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Meet some of Kenya’s female achievers

By - | December 30th 2012

This year saw the rise of women both locally and globally in various fields. In Kenya, we witnessed yet another crop of achieving women that have made strides in their respective fields. Though this list is in no way exhaustive or complete, Eve Woman applauds all women who have made a change in the lives of Kenyans

Politics ?

1. Martha Karua

The aspiring presidential candidate is going it alone in spite of pressure to join forces with a political coalition. Her strength, resolve and tenacity in her quest to be Kenya’s fourth president is admirable. Although the opinion polls continuously rate her relatively lower than other presidential aspirants, we respect her standing firm on her principles.

Martha deserves applause not only for her tenacity, but also for the way she articulates issues on her campaign trail.

Born and brought up in Kirinyaga District, Martha blossomed from being a responsible village girl to a magistrate at the tender age of 24. Thereafter followed a lustrous career in private practice and later politics. As a politician, she has cut the image of a strong, often misunderstood politician — a trait that earned her the title ‘Iron Lady’ of Kenyan politics and the only ‘man’ in PNU, the coalition she joined for the 2007 General Election. She fought hard to ensure President Kibaki’s controversial presidential win was secured. Two years ago, she steeled herself for a crowded and stiffly competitive presidential race, and she is still going strong.


2.  Emmy Kosgei

The award-winning singer hit the music scene in 2005 and has not looked back since then. She is undoubtedly one of the most successful local gospel artistes today. With four successful albums under her belt, Emmy Kosgei has continued to release hit after hit. Her albums include: Katau Banda, Kaswech, Taunet Nelel and Ololo.

And while other artistes quickly lose their momentum, Emmy has managed to remain relevant. She bagged the 2012 Groove Female Artist of the Year award. Her music has also seen her awarded the coveted Head of State Commendation, capped with a thrilling performance of her resounding song Taunet Nelel during the historic promulgation of the new Constitution in Kenya.

Emmy is not just a gospel artiste; she is also a fashion designer who runs the Emmy K House of Fashion label. She also operates Hope Academy, in Mogotio, Baringo County. It is a school that educates disadvantaged students.

Another seasoned musician who is arguably one of the most sought after Gospel musicians in Kenya because of her charming voice and powerful messages in her songs is Gloria Muliro. Her unique musical style led to collaboration hits including Sitolia with Willy Paul. The song has more than half a million hits on You Tube.  Thanks to such progress, she managed to get numerous events including the just concluded Niko na Safaricom Live concert.

Esther Wahome

Esther Wahome is one of Kenya’s popular gospel artistes. She was crowned Mrs Universe?Kenya in July. The singer, popularly known for her hit Kuna Dawa, represented Kenya and East Africa in Russia in the global competition.

The beauty pageant focuses not only on physical beauty, but also highlights the most honourable married women from all over the world.

 In her victory, Esther said she would preach the importance of family values such as marriage, especially for career women.

The 37-year-old mother of three thanks her husband of 16 years for his love and support.

Humanitarian ?

3. Wanjiru Kamau Rutenberg

Dr Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg is founder and executive director of Akili Dada, an award-winning leadership incubator that is nurturing the next generation of African women leaders.? Akili Dada’s innovative and holistic approach includes rigorous leadership training, personalised mentoring, and comprehensive scholarships to brilliant, high-potential young women from some of Africa’s most impoverished families

Wanjiru is also an assistant professor in the department of Politics at the University of San Francisco, USA.

Her research and teaching interests centre on the politics of philanthropy, gender, Africa, ?ethnicity, democratisation, and the role of technology in social activism.?

Originally from Kenya, she earned a Bachelor of Art in Politics from Whitman College and Masters and PhD degrees in Political Science with concentrations in African Studies and Gender Studies from the University of Minnesota, USA.?

This year began on a high note for this high-flying achiever, when the White House honoured her as one of 14 Champions of Change who are leaders in American Diaspora communities with roots in the Horn of Africa. 

According to a press statement from the White House, these leaders are helping to build stronger neighbourhoods in communities across the country, and are working to mobilise networks across borders to address global challenges.

The Champions of Change programme was created as a part of President Barack Obama’s ‘Winning the Future Initiative’.

Working at the intersection of academia and social entrepreneurship, Dr Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg is considered passionate about the synergy between rigorous academic analysis and committed social activism.

Annette Bakari Wanyonyi

Teaching is a profession that requires humility, patience and love, yet it rarely gets the recognition it deserves.

That is why the Teacher of the Year Award is a pertinent and important award for the teaching profession. Last year, the award went to Eunice Mwikali Wambua of Precious Blood School Kilungu.

This year, during the Kenya Secondary School Heads Association annual conference in Mombasa, Annet Bakari Wanyonyi won the coveted award.

She is a History and Christian Religious Education teacher at Mukumu Girls’ High School in Western Province. She won a return air ticket to Australia, a trophy, and Sh100,000 from the secondary schools’ association. Prime Minister Raila Odinga also topped up the amount with a personal donation of about Sh168, 000 and Sh50,000 from Kisauni MP and Transport assistant minister Hassan Joho.

“Ms Wanyonyi is wonderful. She is an all-rounder, hardworking and a role model to the girls,” said Ebby Kavai the principal of Mukumu Girls’ High School during the award ceremony.




