There is an old saying that hasn’t aged well in our more politically correct times; “Behind every great man there’s a great woman”. Let’s hope that in future, we will turn the phrase around more often.
However, when it comes to President Uhuru Kenyatta and First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, it is undoubtedly true.
There is something very modest and humble about the First Lady. She hasn’t sought the spotlight unnecessarily, she isn’t known for a lavish lifestyle, and above all, uses her position for good.
Rather than sit around and enjoy the luxuries of State House and her husband’s office, Margaret Kenyatta decided she wanted to be an active and charitable First Lady from the very beginning.
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Her Beyond Zero Campaign, launched soon after Uhuru entered office, is as laudable as it is ambitious.
The primary goal is to eliminate all preventable maternal and child deaths in Kenya by 2023.
Like her husband, she shoots for the sky, so that even if she doesn’t reach it, she will still have achieved a massive amount.
With both of them, it seems that there is no such word as ‘can’t’. Already, the Beyond Zero Campaign has seen a massive reduction in HIV cases among children, reducing in half the number during the first three years of the campaign’s existence.
For her work, Margaret Kenyatta was designated the United Nations Person of the Year in 2014, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists Fellow of Honoris Causa Award, and the Eastern Africa Lifetime Achievement Award from the Ernst & Young group.
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Nonetheless, it is clearly the cause itself which motivates her.
On the sidelines of the ongoing Global Gender Summit in Kigali, Margaret Kenyatta announced a new venture in partnership with the African Development Bank (AfDB) to explore new avenues of directly supporting efforts aimed at empowering Kenyan women and girls.
The AfDB has an Affirmative Finance Action for Women in Africa (Afawa) project, which aims to close the gaps between women and men, especially the $42 billion financing gap facing women in Africa.
The idea is to release and empower the entrepreneurial spirit of African women, and because of Margaret Kenyatta’s charm and appeal, Kenyan women will now have access to the bank’s funding. She knows that her husband will use the full weight of the government as a partner in such a positive scheme. She also knows that she has her husband’s complete support in even her most ambitious endeavours.
At the Global Gender Summit itself, sitting alongside other African First Ladies, Kenyatta said she supports the removal of all impediments to preventing women and girls from realising their full potential.
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“We envisage a country where every woman and girl enjoy gender equality; a country where all legal, social and economic barriers that hinder the progress of women and girls are removed,” she said. If these words came from someone else, perhaps we would just put them down to hyperbole, knowing that words are meaningless, and actions are what matters.
With Margaret Kenyatta, however, it feels and looks different. She has a proven track record of achievement. She makes things happen. Her grace and charm open the hearts of everyone she meets. It is no accident that soon after meeting with her, AfDB Deputy Director-General Nnenna Nwabufo opened up her organisation’s funding to Kenyan women.
Her life is dedicated to making the seemingly impossible achievable. Together with her husband, they make a formidable team, one that has never shirked a challenge, regardless of the enormity of the task. Of course, as president, Uhuru Kenyatta is predominantly in the limelight and is the person elected to serve our nation. Nevertheless, it is clear that with his wife’s drive, Uhuru has an excellent role model by his side. And that is the point.
Margaret Kenyatta is not a woman to stand behind her husband. She is a full partner in his achievements, and has her own independent life and causes which she is clearly passionate about. Her role as First Lady is not to be an adornment to her husband and his work, but as a full partner and servant of the people, pushing her own agenda for greater progress and development of our nation.
They are a great role model for any Kenyan couple and show how a full partnership between men and women can be the most beneficial and valuable commodity in Kenya.
Mr Guleid is the CEO of Frontier Counties Development Council. [email protected]