. “There is a pressing need for more classrooms in schools. More shockingly, I noticed that many dormitories have missing doors and windows, which puts the lives of pupils in danger,” explains Leina.
Another problem she noticed is the lack of teachers’ quarters. Education will play a key part of her agenda if she is elected Kajiado Central MP in August, seeing as provision of education is a basic human right.
She is also alive to the issue of Human/Wildlife Conflict, which has been a perennial problem in certain areas of the constituency that co-exist with wildlife. “I will be working very closely with the Kenya Wildlife Services to ensure that issues like compensation are settled promptly and amicably. We have very good laws in place, only that they are not properly implemented,” says Leina.
Leina, who trained as a lawyer at the Mombasa Campus of the University of Nairobi, decries the commercialisation of politics and political campaigns in Kenya. “The money hurdle has been placed on the path of women and youthful contestants, making the playing field quite uneven,” she says. “We have witnessed instances where contestants are required to pay money to challenge nomination outcomes,”
This is part of the reason why she quite ODM to join TND. “My dream would have been killed in ODM, as I was competing with politicians who are well endowed financially,” she says. “I needed a platform where my name goes direct to the ballot.”
She draws lots of inspiration from ODM leader Raila Odinga, who is also the Azimio la Umoja presidential candidate. “What I have learnt from Raila is the power of persistence,” explains Leina. “In spite of trying and failing a number times, he still dusts himself and tries again.”
Leina’s other role model is Narc-Kenya leader Martha Karua, who inspired her to become a lawyer.
Away from politics, she runs the Janet Leina Sankale Foundation, which, among other things addresses issues of gender-based violence and criminal justice. The Foundation also offers scholarships for bright but poor students.
What message does she have for Memusi Kanchori? “Your time is up!”