From Githunguri to First African Female Mayor in The UK

  • Success stories of people you view as role models in the society are interesting as most of them were not born with a silver spoon in their mouths.

    And in this case, Elizabeth Kangethe slots in perfectly as an epitome of success and an example to young women.

    In 2010, she became the first person of Kenyan origin to be elected councillor in the UK, when she was voted as a representative of Parsloes Ward in Barking and Dagenham, UK on a Labour Party ticket as reported by the Barking and Dagenham Post.

    Her success in serving the community saw her get elected the first female African mayor in the UK, when she was won a vote to become the mayor of Barking and Dagenham for the 2014-2015 term.

    Councilor Elizabeth Kangethe of Parsloe in Barking and Dagenham, UK.

    Elizabeth was born and raised in Githunguri, Kiambu County and was the fourth in a family of seven.

    In a January 9, 2016 interview with KTN News, she revealed that she attended Kambui Primary School and later St Annes Secondary School- Lioki, Kiambu County. Her passion to become a teacher made her pursue a degree in education in college.

    Before she transition to the UK, Elizabeth had a stint as a teacher in Turkana and later a headteacher at the tender age of 24. Her involvement with the Scout movement played a major role in shaping her leadership skills.

    When she moved to the UK in the '90s, she also joined the Scout movement as well as enroll in a university.

    After graduating from the University of East London with a teaching degree, Elizabeth got the opportunity to serve as a school governor for Parsloes Primary and Sydney Rusell Comprehensive schools.

    She was a leading champion or the Kenyan community within the UK, and volunteered her services to support groups for women and persons living with disabilities. 

    People then advised her to join the political scene. Her life in Kenya also fueled her desire to represent the people.

    "When I was still in Kenya as a headteacher, I got the opportunity to work with the electoral commission and I liked it. I got to admire a few politicians and I admired what they did and I wanted to do it," Elizabeth narrated.

    Rheanna Stiles and Councilor Elizabeth Kangethe, holding her Barking and Dagenham College Student of the Year Award on November 12, 2014.

    "I was in the Scout movement. I used to help a lot of people and some sort of looked up to me. I developed the confidence and I thought I could be their voice.

    "I also met my MP and he asked me if I ever wanted to be a voice for those people, since I kept on taking cases to her. I thought to myself, why not? I've got nothing to lose?" she recounted.

    Her venture into politics was a successful one when she was elected councillor of Parsloes on a Labour party ticket in 2010.

    Elizabeth stated that her personality, or rather being a woman, did not hamper her political ambitions.

    She identified sheer will and determination as to the key to her success, and above all, the motivation to serve her constituents along with those in need of her help.

    Her achievement opened doors to more opportunities, as she got to engage world leaders and was recognised as a voice of influence among the black community living in the UK.

    Better yet, the Kenyan embassy worked out a partnership with her as a British-Kenyan representative.

     Major Anton O'Hagan and Cllr Elizabeth Kangethe during Remembrance Day at the war memorial, Barking Park.

    However, she called upon the Kenyan government to consider the diaspora community in the country's future leaders. When asked whether she would venture into politics in Kenya, Elizabeth had one simple answer, "Time will tell," she remarked.

    She has engaged several incumbent governors in Kenya and has hosted a number of them on their trips to the UK.