Lilian Cheptoo Tomitom Kibet is among the few women professionals from the Pokot community.
She has braved many odds, including escaping female genital mutilation, to rise in life and even aspire for political leadership in West Pokot.
In Pokot, she is popularly known as ‘Lily Chepochepkai’, her clan name that is believed to come with many blessings, including leadership.
She is a woman of rare courage and her self-determination led her to resign her job at the University of Eldoret to venture into politics.
She has been senior administrator at the University of Eldoret but now she wants to be the next West Pokot woman representative in 2017 through the Jubilee Party.
Born and brought up in the semi-arid Pokot villages, Lily Chepochepkai wants to “return home” to give back to her community through initiatives that seek to support girl- child education and transform the lives of women.
She has spearheaded a transformational project to ensure more girls access formal education.
Most importantly, she has transformed the lives of families through an initiative known as Operation Ondoa Nyasi.
Eight years ago she initiated a project to mobilise women into welfare groups.
The aim was to raise funds for each other to buy 20 iron sheets for every home to put up a modern ironroofed house instead of grass-thatched huts.
Few girls transit from primary to secondary schools in the region and much fewer of them manage to access university education.
“I have already done a bit of helping my community out of the challenges we face, especially women, but, if given the chance in leadership, I want to wholesomely help to deal with poverty and underdevelopment in Pokot,” she says.
Born in Kacheliba, Cheptoo was lucky that her parents, who are opposed to FGM and early marriage, supported her throughout to access education.
“I saw many of my friends go through FGM and then forced to drop out of school to get married. I refused all approaches and, luckily, my parents stood with me,” she says.
She joined up with other elites from the same area and they formed the Dove Academic and Peace Star Outreach (Dapso) to mobilise the community for development programmes.
To emphasise her desire to better education in the area, Cheptoo started her own schools known as the Townview School, which she uses to explain to the locals the need for quality education.