Thursday, June 16, 2011
By: Julia N. Opoti
Hopkins, Minnesota – At a breakfast meeting in June, Aoko Midiwo Odembo encouraged Kenyan women to pursue their dreams, participate in business enterprise and to offer each other support.
Midiwo-Odembo, who was visiting Minnesota with her husband, the Kenyan ambassador to the United States, Elkanah Odembo, said, вЂњInvesting in a woman is the largest return on investment.вЂќ
She was speaking at a meeting hosted by the Kenyan Women in Minnesota (KWIM), a three-year old organization with a little over one hundred members that is looking to grow. KWIMвЂ™s founding president Murugi Mutiga says that the womenвЂ™s association has been steadily growing as it reaches out to more Kenyan women across Minnesota.
Midiwo-Odembo encouraged this growth and asked that the group see itself as a resource for the community. Her goal, with the embassy, is to collect resource databases around the US that would be posted on the embassyвЂ™s website for ease of access to information. вЂњMap where you are.вЂќ
Midiwo-Odembo says that she was concerned about reports of domestic violence in Kenyan communities around the country. In October last year, a Kenyan woman from Minnesota, Bilha Omare, was slain together with two of her children by her husband in a domestic dispute.
Speaking against patriarchy, Midiwo-Odembo urged the women to pick a copy of Virginia WolfвЂ™s extended essay A Room of OneвЂ™s Own saying that even with family obligations women can accomplish personal career goals. вЂњBegin looking at Kenyan industries to see which ones have opportunity investments. Your husbandвЂ™s and fatherвЂ™s property is not yours, вЂњshe cautioned.
Midiwo Odembo is the founder of the Kenyan Women Voters which saw the elections of several female members of parliament including current sitting MP Martha Karua. Most recently, she represented Kenya at the launch of the World BankвЂ™s, вЂњWomen Economic Empowerment as Smart Economics; A dialogue on Policy OptionsвЂќ at the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Using her experience as an example, she urged participation at all levels of commerce. вЂњPartake in the worldвЂ™s wealth.вЂќ
For women interested in returning to Kenya, Midiwo-Odembo referenced KenyaвЂ™s recently promulgated constitution that calls for a third of female positions in all public service offices.
вЂњLook at Vision 2030 to see the industries that are bankable,вЂќ she encouraged referring to KenyaвЂ™s long-term economic strategic plan.
To empower one self she advised continual self education, вЂњBoth the Kenyan and American constitutions are the most important documents you will ever read because it governs your life.вЂќ