By Lillian Aluanga
She was once the tiniest and youngest pupil in class, but today stands tall among her peers.
While Ambassador Amina Mohamed is tall, in a literal sense, (over five foot ten) her appointment as Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme ( UNEP) also gives her a vertical boost in one of the worldâs top international organisations. Ambassador Amina Mohamed. [PHOTO: EVANS HABIL/STANDARD]
Ambassador Amina Mohamed. [PHOTO: EVANS HABIL/STANDARD]
Under her new posting, which she took up two weeks ago, Mohamed will also serve as an Assistant Secretary General at the UN, making her the senior-most Kenyan at the organisation.
The new posting has seen Mohamed leave her perch as Permanent Secretary at the Justice Ministry, as well as relinquish her seat as president of the Conference of State Parties to the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime. But these arenât the only bodies she has headed in a career spanning 25 years.
In 2002, Mohamed made history as the first woman and first African to be elected chair to the Council of the International Organisation for Migration.
Three years later, she became Chairman of the General Council of the World Trade Organisation between 2005 and 2006. Not only was Mohamed the first woman to do so, but her performance quickly earned her a reputation at the organisation as one who ran things with "a steel fist inside a velvet glove".
Yet despite her impressive CV Mohamed remains modest, describing her beginnings as âhumbleâ and crediting her successes to her parents, mentors and colleagues. Kitted in a brown trouser suit and sheer scarf loosely tied around her neck, Mohamed straightens herself in her seat and gives a dimpled smile to reveal a set of milky white teeth. Her hair is pulled back from the face and held in a ponytail, which sways gently with each nod of her head as she delves into her past.
Mohamedâs journey to the top began in western Kenya, where she was born as the eighth child in a family of nine.
She talks fondly about her childhood in Amalemba estate, Kakamega town. For a family that survived on a shoestring budget, there were no luxuries like television. Instead, Mohamed spent her free time reading detective series novels like Sherlock Holmes, but later developed interest in international affairs.