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The trailblazers of the year

 The 29-year-old Kenyan world beater and double world record holder beat all to emerge the Female World Athlete in track events after a stellar 2023 season [Courtesy]

Faith Kipyegon

It cannot get better than this. Give it to the best athlete in the world in 2023, Faith Kipyegon. The 29-year-old Kenyan world beater and double world record holder beat all to emerge the Female World Athlete in track events after a stellar 2023 season.  

All year long, Faith has won the hearts of Kenyans. It didn’t matter whether you like athletics or not. Her exploits make her irresistibly charming.  

At the World Athletics Championships in Budapest, Hungary, she achieved an unprecedented feat by winning gold in both the 1,500m and 5,000m events, making her the first woman in history to accomplish this double victory. Kipyegon’s remarkable season included breaking three world records in less than two months, securing her legacy alongside legendary performances like Usain Bolt’s in 2009 and Florence Griffith-Joyner’s in 1988.

Her journey has been marked by resilience and triumph. Facing the challenges of balancing family and career, Kipyegon took a break in 2019 after giving birth to her daughter, Alyn.

Her comeback showcased tremendous mental strength as she gradually rebuilt her stamina, strength and speed. This triumphant return culminated in gold medals at the Tokyo Olympics and the 2022 and 2023 World Athletics Championships, solidifying her status as one of the greatest female mile runners.

Born on January 10, 1994, in Ndabibit, Kenya, Kipyegon’s early achievements included being the youngest finisher in the cross country top 21 at 16. Her winning trend started the following year, and she clinched the 1,500m Olympic gold in 2016 and since then she has been unstoppable.

Elizabeth Nguli

Elizabeth Nguli has held the position of Head of Cloud Engineering (UK & Global) at Vodafone UK since October 2022. She brought to the role a wealth of 13 years of experience in the Technology industry. Before her role at Vodafone, she served as the Head of Digital Engineering at Safaricom, Vodafone’s parent company.

 Before her role at Vodafone, she served as the Head of Digital Engineering at Safaricom, Vodafone’s parent company [Courtesy]

Elizabeth Nguli is driven by a profound passion to steer digital transformation initiatives that harness the power of technology to create positive and lasting impacts on lives.

Her primary objective is to establish a cloud-based engineering platform to transform Vodafone’s operations, enhance engineering capabilities, accelerate product development, and facilitate the global API marketplace initiative for Vodafone.

Notably, Elizabeth is no stranger to breaking barriers; she was one of the first senior female leaders in information technology at Safaricom and one of six women in a class of 33 at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), where she earned her Computer Science degree.

Sylvia Gathoni Wahome (aka QueenArrow)

Sylvia Gathoni Wahome, 25, is a talented Kenyan female gamer who goes by the name QueenArrow online. She’s not just any gamer; she’s an esports player and content creator. Her passion for gaming traces back to her childhood, when she bonded with her older brother and cousin over video games.

 Sylvia Gathoni Wahome, 25, is a talented Kenyan female gamer who goes by the name QueenArrow online [Courtesy]

QueenArrow kicked off her competitive journey in 2017 with Mortal Kombat XL in 2017, securing a fourth-place finish at the East African Gaming Convention. In 2018, she made history as the first woman in East Africa to join a professional esports team, XiT Woundz (now XiT Gaming), based in New Jersey.

Her accolades continued to grow with a major tournament win at the Nyeri leg of the Safaricom Blaze Esports Tour in October 2019. Gathoni later joined British team Brutal Democracy in January 2020, followed by a stint with American esports team UYU in February 2021 as part of their content team.

The milestones didn’t stop there; Gathoni graduated with a Bachelor of Laws degree from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in October 2021.

Her achievements earned her a spot in the Forbes Africa 30 Under 30 class of 2022. In October 2022, she again made history by becoming the first Kenyan athlete to be sponsored by Red Bull. Then in March 2023, Gathoni joined the South African esports team NIBBLE, marking another significant chapter in her esports career.

Angela Ndambuki

This year Angela Ndambuki was honoured at the Pacesetters Awards, East African Chapter, for her contribution to policy advocacy for the creative industry in the Sub-Saharan Africa region. She received the award in the category of Enabling Business Growth Technologically, recognising her efforts in the recording industry in the region.

 This year Angela Ndambuki was honoured at the Pacesetters Awards, East African Chapter, for her contribution to policy advocacy for the creative industry in the Sub-Saharan Africa region [Courtesy]

The holder of a Master of Laws Degree in Intellectual Property Law from the University of Edinburgh and a Law degree from the University of Law. has been a woman of many firsts.

When the International Federation of Phonographic Industry (IFPI) opened its new offices in Africa in 2021, she was appointed as the Middle East and Africa Regional Director.

The appointment meant that Ndambuki would oversee IFPI operations in 46 countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Early this year, she became the first woman to be elected chairperson of the Kenya Association of Music Producers, which represents the rights and interests of producers of sound recordings and whose membership comprises record labels.

Ndambuki is the former CEO of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and founder CEO of the Performers Rights Society of Kenya. She has also served as a board director at the Machakos County Entertainment Centre for Film, Media, Music and the Arts, Machawood.

