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, “Investing in a woman is the largest return on investment.”
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. KWIM’s founding president Murugi Mutiga says that the women’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 embassy’s website for ease of access to information. “Map where you are.”
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 Wolf’s extended essay A Room of One’s Own saying that even with family obligations women can accomplish personal career goals. “Begin looking at Kenyan industries to see which ones have opportunity investments. Your husband’s and father’s property is not yours, “she 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 Bank’s, “Women Economic Empowerment as Smart Economics; A dialogue on Policy Options” at the invitation of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Using her experience as an example, she urged participation at all levels of commerce. “Partake in the world’s wealth.”
For women interested in returning to Kenya, Midiwo-Odembo referenced Kenya’s recently promulgated constitution that calls for a third of female positions in all public service offices.
“Look at Vision 2030 to see the industries that are bankable,” she encouraged referring to Kenya’s long-term economic strategic plan.
To empower one self she advised continual self education, “Both the Kenyan and American constitutions are the most important documents you will ever read because it governs your life.”