Empowering Kenyan MPs: NIMD’s Democracy Academy

I want to leave the space I work in better than when I found it. – Irene Mayaka, Nominated Member of the Kenya National Assembly, Participant of the Kenya Democracy Academy


In October 2023, we kicked off the first session of NIMD’s Democracy Academy in Kenya. At its core, NIMD’s Democracy Academy serves as a platform for fostering democratic values, promoting good governance, and honing the skills of its participants.   

One distinctive feature of this Democracy Academy is its focus on Members of Parliament (MPs). Particularly those representing traditionally underrepresented groups, including women, youth, and persons with disabilities, further highlighting our commitment to nurturing political leaders who help to shape national policies and, consequently, the future of democracy in their countries.  

This Democracy Academy is also the first held in Kenya.  

Structured to facilitate learning and interaction, this Democracy Academy will be delivered in a series of six carefully planned and meticulously designed sessions. By providing participants with this in-depth, sequential learning experience, NIMD aims to empower the politicians to drive positive change.  

To mark this, we will follow the participants, offering insights into the sessions as well as sharing the journey of participants, Rozaah Buyu, Member of Parliament for Kisumu Town Constituency, Bernard Kitur, a young parliamentarian from the Nandi Hills Constituency and Charity Kathambi, Member of Parliament for Njoro Constituency. We hope to give you an insight into the impact of the NIMD Democracy Academy, both in personal and professional growth. We invite you to tune in for the coming series!  

Session Three: Implementing the lessons of the Academy

Accompanied by the sounds of peacocks in the background, our colleagues at NIMD Kenya sat down with Members of Parliament Charity Kathambi and Bernard Kitur to hear about their latest experience in the latest session of NIMD Kenya’s Democracy Academy.   

Charity is an elected MP representing Njoro Constituency, first elected in 2017 and then a second time in 2022. She is a strong champion of peace and conservancy. She shares with the team that as a female legislator, the Democracy Academy offers a lot of encouragement to herself and her fellow female colleagues, “when we work together, we have a lot of strength.” She also shares that the Academy offers “a space to share our ideas, approach challenges with better strategies, and gives us another platform to think about new things from what we have learned.” 

The team also met Bernard, the elected MP representing Nandi Hills Constituency. The last time we spoke to him, he was hot off the heels of the previous Democracy Academy. The session tackled how to handle branding and media presence as a politician. 

How have you been since the last session?  

Bernard shares that since the last session, he has completely changed how he works with his team and constituents. He shares that he engages in conversations with his constituents in multiple ways, “sometimes dialogue is literally talking in a public space such as a shopping center or a school. But now, I have learned that when I post, and people respond on social media, I can interact further. People also call in on the radio to give their ideas or offer different views. I realize that the public knows what they want, and my role is to ensure their wishes are realized.” 

How has the Democracy Academy helped?  

“I’ll put it this way – it is the best idea ever,” Bernard says. He shares that through the sessions, they have learned from experts, specifically those from the field who have lived experience in the political sector, allowing them to understand better and help them learn. But “if that wasn’t enough, we can also learn from each other,” he shares. “I would encourage all political leaders to attend the school; I am leaving a changed person. A sharpened and improved leader.”

Session Two: Navigating traditional and modern Media as a politician  

Learning how to use the media to their advantage, exploring strategies for effective engagement on social media, and equipping female parliamentarians with strategies to navigate traditionally patriarchal or conservative media. These are some of the topics tackled during session two of the Kenya Democracy academy. 

Young parliamentarian, Bernard Kitur shared with us his insights into the significance of understanding the diverse landscape of media. Especially navigating the routes of traditional vs. Modern media.  As a young politician, the training provided guidance on navigating both types of media to cultivate a personal brand, enhance visibility within the country, and he underscored the role of media in their work.  The training left a mark on Bernard where he remarked what a transformative experience it had been:   

The Bernard you knew before will be different from the Bernard you know now. My colleagues will be shocked by how the training has changed me. 

The next session is set to take place early 2024 just before Members of Parliament resume sittings after a long recess.  Looking ahead to the next session Bernard explained that it would be impossible to gauge his expectations for the next training session, only that he is excited to get started  and looking forward to continuing to learn and growth as he aims to become an even more effective legislator for the benefit of their constituents and the younger generation here represents in Nandi Hills Constituency.  

Stay tuned for the next session to hear from Rozaah Buyu, Bernard Kitur and the other participants what the session brought then, whether they were able to implement lessons learned already and what they hope to learn in the coming sessions. Read about the first session from Kenya’s Democracy Academy below.

Session One: Navigating male-dominated politics  

Female MP’s dominated Kenya’s Democracy Academy’s first session on 28 October 2023. The Academy was warmly received as both Senior and first term MPs were incredibly open during the sessions. Together they shared the issues they face as well as, highlighting how the women have been able to support each other and continue to offer this support by sharing and learning from each other’s experiences.  

The support was highlighted in the relationship between the Senior and first term MPs, specifically in the senior MPs role in helping the newcomers navigate the scene, giving tough love when needed and acting almost as a “big sister.” 

 We learned from the women that entering a male-dominated sector is very difficult as a female politician in Kenya and that as a woman you also must work twice as hard or more even to prove yourself. This led to an enormous amount of responsibility being felt by the women, feeling that if they did not do well, it could ruin the chance for other women to enter the political space. 

Lessons learned was also highlighted by the Crystal Asige, a Senator nominated by the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party, who shared her experience with losing her sight and learning to live with a disability. She told the group that “a lot of people rely only on what they see, if all you see is what you can physically see then you do not see everything.”   

We were curious to discover whether the session had also led to other lessons learned for the MPs. We spoke to our highlighted MP, the Rozaah Buyu from the ODM party to find out whether she had any trepidations going into the session and what the first offered her.  

Rozaah Buyu has been a politician since 2005. Being first elected in 2017 as women representative. A quota of MPs that is reserved specifically for female representatives. However, in 2022, during Kenya’s last general elections she beat the competition – mainly male representatives – to win a seat as a general member of parliament. An incredible feat.  

When being asked: What she hopes to get out of the training? She replied,

I am always running.

The responsibilities of running one constituency are more demanding than when you have a number as there is more attention to detail, the constituents themselves are also demanding of your time. From all the running she feels that she is starting to get burnt-out. The hope is that “this training will help me refocus, better plan, and strategize how I serve my constituents. I hope that I will find myself again, as next to a politician I am also a person… I am really looking forward to the training and hoping, really hoping, that it will help to put everything into perspective. This will help me serve better and help me produce more results to be more impactful on the lives of my constituents by creating better and more effective strategies for implementation.” 

Stay tuned for the next edition at the end of November to hear from Rosa and the other participants what the session brought then, whether they were able to implement lessons learned already and what they hope to learn in the coming sessions.