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Sophia Abdi Noor on a dusty Kenyan campaign trail

A few hundred Muslim women have their arms in the air as they sing, "Sophia is our leader." Men are standing in the background talking quietly. Sophia Abdi Noor has come to Ijara in Northeastern Kenya. Here she is a mould breaker in many ways.

Sophia Abdi Noor has realistic hopes of winning a MP seat on Monday's elections in Kenya. Since the last election in 2007, a new constitution has paved the way to more local democracy and ensured that at least 47 of the seats in parliament willl go to women.

"I leave the dedicated women seats to others and campaign against a handful of men. I will win because people here are tired of men who only think of themselves, "she says.

Today, women hold 10 pct of the seats in the Kenyan parliament. Sophia herself holds a nominated seat. Now she wants to be an elected MP.

"People want me as their member of parliament, because I speak for Ijara and I speak for the millions of women, who has their rights violated on a daily basis," Sophia Abdi Noor continues.

Sophia rises from the dustFor the fifth time since sunrise Sophia’s campaign trail stops in a village and Sophia Abdi Noor takes the microphone and promises that she will put the chair before the door of corrupt men and put an end to oppression of women.The girls and women in niqab have bright eyes as they rejoice over the election pledges.

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"Many men mistakenly use the Koran to suppress us women. I have worked for more than 25 years to stop it and to ensure women's rights in North-eastern Kenya," she says.

Sophia Abdi Noor was born shortly after Kenya's independence in 1963. since then, she has risen from the dust in a continuous struggle to put women and Ijara on the map. She is one of the founders of the organization WomanKind Kenya, that ActionAid has supported for 10 years.

From village to villageThe thermometer in Sophia Abdi Noor's Landcruiser shows 36 degrees in the shade. Dust from the plains of Ijara is everywhere. The car has been Sophia Abdi Noor's home and campaign headquarters in the past three months. From sunrise to sunset, she has visited hundreds of villages.

"I've reached perhaps half of the settlements in Ijara. In many places, they have no TV, radio, or newspapers. When I ask my constituents what they want, I hear the difference between women and men. The men want money; while women ask for water, food, development, and education. That is why we also lack female leadership. I will continue my struggle as an activist when I get elected," she says.File 15722