For many years, women from the Muslim Community have been marginalized and seen as people who cannot lead. In most communities, a woman would only be required to get married and have children as the husband provides.
However, on August 11, 2022 history was made in the Coast region when Fatuma Achani was declared the winner of the gubernatorial seat in Kwale County.
She defeated five other male contestants with 59574 votes including Prof Hamadi Boga, Lung’anzi Chai (PAA), Chirau Ali Mwakwere(Wiper), Gereza Dena (Kanu) and Sammy Ruwa (Independent).
She becomes the first woman in Coast province to become governor, going against all odds of religion and tradition to be a model among the Coastal people who are deeply rooted in their culture.
Born to devoted Muslim parents in Kingwede Village in Msambweni Sub-County, Ms Achani has weathered many challenges that have seen her prove herself as a leader as well as make a name for herself by joining politics.
The outspoken deputy governor holds a law degree from Moi University and a diploma from the Kenya School of Law.
Before joining politics in 2013, she worked as an associate advocate Maina Njenga & Company Advocates in Mombasa and also served as a legal counsel and programme officer for the Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida-Kenya).
She says her political life was also shaped by the challenges she has watched women, especially in rural Kwale, face. And it is this challenge that Ms Achani is out to address.
Ms Achani has been the deputy governor for Kwale county for ten years since outgoing governor Salim Mvurya selected her as a running mate in 2013 when he first won the elective seat.
Ms Achani has supported the governor all the way and even as most county bosses fell out with their deputies in Kwale County it has been the opposite.
The two leaders have closely worked together in a county that has won accolades for its development projects- including matters in education and health, changing the face of Kwale County from a marginalized county to one which produces top students in the Coast region.
Ms Achani is a model for women leadership. Those who have worked with her describe her as courageous, outspoken and assertive. This has made her not easily manipulated, setting the bar high for women’s leadership since the time she joined politics.
When she was announced the winner of the gubernatorial race, she credited her success to Governor Salim Mvurya who mentored her, as well as grooving her as a suitable successor since 2017.
This was evident as Mr Mvurya could be seen accompanying her in every village in Kwale asking residents to vote for her. She also acknowledged her success with the support of her husband, Ali Kanga, who is a lecturer at Pwani University in Kilifi.
Kwale has never had a female MP, let alone a female governor. But her campaigns were not as easy as they may sound. Although she may have had the support from her boss, Ms Achani still ensured harassment both online and offline, regularly raising concern about the propaganda spread by her opponents to discredit her among voters.
For instance, she said that a number of her opponents would quote Quran verses, to create an impression that a woman cannot lead.
Even though her victory is still being contested by three of those she defeated, Ms Achani is still confident that she will defeat them in court and steer the county ahead with her leadership.