4. Juliana Rotich

She may not sound or even look familiar, but Juliana made Kenya proud when she made it to the Forbes list of ‘The 20 Youngest Power Women of Africa 2012’ that listed African women taking control of their economic, social and political destinies.

Juliana, top on the list for her remarkable efforts in co-founding and being executive director of Ushahidi, a Nairobi-based non-profit tech company that specialises in developing free and open source software for information collection, visualisation and interactive mapping.

She was named one of the “Top 100 Women” by UK’s The Guardian newspaper, “Top Two Women” in Technology and 2011 “Social Entrepreneur of the Year” by The World Economic Forum.

?Lorna Rutto

She appeared besides Juliana Rotich in the Forbes list of the 20 Youngest Power Women of Africa 2012. Lorna is a sustainable living and green technology entrepreneur, and founder of Ecopost, whose vision is “To Transform Africa’s Waste into Wealth.”

The company specialises in converting consumer plastic into durable, easy to use and environmentally friendly plastic lumber, an eco-friendly alternative to timber. She is the 2011 Sub-Saharan Africa Cartier Laureate. She also won the 2010 Bid Network Nature Challenge Award, 2010 Seed Award and the 2009 Enablis Business Award.

In an interview with the Sub-Saharan Africa Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, Lorna says plastic litter has bothered her since she was a schoolgirl. After graduating in Commerce and Accounting, she started a career in banking until in 2009 when she took the entrepreneurial plunge.

Today, EcoPost uses approximately 20 tonnes of plastic waste a month. Utilising dirty plastic to make a product that saves wood is not just an environmental plus, it boosts employment. Alongside its 15 permanent staff to source its raw material, EcoPost hires the services of hundreds of women working as casual labourers to collect the plastic and sell it to them.


Corporate eagles?

5. Hellen Gichohi

She is an ecologist who until recently was the president of the African Wildlife Foundation. Early this month, she was appointed the managing director of Equity Group Foundation, the social arm of Equity Bank Group.

In her tenure at the helm of the African Wildlife Foundation, she led a multi-disciplinary team of scientists, economists, business and community development specialists working in globally important wildlife landscapes, including forest landscapes across Africa.

Dr Gichohi holds a PhD in Ecology from the University of Leicester, UK as well as an MSc in Biology of Conservation and a BSc in Zoology from the University of Nairobi and Kenyatta University respectively.

She was named a Catto Fellow by the Aspen Institute, USA, is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and honours, including the Charlotte Wyman Trust’s Women in Conservation Programme, as well as the Order of Great Warrior and the Moran of the Order of the Burning Spear awarded by the President Kibaki.

She recently won the Giai Environmental Award for 2012 at TheWIFTs Foundation International Visionary Awards. She serves as a member of many regional boards and committees. Until recently, she served as a member of the board of trustees of the Kenya Wildlife Service in Kenya.

Tabitha Karanja

Tabitha Karanja, the CEO of Keroche Breweries, is one of the most influential businesswomen locally.

In November, Prime Minister Raila Odinga laid the foundation of a new processing plant that will cost Sh2.5 billion. The plant, which will take an approximate 12 months to complete, will be facilitated by state of the art machines. The machines will make 600,000 bottles from the normal 60,000 bottles that the company makes per day.

The plant will also enable the company to make more than 30 brands of alcohol at a go. The construction of the plant, will create a platform for employment creation and also support services to the fast growing Naivasha town.  



6. Faith Chepng’etich

Middle distance 1,500m runner Faith Chepng’etich showed she was more than ready to face the experienced athletes when she won the World Junior Championships in Barcelona. The tiny 18-year-old Chepng’etich not only won the gold medal, but she also broke a new record after clocking 4:04.96.

Chepng’etich showed she is ready for bigger things as she held off her taller rivals around the 1992 Olympic Stadium.

The World Youth gold medallist who was part of the Kenya team in the 1,500m race at the Olympics, however, managed to reach the finals, a big feat for a teenage female athlete. She won the last year’s World Junior Cross Country race barefooted, then followed it up with a victory at the Youth Championships. Chepng’etich not only lowered her personal best to an impressive time of 4:03.82 at the Samsung Diamond League meeting in Shanghai in May, but she also emphasised her outstanding pedigree when she came third in the Kenyan Olympic Games trials.

Mary Nakhumicha

Twenty years after making her debut at the 1992 Paralympic Games, Mary Nakhumicha was this year awarded by the International Paralympic Committee with the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award during the Paralympic closing ceremony.

Mary was chosen as the athlete who showed the best spirit of the Paralympic Games. For this, she received a gold medal from IPC vice-president Greg Hartung and Dr Whang Youn Dai.

Mary, who competed in the javelin, discus and shotput F57 at the London games, made her first appearance at the Paralympic Games in 1992, where she won a gold medal in the javelin F57. She currently holds the world and paralympic record for the javelin F57.?

Mary suffered polio upon birth in the early 1980s and has weathered the odds to haul 32 medals from several international paraplegic events. Her trophy cabinet boasts 12 gold, eleven silver and ten bronze medals. She has five paralympic medals; one gold and three silver medals in javelin and silver from shot put. She is arguably the most accomplished sportswoman in Kenya.

?Compiled by NJOKI CHEGE, ALLAN OLINGO, SHIRLEY GENGA and — Additional information, Internet sources



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