, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 4 – One thing you maybe didn’t know about Susan Mboya-Kidero is that she values her privacy, very much.
But what cannot be hidden is her passion for women empowerment, something she has dedicated herself to almost her entire life.
And the fruits her work were evident in August 2013, when she was appointed President of The Coca-Cola Africa Foundation, where she is now implementing the 5By20 programme meant to empower five million women in the company’s value chain by 2020.
She is also the Coca-Cola’s Group director for Women’s Economic Empowerment for Eurasia and Africa.
Susan’s late father Tom Mboya was assassinated in 1969 when she was still an infant and being brought up by a single mother, together with her other four siblings she says, has played a great role in her never ending passion in women empowerment.
“Why do I focus on women? It just seems like a natural things to do probably because I was raised by a single mum, a very strong woman, who herself was very passionate about women’s rights. She grew up in a time when the opportunities for women were very limited and a lot of cultural and believes held women back, which made life a little more difficult for her,” she says during an interview with Capital FM Business, at her Coca-Cola office in Nairobi.
In 2002, Susan created Zawadi Africa Education Program to help young African women obtain a college education. Initially the program was loosely based on the 1960’s student African Student Airlifts which was started by her late father.
And as with the original airlifts, the program to date, pairs US universities with talented but needy young women from East Africa
“When we started Zawadi Africa in 2002, a lot of people questioned, ‘if you take one girl to Harvard, how does that help Africa? If you took that money for one girl you could instead help thousands.’ But Zawadi has all along believed that these women are just but catalysts for something much bigger,” she says, “Zawadi has had about 350 girls so far, but if I look at what the Zawadi girls themselves have done in terms of creating other beneficiaries when they succeed, the number goes beyond 10,000.”
Her dream she says, is to see women not only nurture their families, as the society expects, but to play a key role in contributing to the growth of the economy in the continent.
“At the moment I realise that I had a great role model; I owe a lot of my success to the fact that I had a great role model who is my mum. And really what I am trying to do is to replicate that environment,” she says.
With so much hope of women growing in entrepreneurship across the continent, Susan does not hesitate to mention that the biggest challenge facing women in the however, is lack of confidence.
This, she attributes to the societal beliefs which tend to limit women on how far they can go as far as venturing into entrepreneurship is concerned.
“The biggest barrier at this stage is ourselves; lack of self confidence. You know I see young women who believe in themselves and who put themselves out there, they succeed,” she says.
Meanwhile, Susan has another role; taking care of her husband who is the Nairobi Governor, Evans Kidero, a role she has managed despite holding huge responsibility in a global corporate like Coca-Cola.
She however gives all the credit to her husband who she terms as the greatest supporter of what she does even as he continues with his political career.
But what is Susan doing during her free time? “For my husband and I we like strangely enough, building things. I really kind of learnt that from him. He loves to be around and part of construction stuff and I like to do the inside job. So we actually complement each other. You when you have very strong personality in the house, I think it’s important you find something you both really enjoy,” she explains laughing.
And despite her success in career, the mother of one boy still believes that nothing can substitute family; it is always remain number one.