These are the women breaking new ground in Kenya’s politics
One of Kenya’s most famous politicians, Moi University professor of constitutional law and development activist, Paul Kariuki (right) with his wife Sylvia Juma, co-founder of the Freedom Party.
The first openly lesbian to run for any Kenyan political post, Sylvia Juma, 53, is a senior lecturer in political science at Moi University in Nairobi. Having served as a research fellow at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, Juma has served as Kenya’s director of research at the United Nations Development Programme in Nairobi. Previously, she worked as a press officer in the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation’s bureau in Nairobi.
The first openly lesbian and the first female to run for any Kenyan political post, Sylvia Juma was a central figure in the political and civil rights movement in Nairobi – the same place where she was born and raised.
Born into a family of teachers in Kenya’s national capital, Juma, who has studied in the United Kingdom, has also lived in the United States and has made important contributions to women’s activism for gay rights in both countries. As an outspoken critic of President Uhuru Kenyatta, Juma ran for the first time as a member of the Freedom Party ahead of the 2013 March to Life for Gay Rights, the country’s first major LGBT rights movement.
“One of the biggest achievements for LGBT rights is that there are enough people that are willing to fight for the cause,” Juma told a crowd of Kenyan LGBT supporters in the capital. “I have worked hard for this. I’ve been working for human rights and that has meant a lot.”
The political ascent of Juma has been a long time coming. At 15 years old, she joined a student movement and eventually began an intensive course in constitutional law at the renowned University of Nairobi. After completing her degree, Juma worked as a reporter for the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation – one of the earliest media outlets to cover LGBT rights in the world. Her experience there led Juma