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Top most powerful Kenyan women

By | Published Sat, October 23rd 2010 at 00:00, Updated Sat, October 23rd 2010 at 00:00 GMT +3

Continued from last week, TONY MOCHAMA brings you our own top five queens, drawing parallels with the 2010 Forbes list of most powerful women in the world.

5. Hillary Clinton

She is the first ever former First Lady of America to serve as a Minister — in this case, as Secretary of State in the government of the man who narrowly beat her for the Democratic Party nomination in 2008, the great Barack Obama.

But then Hillary Clinton, born in 1946, has been a woman of very many firsts. In her Yale Law class, she was top of the class (her future husband, Bill Clinton, came fourth).

She proposed health care reform for America in 1994, but was defeated by right wing republicans (Obama would eventually pass the sweeping measure in 2010).

She survived ‘White Water Gate’, a financial scandal that caused her former Law partner to commit suicide.

She stood by her man, Bill, through his indiscretions — the most humiliating one being the Monica Lewinsky soap opera of 1998. Then two years later, stormed to the Senate as the representative of the great New York State, serving two terms.

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Now as Secretary of State Hillary transverses the world (including Kenya) as Obama’s representative. And if pundits like Bob Woodward are to be believed, she may run as Obama’s vice presidential mate in 2012.

5.Wangari Maathai

Born in Tetu in 1940, like Hillary, Wangari Maathai has had a broad education, here and abroad. She has also had her unfair share of personal problems. In 1979, her husband divorced her, calling her "too hard headed".

In 1989, as head of the Greenbelt Movement, she blocked the Kanu government’s plan to make Uhuru Park a Kenya Times Trust complex. Life begins at 50, and Wangari was one of the ‘mashujaa strippers’ in Freedom Corner, demanding the release of political prisoners.

In 1999, Wangari Maathai stood down land grabbers in Karura forest. When the first Narc government came to power in 2002, then an MP (of Tetu), Wangari Maathai was made an assistant minister of Environment. But like Hillary versus Republicans, she soon fell out with the powers-that-be, and was dismissed.

Never mind that a year earlier, in 2004, she became the first African woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize for her fight for sustainable development.

The Constitution was promulgated in the very Uhuru Park Wangari Maathai saved in August. And like Hillary, she is now a world traveler — as the ‘Secretary of Natural Resources’.

4. Angela Merkel

She is the pastor’s daughter who became the first female chancellor of one of the world’s most advanced nations — Germany. A physicist who grew up in the Communistic East Germany, in Leipzig, Angela stepped into Big Man Boots — Germany’s former chancellors were either lawyers, historians, big businessmen or hard militarists.

Her first husband was a physicist with whom they divorced in 1981. Her second is a professor in quantum chemistry, who has two kids from a former marriage. Merkel herself is childless, but is no heartless Iron Chancellor.

4.Martha Karua

Born in Kirinyaga, the MP from Gichugu (who resigned on principle from Cabinet, rather than await suspension like her foe Ruto recently), Martha is certainly an ‘Iron Lady’.

A lawyer by training who was a magistrate through-out the 1980s, Martha Karua plunged into politics when at 35, she became the Democratic Party lawyer in 1991. And then became an MP the following year.

She once walked out on then President Moi during a function at her constituency in the 1990s, and in the current government, was known as the "only man in PNU," as her male colleagues shivered and simpered on issues.

Recently, as Narc-Kenya major domo, Martha Karua party-sponsored candidates William Kabogo and Mike ‘Sonko’ Mbuvi have floored ODM/ PNU heavy-weights in Juja and Makadara.

Riding high on these triumphs, Ms Karua has announced she’ll run for president in 2012 — to the ire of old kingmakers like John Michuki, who want Uhuru Kenyatta to be seen as heir apparent.

3. Oprah Winfrey

Oprah! She has seemed omni-present for the last quarter century through her daily TV show, magazines, book clubs, and is really the elusive Big ‘O’, if only she wasn’t omniscient. She became America’s first, and female, and only black billionaire in the process — with homes and charities everywhere, including a girls’ school in South Africa.