Dr Sharon Okubo

Dr Sharon Okubo is a supermodel gracing the world’s most enviable fashion shows.

She also attends high-profile UN sessions in her role as the African Renaissance and Diaspora’s Red Card Campaign (ARDN) ambassador, brushing shoulders with the who-is-who in the diplomatic world.

 Dr Sharon Okubo is a supermodel gracing the world’s most enviable fashion shows [Courtesy]

As an ambassador for ARDN, Sharon’s key role is to raise awareness about the challenges faced by women and girls in Africa and the diaspora. 

Through her involvement in the ARDN Red Card Campaign, she used her voice and influence to challenge harmful norms, advocate for equal treatment, and support initiatives that empower the female gender. She hosted a major international delegation led by Djibril Diallo, the president and CEO of the African Renaissance and Diaspora Network in Kenya to discuss the plight of women in Kilifi.

She was also significant in organising the Africa Open for Business Summit conference in New York during the 78th session of the UN General Assembly in September.

Charlene Ruto

President Willam Ruto’s daughter Charlene Ruto has come out of the shadows of her father’s shoes to cut a niche for herself.  She has been a youth and climate action champion as well as a mobilizer for development issues working with start-ups across the country.    

 President Willam Ruto’s daughter Charlene Ruto has come out of the shadows of her father’s shoes to cut a niche for herself [Courtesy]

“I am extremely passionate about the young people, championing their agenda under my strategic plan of ‘The 30 Things’. My educational and experiential background in communication and hospitality compounds to ensure that the young people’s brilliant and creative ideas become actionable entrepreneurship platforms and that they live a wholesome life; career-wise, emotionally, financially, mentally, physically and socially,” she says.

Evelyn Wanjiru

This year, Evelyn Wanjiru  was one of the most outstanding female gospel singers. 

The biggest highlight came when she launched her foundation one inspired by the desire to uplift, empower, and make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.

 This year, Evelyn Wanjiru  was one of the most outstanding female gospel singers [Courtesy]

“It’s about the countless lives we can touch, the voices we can amplify, the talent we can nurture, the communities we can heal, and the environment we can protect. It’s about creating a legacy of love and transformation across Kenya and, indeed, the entire African continent,” she said during the launch.

The new foundation is centred on championing maternity, mental health, and material support to ensure that no mother or child has to bear the weight of childbirth alone.

Aysha Morowa

Aysha Morowa is the first (lady) pilot and ground instructor from Tana River. 

Against all odds, Aysha has achieved many firsts. She believes that you are not defined by where you come from but by putting will into action and believing nothing is impossible.

She has been running a mentorship program that educates young people especially girls and women in her Tana River community.

Aysha has been an inspiration to many girls and just this month, she organised a graduation party for her over 30 colleagues at West Rift Aviation Ltd where she has been studying, an institution at which she is also the new Ground Instructor.

“Most girls in Tana River never have the opportunity to finish high school, and when they manage to finish their primary education, they end up getting married early. I can count the number of female cousins who fell victim to early marriages,” she says of the reason that inspired her to break the glass ceiling and start giving back to society.

Dr Faith Mwende 

This year, Dr Faith Mwende, a financial expert at the Capital Markets Authority, achieved a historic milestone.

She embarked on the unprecedented challenge of climbing Mount Everest, standing at an elevation of 8,848 meters. A tough endeavour that is often marked with unforeseen hazards. However, following her doctor’s counsel, she did not reach the summit of Everest but successfully conquered Lobuche Peak, reaching an altitude of 6,119 meters.

Her Mt Everest dream was driven by her commitment to climate change advocacy, particularly in the context of the challenges faced by Africa, including Kenya.

Mwende’s passion for mountain climbing has taken her to diverse peaks, including those in Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She has climbed Mount Kilimanjaro three times, Mount Kenya ten times, and various other peaks such as Elgon and Meru.

Upon her return to Kenya after climbing Everest, Faith Mwende expressed her gratitude for the support she received and emphasised her determination to continue her climate change advocacy.  

Dr Mwende anticipates leveraging the knowledge gained from this experience for a renewed attempt to summit the mountain next year.

The financial commitment for such expeditions is substantial, with costs ranging from Sh8 to 15 million, covering airfare, ground expenses, and support from expedition companies. 

Cimberly Wanyonyi

Cimberly Wanyonyi became the first Kenyan to be named the winner of the Idols Franchise competition. A reality television singing competition. On December 3, 2023, 18-year-old Cimberly Wanyonyi secured victory in Sweden’s The Idol singing competition.

The sensational vocalist from Skellefteå, Sweden, born to a Kenyan father and Finnish mother, emerged victorious in the 19th series of the televised singing competition held at the Avicii Arena, Johanneshov, Sweden.

She emerged as the winner over more than 100 other contestants. Interestingly, Cimberly almost missed the chance to participate in this year’s show, arriving late to the auditions and finding the doors shut.

Concilia Owire

Concilia Owire is Kenya’s first female locomotive driver. The 29-year-old works as the Assistant Manager and Passenger Locomotive Driver at Afristar Railway Operation Company.

Owire, who is also an electrical engineer, said her journey to becoming a locomotive driver started in 2016 when she got a scholarship to study Locomotive and Rolling Stock Engineering in China,

 

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