Margaret Ogola: The medical doctor who became great author

Margaret Atieno Ogola was among Kenya’s most renowned authors. She was also a paediatrician, a health administrator, and human rights activist.

For almost 20 years, Dr Ogola juggled her stethoscope, writing and advocacy programmes quite successfully.

She was the author of an award-winning book, The River and the Source and its sequel, I swear by Apollo.

The novel, which made her a household name, was published in 1994. For many years, the book served as a set book for Kenyan secondary school learners.

It received the Commonwealth Writers' Prize in 1995 as the best first novel in Africa. The book was also awarded the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature in the same year.

Dr Ogola once revealed her source of inspiration to write The River and the Source as coming from her mother, who handed her the wisdom and life experiences of herself, her grandmother and great grandmother.

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She also regularly affirmed that the support and strength found in a typical African family setting is the most crucial of the African culture. Accordingly, the African family ought to be nurtured and preserved at all costs.

Her other books include Educating in Human Love, a sex education handbook she co-authored with her husband, George Ogola, Place of Destiny  which won the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature in 2007.

As a medical practitioner, Dr Ogola served at Kenyatta National Hospital while also working as a medical director of Cottolengo Hospice for HIV/Aids orphans. Besides, she also served as the executive secretary of the Commission of Family and Health of the Kenya Episcopal Conference, as well as the Vice-President of Family Life Counseling Kenya.

In 1999, Ogola was awarded Familias Prize for Humanitarian Service. This was out of her efforts in championing for the rights of HIV/AIDS patients and orphans at a time when social stigma against the disease and those suffering from it was quite high.

 Margret passed on in September 2011. She was 53.