•Mama Grace, 98, died while receiving treatment at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) in Kisumu on Wednesday.
•Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o, Senator Tom Ojienda and Kisumu Central MP Joshua Oron described Mama Grace as a trailblazer.
Kisumu county leaders have mourned Kenya's first female MP and mayor Mama Grace Onyango terming her death a big blow.
Mama Grace, 98, died while receiving treatment at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga Teaching and Referral Hospital (JOOTRH) in Kisumu on Wednesday.
Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o, Senator Tom Ojienda and Kisumu Central MP Joshua Oron described Mama Grace as a trailblazer, who played a critical role to shape the development of the country.
In his condolence message, Nyong’o said Kenya has lost the greatest icon and pillar of women's leadership.
He said he learned with profound sorrow the passing of mama Grace.
Nyong’o described her as a pillar of women leadership and a great role model who blazed the trail in the county’s political leadership in Kenya.
He said the death of Mama Grace just hours after being honoured during the International Women's Day celebrations was a big blow.
“Mama Grace, famously known as Nyarbungu, was selfless, focused and visionary. A mother and grandmother to many,” Nyong’o said.
The international women’s day celebrations were held at a social centre, the county fondly named after her.
Nyong’o noted that mama Grace broke the ceiling in leadership long before the country started the campaigns for gender parity.
He said she was selfless, focused, brave and visionary.
“A mother and grandmother to many, she will be remembered for mentoring girls and young women leaders,” he said.
Last week, the governor visited her at her home in Kisumu.
“We joked and discussed many issues affecting our country today,” Nyong’o said.
Her death, he said, on International Women’s Day is as remarkable as it is confounding.
“I want to send heartfelt condolences to Mama's family, friends, relatives and the womenfolk across Kenya for losing a leading light,” Nyong’o said.
The celebrated icon was a woman of many fists who started out as a teacher. She later served as the first female mayor of Kisumu Town from 1965-69.
In 1969 she was elected as the first female MP in post-independence Kenya, representing Kisumu Town constituency.
In parliament, she is remembered for her no-nonsense demeanor, as she stood firm and championed the rights of women.
In a male-dominated House, Mama Grace went ahead and became the first woman to act as deputy speaker, a position she held from 1979-1984.
She took a break from politics after losing the seat to Wilson Ndolo Ayah in 1984.
Her daughter, Pauline Akwacha said the former legislator’s death has left a big gap in the family and country.
Pauline described her mother as a mentor and pillar whose work impacted positively to women across the country.
“My mother championed women's rights and was evident in the number of key positions held by women in the country today,” she said.
Senator Ojienda said the country has lost a matriarch who dedicated her time and life to serve people at a time when women's leadership was overlooked.
“As the people of Kisumu county and Kenya at large, we will forever miss Mama Grace who has left a mark in education, health and women empowerment programs,” Ojienda said.
Kisumu Central MP Joshua Oron said Mama Grace will be remembered for mentoring young girls and women leaders.
He praised Grace for her massive contribution to various sectors in the country including education, health and women, and girl child empowerment.
Interior PS Raymond Omollo said the death of Mama Grace has left the country with profound sorrow.
“A matriarch of many firsts, her name, etched on the sands of history, will be read as the first female MP in post–colonial Kenya and first mayor in the country,” he said.
Omollo said her invaluable contributions in fighting for women’s place in political leadership has and will continue to inspire many,
In his condolence message, he said the life of Mama Grace was a gift to the women of Kenya.
"And, that she had breathed her last, on International women’s day, is such a coincidence. Resin peace, Nyarbungu,” Omollo said.