Being Farida Salim: Kenya’s Samia Suluhu who chose ‘dirt’ against family wishes

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“How can an upright thinking woman quit her profession to venture into this dirty game?” this was the thinking of Farida Ahmed Salim’s family when she resigned from her teaching job to join politics.

It was in mid-2012, and the 2013 general elections were drawing closer.

Farida, then a Secretarial and Economics lecturer at Kisumu Polytechnic thought she was ripe for an elective seat.

She approached her parents, and husband to seek for their blessing for her new ventures, but they all said a big NO.

“They felt I had lost my mind, and tried through all means to persuade me to abandon such a thought,” said Farida.

But all these were in vain as the mother of two had made her mind.

She quit teaching and joined the race for Kisumu Central Parliamentary seat.

She failed at the party primaries, and chose to stand with the Orange Democratic Party candidate who won the seat.

Farida Salim in the company of other women leaders in a past public function. (Photo: Courtesy)

Guilty as charged

At this time, the guilt of disobeying her parents crept it, but she did not look back as the milk was already spilt.

She was fortunate as the ODM party nominated her to Kisumu County Assembly, a position she served till 2017.

“During my time at the assembly, I got to interact with the issues within the wards, and this refocused my attention from the parliamentary seat,” she said.

Come 2017 general election, Farida chose to run for Kaloleni Ward Member of County Assembly, but on Citizen Convention Party (CCP).

“I had failed at the party primaries in the previous election, so I thought I wanted a chance to get to the main ballot, and which I thought was only possible through a different party,” she said.

But this time again, she missed the mark.

Fortunately, when the positions for Kisumu City Board were advertised, Farida applied and she got it.

Again she applied for the position of County Education Board, and was appointed to represent the minority group.

The two opportunities kept her in contact with the public.

Living her dream

When Lake Region Bulletin caught up with her at City Hall, Farida was preparing to travel to Nairobi to attend a Regional Intergenerational Mentorship Conference on November 25, 2021. She was to be one of the speakers at the women empowerment forum.

Despite not having intention to run again for a political position, Farida has chosen to share her political experience to other aspiring women.

“I have a lot of women networks which I work with to conduct mentorship programs to women aspiring political positions,” she said.

She added: “As for me, I have tried elective politics, and I have also served on a nominative capacity.I intend to continue serving the people in other different capacities,” she said amid smiles piecing through her veil.

Farida Salim with former Kisumu Deputy Governor Ruth Odinga.

Her background

Farida was born in 1975 to two teachers. Her father retired from teaching while heading Jamhuri High School in Nairobi, in 1998, while her mother who was a teacher at Kisumu Day Secondary School died in 1995 while still in service.

Being born in a family of teachers saw the second born in a family of three siblings grow under utmost discipline.

She attended Kaloleni Muslim Primary School till 1988 before joining Kisumu Girls’ High School, sitting for her national examination in 1991.

She then joined Kenyatta University to pursue Bachelor of Education Arts, French and Secretarial, graduating in 1997.

In 1999, she got her first teaching job at Bumbe Technical Institute in Western Kenya to teach Secretarial, before transferring to Kisumu Polytechnic a year later to teach Secretarial and Business Management.

Political interest

It was while at Kisumu Poly that she developed interest in community work.

“I saw many Muslim children, especially girls losing out on education at basic level, while those who managed to get to tertiary institutions had fee problems,” she said.

She then facilitated the formation of Muslim Students Association at Kisumu Poly, which she used to mobilize resources through Constituency Development Funds, and other sources to help raise fees for the vulnerable students.

“When I moved to the villages, I realized there was a bigger problem, and that is how I started engaging in community work which pushed me to seek leadership positions as I thought having the privilege to serve in those positions would provide better platform to create impactful change through policy formulation and better resource mobilization,” said Farida.

Pain of women in politics

But still, in politics, she came face to face with the harsh reality that women politicians face.

Her lowest moment was in 2017 when unknown people scribbled her name on a wall within Kondele with messages suggesting that she was fighting the Luo community which had hosted her.

We did not send Farida Salim to the County Assembly to insult Luos,’ read the statement which she says got her out of her shell.

“I felt scared as an entire community was being incited against me during a charged political season. I had to find a way of fighting such kind of propaganda,” she said.

Farida suspects that the writing could have been as a result of her strong stand against policies she felt were unfamiliar with the people.

“I stood on the floor of the house on many occasions to defend the interest of the people which did not go well with some people,” she said.

Farida Salim

Face to face with political goons

Goons threatened to torch her house, while others invaded and disrupted her political and women empowerment meetings, both in hotels and in the open fields.

“What kept me going was prayer, courage, and consistency. It is what women aspiring to be leaders need to develop. They also need to get in touch with a number of networks which support women so that they are assured that someone has their back,” she said.

She added; “What I discovered is that when you are passionate about something, many people misinterpret it, and you end up getting hurt.”

Her other biggest challenge in her political life was her unclear community background.

Farida’s father is born of an Arab father and a Luo mother, while her mother is born of an Asian father and Luhya mother.

“When people ask me about my roots, I tell them I am a Kenyan. Some people confuse me for having origins in the coast,” she said.

She however chooses to ignore ethnicity issues in her ambition, and instead soldiers on in what she is passionate about.

“I know I am a cocktail, and I refuse to be dragged into tribal discussions. Kisumu is my home and all I want is to create a positive impact in the lives on my people,” she said.

Kevine Omollo
Kevine Omollo
Lake Region Bulletin is your one stop multi-media platform for news from Lake Region Counties of Kisumu, Siaya, Homa Bay, Migori, Kisii, Nyamira, Vihiga, Kakamega, Busia, Bungoma, Trans Nzoia, Nandi, Kericho and Bomet. Email: komollo@lakeregionbulletin.co.ke omollokevine@gmail.com

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