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First Lady Margaret Kenyatta sets pace for Africa

 First Lady Margaret Kenyatta during her training for the First Lady's Half Marathon in 2016

NAIROBI: Had Uhuru Kenyatta not been elected President in 2013, not much would be known about his wife Margaret Wanjiru.

Margaret is the daughter of former Kenya Railways director Njuguna Gakuo.

Although she occasionally accompanied her husband on his campaigns, she shunned the public limelight. In one instance, she flatly refused to take to the podium and "say something to the people" despite prodding by her husband.

But the former Kianda School student and Bachelor of Education graduate of Kenyatta University has become one of the most familiar figures in Kenya.

Her wide smile, coupled with short, well-tended silver-coloured hair is what Kenyans instantly fell in love with. Her simplicity with regards to dressing, as well as her character and behaviour have become a beacon of inspiration for women on the continent and beyond.

Margaret, a mother of three, has plunged into charity work. Behind the seemingly quiet demeanour is a resolute woman who stops at nothing when it comes to championing her ideals.

Without clearly defined roles for a First Lady, Margaret quickly became the human face behind a number of initiatives, private in nature but that addressed nationwide or continental concerns. One of these was the "Hands Off Our Elephants" campaign that highlights the plight of the African elephant on the brink of extinction.

According to The Guardian newspaper, elephants could not have found a better advocate.

"Her (First Lady's) enormous curiosity and interest meant that she very quickly became a trusted and influential advocate for elephants and wildlife. Her passion is written all over her face and through her, many Kenyans discovered the magic of elephants as if for the first time," said the paper.

But it is her fight for the survival of mother and child that proves the length she is willing to go in achieving her ideals. As The Guardian puts it: "Margaret Kenyatta is setting a new standard for Africa by demonstrating a new kind of leadership that could transform Africa's response to emerging crises."

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