Anne Obare – Spirit of adventure lives in Navy girl

Anne Obare proved her naysayers wrong when she successfully joined the Navy, a predominantly male unit in the military. She enjoys steering ships and boats, typically male roles. An adventurer, she has sailed far and wide in her quest to keep Kenyan waters safe. She is currently a Senior Private Sea Woman Class 1 and a VIP protector.

Still shy of her thirties, Anne Obare is already a Senior Private Sea woman Class 1 with specialised training to become a VIP protector under her belt. This basically means that she can be assigned to protect a female Head of State.

Obare had to undergo three years of preparation to qualify for Senior Private Class 1. Moreover, she is among the best in her category, having shown tremendous growth in her profession. While she may not be a pioneer female in the Kenya Navy, Obare is among the few young women to have made considerable strides within a relatively short time.

Obare was born on 14 October 1990. She completed her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) in 2004 and her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2008.

She joined the Kenya Navy in 2009, training as a Sea Woman in 2010-2012 and as a VIP protector in 2013.

Previously, women were incorporated into the arms of the military under the Women’s Service Corps (WSC), serving separately from their male counterparts. Through a Presidential Legal Notice, the WSC was disbanded on 1 December 1999 and female officers were subsequently to be absorbed directly into the three mainstream services (Kenya Army, Kenya Air Force and Kenya Navy) according to service seniority and in the ratio of 7:2:1 respectively, with the Kenya Army receiving the bulk of the servicewomen. The physical presence of a woman on board a warship was thus inconceivable until recently.

As a Sea Woman, Obare steers a ship or a boat patrolling the coast for any lurking danger. She also conducts maintenance of the ship or boat and is trained in weapons operation and ordinance technology, which deals with explosives.

She joined the military as a starry-eyed 18-year-old who had fallen in love with the navy uniform as a young girl. Her father worked for the Kenya Police and had friends from the military. Each time they would visit the Department of Defence to see her father’s friends, the young girl would be blown away.

The first-born in a family of six admits that she was supposed to study Pharmacy at the Medical Training College (MTC), although her admission letter came a week after she had been admitted to the Navy. Her other motivation for joining the military was her mother, who was sick at the time. “I needed to do something for the family. Being the first-born is quite challenging; you need to support where you can.”

Support she did. She threw herself into the training full throttle. The physical trainings were intense, but she managed to complete each phase. Following the navy protocol also proved cumbersome, but she says with time she got used to it and no longer finds it daunting.

Obare’s tenure in the military has not been without its challenges. For starters, she badly wanted to be in the sea department, but there was a notion among her male peers that the sea department was their domain and that as a woman she would not be able to hack it. “I wanted to show them that what they thought they could do, I could do it better.”

Her colleagues’ doubts about her ability only fuelled her determination to prove them wrong. And she did.

Amid the ups and downs of her career, Obare’s source of courage is her family, especially her mother.

“I grew up not thinking about the future, but what I can do tomorrow,” she says. Being in the military taught her to plan for the future and pursue her career to the highest possible level.

Obare is a stickler for time, a discipline she has acquired as part of her training. If she has to meet up with someone and they are not on time, she leaves.

Do her friends look up to her to protect them, now that she’s in the navy? “If my friends go looking for trouble, I’ll just watch as they get beaten up,” she confesses. She usually avoids scuffles. In her line of work it is wise not to draw undue attention.

Endurance is another attribute that Obare acquired in the Navy. During the training, she was pushed to the limit. Her physical, mental and emotional capacities were stretched to make her grounded and focused on the task at hand.

She was groomed in little things, such as making her bed to perfection, cleaning her boots until they gleamed and looking meticulous at all times while on duty. She came to learn that if the small things mattered, the bigger ones would matter as well.

An adventurer at heart, she once convinced three of her female colleagues to go sailing on patrol at the northern part of the Indian Ocean.

The voyage, which was supposed to take three weeks, ended up taking a whole 14 weeks. They went almost as far as Ras Kamboni in Somalia. This was in 2011, while Kenya was conducting Operation Linda Nchi in Somalia. Suffice it to say they were relieved to come back in one piece.

Obare has had plenty of eye-opening experiences. She recalls being part of the company that went to Belgium to take possession of a Kenyan ship (Mtafiti) that had been purchased by the Navy. On the last day she met with Millie Odhiambo, nominated Member of Parliament for Mbita Constituency, who was in the country on official duty and had come to view the ship.

“I remember her being amazed and wondering aloud that there were young women in the navy. I was so shocked when she told me that she wished to be like me,” she recalls. “I couldn’t even speak. I had grown up seeing her on television. Now this woman wished to be me!”

Apart from Millie Odhiambo, she also looks up to the Navy Commander who, she says, is very proud of the ladies on board and usually encourages them to be their best. Major Roselyn Momanyi, also in the Navy, is another source of inspiration for Obare. She considers Maj Momanyi to be very focused and determined. “I always watch what she is doing and emulate it. If she can achieve, I can also do the same.”

Obare’s typical day begins at 5am. She prepares for the day and is out of the house by 6am. She goes to the gym for an hour, runs for 30 minutes and swims for just under 30 minutes, getting to work by 8am.

In the morning, she mostly does maintenance work on the ship before being assigned other duties.

During her free time, Obare loves watching movies, swimming and working out at the gym; but her all-time favourite activity is steering the ship and going out on patrols at the Kenyan Coast.

“My dad once told me that I should always endeavour to do something for someone to earn their gratitude,” she says. Every day she asks herself what she can do. “It doesn’t have to be monetary; it can even be a word of encouragement, so as long as I have done something good, I am happy.” This is how she gives back to the society, by doing a good deed on a daily basis.

Anne has a very positive outlook on life. She takes everything in her stride. Her advice to young people, especially young girls, is that nothing can stop them from doing what they want to do.

They have to work hard, take life seriously and let the sky be the limit. This philosophy has helped to keep her focused, prayerful and have the resolve to overcome any obstacle.

Words of Wisdom

  • “Always endeavour to do something for someone each day to earn their gratitude and appreciation.”
  • “Do not wait for that day when you have everything to start doing something. Start now.”
  • “Focus, prayer and the resolve that you can make it are important ingredients to success.”



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