Her Book Club has made authors instant millionaires. Although the great American writer Jonathan Franzen in 2002 did dismiss her endorsement of his book, The Corrections, by saying he wanted a "mostly male audience, the guys who go tee off on golf, or watch football or play with flight simulators; not the type of women who watch Oprah!"

3.Carol Mandi

In many ways, we could draw a straight parallel from Oprah to Carol Mandi as our very own Oprah (economies of scale like the mega-bucks of Americans notwithstanding), based on career similarities.

Carol Mandi has her own television talk show, Sebuleni and has revived and runs True Love magazine.

With billboards of Carol Mandi all over the highways sometime, not to mention that she is one of the longest running columnists in the country with That’s Life, Carol Mandi isn’t just inspirational — she is ubiquitious.

2. Irene Rosenfeld

The CEO of the Forbes 500 company, Kraft, Irene Rosenfeld crafted her way to success by first getting a PhD in Marketing and Statistics from the prestigious Cornell University.

Her salary and compensation last year alone came to a package of $25 million (Sh2 billion). Let’s put those numbers into perspective, something we can all click in the world of figures.

The average top Kenyan CEO earns Sh2 million a month. To make what Irene did last year alone, they would have to work for a thousand months, or over 83 years. That’s almost to the end of this century!

2.Sue Muraya

We’ll keep it simple. Real simple. Real estate simple!

Sue Muraya has done a great many things, designer work included. Her current passion is as a real estate developer. She is a partner in Suraya Property Group, alongside her husband Peter.

Next year, she intends to complete the Oak Valley Estate project on Thika Road — and that’s not her first!

Oak Valley will be entirely self contained, with its own shopping mall, petrol station, nursery, primary and secondary school. The sort of mtaa, if you end up either in Kenyatta University or USIU, and get a job in a company on Thika Road, you’ll never have to leave.

There are 470 apartments on sale at Sh3.3 million a-piece, and 280 town houses at Sh6.5 million each. Total monies we’re talking here for Suraya Property Group? Let’s do the math for you: Sh3,43 billion. Trump that!

1. Michelle Obama

She is the mother to two sweet girls, Malia and Sasha and is married to the most powerful man in the world —Barack Obama.

The reason she was declared the most powerful woman in the world by Forbes for 2010 is because ‘she has made the office of first lady her own’ and because her campaign against childhood obesity, Let’s Move!, has been successful.

She influences style, is the power on the pillow and is a role model to girls and moms across the globe. Educated at Princeton, she met Barack when she was working for, and he was an intern at, Sidney Austin Law Firm in Chicago. The sassy young man took his boss for a business lunch, then an art show for the afternoon, then a community meeting in the evening (where he was conveniently speaking), and in her words, "she was sold."

Michelle brought home the bulk of the bacon in the 1990s (as associate dean, then Chicago Hospital Law consultant) as Obama pursued his political dreams. Fortunately for them, he caught up with them. Michelle sits strong at the top of this list.

1. Ida Odinga

Born in 1950, Ida Odinga is a woman of style, grace and intellect, and a female leader in every sphere. Graduating at 24 with a Bachelor of Arts, Ida married Raila Odinga, and became a teacher.

But when her husband was detained in the 1980s, she had to run her home and fight for his release, ‡ la Winnie Mandela. In 1991, Ida formed The League of Kenyan Women Voters to agitate for females to be a force in political activism.

In 2003, she became the Managing Director of the industrial firm, East African Spectre. But she still found time to sit on the board for paraplegics, pledge money to children’s homes, and she finds time to mentor girls in school to excel in education. She fights jiggers behind the scene, is the Ambassador for ‘Freedom from Fistula’ and a leading advocate for the cause of breast cancer.

This caring woman is still strong with her maverick politician man, Raila, as was seen during his home rest a few months ago in Karen.

Her power grows as the Odingas edge towards State House, and if she does become First Lady after 2012, Kenyans should expect one who is visible, elegant, philanthropic and sociable.


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