The alumni of Kenya Polytechnic in Nairobi had always admired the manner in which her role models like Charity Ngilu and Millie Odhiambo-Mabona went about playing politics at the national, regional and village level.
Oluoch a 2001 Diploma graduate in Information Communication and Technology (ICT) from Kenya Polytechnic. She had a one year stint at Utalii College as an intern as she looked at her career options.
She later successfully applied for a job and relocated to Sotik in Bomet County, where she worked at a tea factory, Approket, for six years as a clerk before she was promoted to a supervisor.
Ngilu is the Cabinet secretary for Lands, Housing and Urban Development and is also a former MP for Kitui Central and former chairman of National Alliance Party of Kenya (Narc).
Millie Odhiambo-Mabona is the Mbita MP, who served earlier as a Nominated MP and a gender and children’s rights activist. She was the vice-chairman of the justice and legal committee in the 10th Parliament.
It was thanks to the success of the two women luminaries in the political arena that Oluoch, who is the Kabuoch North Member of the County Assembly, in Ndhiwa constituency, decided to plunge into the murky world of politics to become the only woman elected in the whole county.
“I was the only woman in a crowded field of 16 aspirants vying for the ODM ticket, and I somewhat shocked and was proud to be the winner. During the General Elections, I trounced two men in the hotly contested race,” says the MCA.
Nicknamed “Dwasi” (calf) by her supporters, she has since overcome the teething problems of being a new kid on the block and is a force to reckon with in the County Assembly where she was elected by her 39 male colleagues to be the deputy chief whip.
The chief whip is Johnson Kochola from Kochia ward while the Speaker is Samuel Ochilo, who works under Governor Cyprian Awiti.
Asked how she has managed to work in the male dominated Assembly, the soft-spoken deputy chief whip says it was initially tough because of the perceptions that politics is a man’s world, but later as she stood her ground together with the 18 nominated women MCAs, and her life and her work has been easier.
The 18 lucky women were picked by their respective political parties in line with the 2/3 gender rule after all the elective seats were filled by men.
“Initially, my work was tough after we were elected because some men were not gender friendly, but as time went by they realised that what a man can do a woman can do even better. I am happy to have been given the responsibility as the Deputy Chief whip,” says Oluoch.
Her responsibilities, like her counterparts in the National Assembly and the Senate, is to ensure that there is a quorum in order for the legislative and oversight business to be transacted.
Her mandate also includes ensuring that as many members as possible attend the sittings, especially when crucial Motions and Bills are to be debated and voted on. This includes debate and vote on matters of County importance such as the budget and legislative issues among others.
Oluoch is however not the first woman leader in Southern Nyanza to pioneer in the world of politics. Phoebe Asiyo was the first woman to be elected as Karachuonyo MP in the 1970s and served her constituents for over a decade. She has since made another mark as the first woman member of the Luo Council of Elders, a group that is reserved for men only but is now becoming women friendly.
The Mbita MP was the only woman to be elected to the August House in the entire Nyanza region during the 2013 polls.
The other pioneer was Jane Were Anyango, in 1995, who made history as the first woman to be elected as Homa Bay County Council chairman, in a hotly contested race. By then she was also serving as councilor for South Kabuoch, in Ndhiwa constituency.
Asked what made her plunge into politics after working as a clerk and a supervisor at Approket Factory in Sotik, Bomet County, and the MCA says: “I was just interested in politics and I wanted to show the people that I was capable. I was also very happy that my husband gave me full support and cooperation.”
Earlier on, she had worked as a volunteer for the ODM presidential Ndhiwa campaign team thereby brushing shoulders with the who is who in the party led by former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, who lost to President Uhuru Kenyatta in the polls.
Looking back, the Deputy Chief whip says her work has not been very hard: “we are trying in the prevailing circumstances.”
She identifies some of their successes so far as the recent launch of a hatchery programme for poultry farmers; who are mostly women, while other pending ones are introduction of a massive solar power programme in the entire County.
On the gender side, the MCA says they were lobbying for more women to benefit from the devolved funds for women’s enterprise programmes and through the Constituency Development fund and others like UWEZO, among others.
The mother of four says she is busy making an impact now as an MCA and Deputy Chief Whip and has not had time to plan for the 2017 polls.
“I am still getting my bearing in the political arena and I am not ready to start saying which higher seat I will be seeking in the next elections,” Oluoch says with confidence.
This article was originally published in the Kenyan Woman Issue 45