Grace Akech Onyango

Grace Akech Onyango is Kenya’s first female mayor and the first female (temporary) deputy speaker of the National Assembly. She beat 10 male opponents in the 1967 elections to serve as the mayor of Kisumu and was later elected Kisumu Town Member of Parliament (MP) on December 6, 1969, in a male dominated Parliament of 158 MPs.

Popularly described as the first iron lady of Kenyan politics, Onyango crowned it all by being elected the first woman Secretary General of the Luo Union of East Africa. She was thus instrumental in breaking the glass ceiling and creating an opening for women in leadership in Kenya.

She was behind the Africanisation of street names in Kisumu from the previously inherited colonial names. This was after Kenya’s independence.

While in Parliament, the trained teacher-turned-politician was picked by MPs to serve in the committee investigating the murder of former Nyandarua North MP J. M. Kariuki.

Onyango lost her seat to Dr Robert Ouko in 1979 and opted to maintain a low profile thereafter.


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