Yasmin left her job, working for the Red Cross as a Sexual & Gender Based Violence Coordinator, to go and work in Marsabit county government because she felt “that taking into account the illiteracy level I needed to give back to my community. …I thought there was a lot that could be achieved”. Yasmin won’t say how old she is but assures us that she is over 18. In Northern Kenya, where cultural stereotypes about men being superior still remain, it is her age which has been has caused the most resistance but Yasmin is confident that her actions have won over her constituents “Provided you’re competent and you have the heart to serve the people, age is just a number“.
Lying along the Ethiopian border Marsabit county is one of the largest counties in Kenya. Its borders encompass everything from the green highlands of Marsabit town to the Chalbi desert, the only desert in Kenya. When Yasmin joined the county government 3 years ago Marsabit had some of the highest levels of illiteracy and poverty in the country. It remains a predominantly pastoralist community and Yasmin told us tales of recent stakeholder meetings where camels and landrovers had been swept away in the rains. Yasmin believes that “devolution has been a blessing for our people” and it is county government that is going to bring much needed development to its people.
As a Committee Executive County Members , Yasmin’s position holds three responsibilities, she is responsible for; Lands, Housing and Urban Development, and most significantly, Energy. Currently not a single community is connected the national electricity grid (though Moyale is linked to Ethiopia’s power grid). The communities that do have power are dependent on expensive and polluting diesel generators. Yasmin plans to change these, and with the support of GIZ has drawn up an Energy Sector Plan which will roll out renewable energy across the county during the next 10 years. Renewable energy not only offers electricity to constituents who once relied on kerosene but is also presents opportunities for investment and jobs in the county. Yasmin is eager to welcome the private sector into her county.
Many challenges remain but Yasmin is undaunted. When asked what she hopes for the future she doesn’t hesitate “I want to leave a legacy especially for women and children in the education sector, in the energy sector. I believe what a man can do a woman can do better!”
Yasmin wears a Kiko Romeo dress.