Woman on the Move – Martha Koome (Kenya)

Written by Rodreck Matsveru


On the 21st of May 2021, history was made in Kenya. For the first time Kenya had a female chief justice in the personality of Martha Koome. This event was interpreted as a breakthrough for women, not only in Kenya but in the world. Her breakthrough showed that it’s possible for women to defy the odds and come on top in business, government affairs, and education and even in the world of technology.


Who is Martha Koome?

She was born in 1960 in Meru County. She is well known in the civil society movement and was first appointed a High Court judge in 2003.In her past career, she has fiercely defended the rights of women and children. Koome has a Master of Laws in Public International Law from the University of London (2010), a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Nairobi (1986) and a Post-Graduate Diploma in Law from the Kenya School of Law. What can we learn from her story?


Lesson 1: She rose to prominence despite her background. 

During her interview she referenced her difficult experience growing up in Meru in rural eastern Kenya in a polygamous family – she was born in 1960, three years before the end of colonial rule.”I am a villager in the truest sense. My parents were peasant farmers and we were 18 children from two mothers. So, for all of us, especially girls – it was a struggle to overcome the odds.”

No matter where you are you can be successful. Circumstances do not matter. Look, Chief Justice Martha Koome grew up in difficult circumstances but she defied the odds and make history by becoming the first female Chief Justice.


Lesson 2: Her back was against the wall but she prevailed

In article by the BBC on the 19th of May 2021, the situation she was in , was a situation where every effort had been made for her to fail but regardless she emerged victorious They were a lot of irregularities and it had become clear that she would not make it but she made it anyway.


And she has overcome more odds to reach chief justice as she was not favourite, with pundits putting their money on Fred Ngatia to be the winning candidate as he had represented President Kenyatta in the dispute over the 2017 election.


Fred Ngatia in 2013 represented the president, was Martha Koome’s main rival. The Supreme Court annulled Mr Kenyatta’s victory in August that year, citing irregularities. A new vote was ordered, which Mr Kenyatta went on to win amid an opposition boycott.


Mr Ngatia may not have won the president’s election case, but his fluency and elucidation of legal jurisprudence on the floor of the court at the time earned him top marks in the eyes of Kenyans across the divide.


However Justice Koome was calm, confident and measured during her four-hour grilling – and her record on children and gender rights as well as her role in drafting Kenya’s 2010 constitution, in particular the Bill of Rights, stood out.


She spoke with pride about how the constitution now outlaws gender discrimination unlike the old one which “outrightly discriminated against women”.


Always fight your way through life. When the odds are against you, always believe that you will make it because you are standing for something that will change people’s lives. A lot of women are giving up because of the restrictive environment they are operating. Learn from the story of Martha she fought her way through and today she is being celebrated for making history.


Lesson 3: Keep on doing what you believe in

There is no doubt that on the 21st of May she made history as a result of previous record of fighting for women and fairness in society.


She was among the lawyers involved in the clamour in the 1980s to repeal Section 2A of the constitution which made the country a one-party state.


Often her colleagues would not want to represent female clients, so she took on their cases and came to see how difficult to it was to get justice for women in the courts when it came to property rights within marriage and inheritance as the law was “dominated by the patriarchy”.


Therefore always do what believe in one day you will be rewarded!



Rodreck Matsveru holds a Bachelor’s degree in media studies and can be contacted on +263775701788 or email rodreck16@gmail.com

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