Today, March 8th 2017, is the International Women’s Day. It commemorates the struggle for women’s rights. The first Women’s Day was celebrated on February 28th, 1909 in New York and is now an international day recognizing women’ accomplishments and advocating for their empowerment.
Despite being faced by a myriad of setbacks such as domestic violence, inequities in pay, marginalization and other gender balance issues, there are a host of women who have thrived to be outstanding in their respective fields.
We’d like to recognize a list of accomplished women from and in Kenya, who stand out for us this year:
Vivian Cheruyiot is arguably the most decorated track and field Kenyan female athlete of her time, with an impressive repertoire of 4 Olympic and 5 World championship medals. She is the 5000m Olympic Champion and two-time 10000m and 5000m World Champion.
Known for her devastatingly rapid final lap, and her resilient fighting spirit, Vivian Cheruyiot is a generational athlete and a National Sports hero who has represented Kenya in 4 Olympics. Her first Olympic games were in Sydney in 2000 when she was just 16 years of age.
Referred to as the ‘Iron Lady’ due to her unbending resolve, Martha Karua has been an icon in Kenyan politics standing out as a woman on a mission. She has had a lengthy political career spanning all the way from 1992 as Member of Parliament of Gichugu constituency. She is an advocate of the High Court.
She has served in different capacities while in government: Minister of Water Resources Management and Development and later becoming the Minister for Justice, National Cohesion and Constitutional Affairs. In 2013 she was the only female aspirant for the seat of President of the Republic of Kenya.
Karua has consistently fought for the protection of women’s rights and improvements to the democratic process.
The Director of Partnerships for Women’s Entrepreneurship in Renewables (wPOWER), Wanjira is also at the helm of her mother’s Wangari Maathai Institute (WMI). She took the reigns from the Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai to run the Green Belt Movement.
She continues to inspire and empower young women involved in conservation matters. The Institute offers the Wangari Maathai Scholarship to proactive women with community development projects.
Miss World Kenya Evelyn Njambi is a vision of perfection, having represented Kenya in this year’s Miss World Pageant. She emerged number 6 and took the African crown- which is the highest ranking Kenya has ever gotten at the pageant. She showcased Kenyan designs at the international stage at the Miss World Charity ball.
We celebrate her for that.
Once a model, Olive Gachara turned her passion into a successful business. She is the founder and Editor in Chief of Couture Africa. The fashionprenuer took her hustle seriously getting a degree in entrepreneurship and starting an image consulting firm. Not yet 30, Olive is a serious contender for the most inspiring women being a force to reckon with in her industry.
She is a Kenyan Environmental Activist known for leading a campaign against a lead smelting plant in Owino Uhuru. The plant resulted in lead poisoning of locals in the area which led to some detrimental effects. Upon the interference of the Centre for Justice, Governance and Environmental Action (CJGEA) – of which she is the founder – the plant was ultimately closed. She was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for her work in the area. She still fights for the welfare of the area to get compensation for the effects the toxic waste has had on their health and for their wellbeing to be catered for.
Lupita is arguably the most successful Kenyan actor, bagging several Hollywood Awards in her lustrous acting career, including a highly covetted Academy Award for her role as Patsey in the 2013 film ’12 Years a Slave’. She was also nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award which she also won. She still continues to prosper in Hollywood featuring in films such as Non-Stop (2014) and 2015’s Star Wars: the Force Awakens. Lupita also voiced Raksha in Disney’s live actionremake of The Jungle Book which won an Oscar this year for ‘Best Visual Effects’.
She has graced the covers of Vogue, Elle, Glamour, Lucy magazines and most recently Vanity Fair. She is an international icon, breaking barriers and trail blazing for those that want to follow in her footsteps. She is an inspiration proving that the impossible is possible and by her famous words; “Your dreams are valid.”