The resilience story of UDA nominated senator Gloria Orwoba: Married at 22 while in school, divorced then remarrying

for Tv47 Digital October 23, 2022, 12:06 PM
Senator Gloria Orwoba
UDA nominated senator Gloria Orwoba (pictured) talks about politics, marriage and life growing up.

United Democratic Alliance (UDA) nominated senator Gloria Orwoba came into the spotlight in 2019. This was the year when she returned to Kenya to try her hands in politics after having a stint in Denmark as the European country's head of Facebook Data Centre. 

Orwoba is a trained architect, an entrepreneur, a wife, a mother and a sister to three. She describes herself as "a woman who knows what she wants" and hence might appear intimidating to many. 

TV47 Digital caught up with the multifaceted politician in her Ngong Road office where she let us in on her political career and private life.

Can you attribute your strong personality to being raised by a single dad?

I have never thought of it that way but thinking of it now, I think it played a role. My three sisters and I were raised by our dad single-handedly.

I personally do not remember ever having a relationship with my mother, our dad played both roles. My strong personality may have emanated from protecting myself from the general public who would question our family set up asking questions like where my mother is.

Did you grow up in Kisii?

No. We were raised in Nairobi but we would go to Kisii every December holiday for about a month. My father was a senior civil servant. We lived in government houses around Yaya Centre.

I schooled around as well. I attended State House nursery, pre-primary and primary and later went to St. Georges Girls. 

I later pursued a diploma in architecture.

You became a mother pretty early

Not really. I think I was in my prime, I was 22, in school yes but I had a job and I was in a stable relationship with the father of my child.

Abortion did not even cross my mind and to be honest, it was not a big deal. I had a good boss and I really loved my job. I worked until the last minute. 

Should we legalise abortion though?

This is a grey area because in some situations, abortion is dignified. I have interacted with girls who have been raped and as a human being and mother I have thought that this is a pregnancy that should not be carried to term.

I understand that as a country, our background is in religion. This is one of those things I do not have a stand on.

Married twice?

I do not think this is a big deal. I mean, if you were interviewing a man, I do not think you would ask him how many times he has been married or if he is cheating. 

I got divorced shortly after getting married at 22 years. In 2015, I re-married. I think if a situation is not working out then people are allowed to leave and move on. 

Politics... How did that come about?

I always knew I wanted to join politics and I would always say it. My family relocated to Sweden around 2015 when my husband got a job there.

It was difficult for me as I was unable to find a job there. I tried setting up a company but it was not making profits. I then relocated to Denmark where I applied for a couple of jobs and got a few interviews.

I eventually got a job at the Facebook (now Meta) Data Center as a senior manager. I then rose through the ranks to become the head of the center.

In 2017, I briefly came back to Kenya to try my shot at the Kisii County Executive as a youth CEC. I was informed that the positions had been filled ages ago prior to the election and that is when I made a mental note to come back three years before the general election

So you resigned from the remunerative job?

Yes I did in 2019. My goal was to start campaigns early for the Bobasi Constituency parliamentary seat. I did not have a plan B, my mind was set on that. 

I started looking for a political camp and every camp would dismiss me saying I was "too green' apart from UDA. That is how I found myself in Dr Ruto's party where my voice seemed to matter.

I started campaigns in Kisii where I had a feeding program for schools. We would give the children bread and porridge.

My competitors started attending funerals in February 2021. As a woman I had to work twice as hard because Kisii is a very patriarchal county.

Do you think you were rigged out in the primaries? 

I do not think I was rigged out but I rather find it strange how the person who defeated me with 7,000 votes got 1,000 votes during the general election.

Voter turnout is usually very low during primaries. The 1,000 votes were party votes.

You attended a TV47 interview the day your dad passed away. Where do you get the strength to keep going even when things are not working out?

You know I could not have canceled things then because it was three months to the party primaries. 

My father's death took a toll on me because a UDA politician who was vying for senate in Kisii used it for political leverage due to our in-house fights. 

The politician facilitated a woman to get an injunction to bar us from accessing our father's body. We were served on a Saturday, a day before the day we were supposed to bury him. 

We started court hearing on Tuesday where my father's brother had also conspired with the woman to deceive court. 

I remember the woman told the court that she had no idea the husband was sick. Her son, who was also my dad's alleged son, also told the court he did not have my father's phone number.

The petitioners even refused to take a DNA test to prove their claims. The court ruled in our favour five weeks later.

How did this impact your campaigns?

The politician spread propaganda in Kisii that I do not want to bury my father back home. This was untrue as my father had stipulated he did not want to be buried their. Secondly, the next of kin is our firstborn which means I did not have a say on all this.

The electorate however found it difficult to understand these dynamics. This has been my best yet worst year.

Did you have any plans after losing the primaries? 

This happened during the Easter period, I was still dealing with the loss when my party leader Dr William Ruto called me and gave me a pep talk.

He asked me to focus on the Women's Charter as I am good with advocacy and then we would see what the future had. I also volunteered to head agents in Nyanza region where I headed six counties. 

Was being nominated to the Senate the "seeing what the future had"?

Yes. I remember sitting in a PG meeting the day the names were to be gazetted thinking to myself, what if I am not on the list? 

The names were gazetted at 4:00PM and I remember seeing the list and it was so surreal. The first thing I thought was that all the 4:00AMs had paid off.

I am not a morning person although I do a lot of morning shows. This means I have to wake up at 4:00AM to prepare for the interview. Every time my alarm goes off, I remind myself that it will pay off. I even have a placard with those words on my bedside.

I still do the shows and work hard because my focus now is on sponsoring important bills in Senate and getting elected in Bobasi in 2027. Politics is my long-term career plan.

What is the meaning of your tattoo?

I actually have a couple and they do not have meanings per se. I get them when I am celebrating something significant in my life. People look at tattoos as a Western concept yet Africans tattooed in the past only that they never used ink. 

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