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The Seven: Trailblazing Kenyan women

Who run the world? Girls.

It is women’s month and we are celebrating seven Kenyan women who have done some amazing things in their careers.

The 2020 International Women’s Day was marked on Sunday (08.03.20) and this year’s theme was ‘I am Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights’ #EachForEqual.

According to the UN, the theme is aligned with UN Women’s new multigenerational campaign, Generation Equality, which marks the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the most progressive roadmap for the empowerment of women and girls, everywhere.

With that said here are some trailblazers from Kenya.

1. Jennifer Riria

Jennifer Riria, is a Kenyan businesswoman, corporate executive, banker, and academic who serves as the group chief executive officer of Kenya Women Holding Group, a microfinance, banking and insurance group serving nearly one million mostly rural Kenyan women.

Riria was born in Kenya. She was the forth-born in a family with 10 children. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education from the University of Dar Es Salaam. She then earned a Master of Arts degree in Education Administration from the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom. Later, Riria obtained a Doctor of Philosophy in Women’s Education and Development, from Kenyatta University.

In 1991, she joined Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT), a microfinance financial institution, founded in 1982. As at 1991, when Riria arrived KWFT was in bad shape, understaffed, and losing money. Riria worked as CEO, janitor, accountant, loan officer and receptionist. Her efforts began to bear fruit and the institution stabilized. In 2010, the institution was split into Kenya Women Microfinance Bank and Kenya Women Holding Limited. The holding company then re-branded to Echo Network Africa Limited, in February 2018.

She has served on the boards of Kenyan and international organisations, including at the Nairobi Stock Exchange, being the first female to serve in that capacity. Jennifer Riria is the author of two books; an autobiography and A History of Higher Education in Kenya. Both books were launched in June 2014.

Jennifer was recently featured in the inaugural Forbes Africa’s 50 most powerful women list.

2. Liz Marami

Elizabeth ‘Liz’ Marami is Kenya’s first female marine pilot, fashion blogger and founder of Against the Tide.

She is a Second officer in command on board the merchant navy foreign going ships, a marine pilot at the Kenya Ports Authority.

In 2013 Liz pursued a Bachelor of Science in Nautical Technology, at the Arab Academy for Science Technology and Maritime Transport in Alexandria, Egypt. In 2014 she successfully passed the International Unlimited 2nd Mate license examination, making her the first female marine pilot in Kenya, at age 25. She is currently pursuing an MBA in Operations Management at the University of Nairobi according to the information on her website.

She has been recognized by The Business Daily’s Kenya Top 40 Under 40 Woman in 2015. She has worked with Proctor & Gamble in Kenya on the Always Sanitary Pad campaign “Stand Up and Keep Girls in School Campaign”, highlighting the plight of girls who have to miss school due to lack of sanitary pads.

Ms Marami’s Instagram boasts of 36,000 followers, her timeline is full of images of her working away in this male-dominated industry and killing it.

3. Captain Koki Mutungi

Airline Captain Irene Koki Mutungi, commonly known as Koki Mutungi, is a professional pilot in Kenya.

She was the first female on the African continent to become certified as a Captain of the Boeing 787 “Dreamliner” aircraft. She flies for Kenya Airways, the national airline of Kenya.

After graduating high school in 1992, at the age of 17 years, she enrolled in flight school at Nairobi’s Wilson Airport, where she obtained her Private Pilot’s License. She continued her pilot education in Oklahoma City in the United States where she was awarded the Commercial Pilot’s License, by the Federal Aviation Authority.

She returned to Kenya in 1995 and was hired by Kenya Airways, as their first female pilot. She was the only female pilot at the airline for the next six years. In 2004, she became the first African woman to qualify to captain a commercial aircraft, when she qualified to command the Boeing 737. She qualified to command the Boeing 767 and a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Kenya Airways then promoted her to Captain of the B787, making her the first African female Boeing 787 Captain in the world.

In December 2014, she was named among “The 20 Youngest Power Women In Africa 2014”, by Forbes Magazine.

4. Tegla Loroupe

Tegla Chepkite Loroupe was born on 9 May 1973 and she is a former Kenyan long-distance track and road runner.

When she started to pursue a career in running no one believed in her except her mum, she ran a couple of races barefoot and won. She is also a global spokeswoman for peace, women’s rights and education. Loroupe holds the world records for 25 and 30 kilometres and previously held the world marathon record.

She was the first African woman to hold the marathon World Record, which she held from 19 April 1998 until 30 September 2001.

She is the three-time World Half-Marathon champion. Loroupe was also the first woman from Africa to win the New York City Marathon, which she won twice. She won marathons in London, Rotterdam, Hong Kong, Berlin and Rome.

The now 46-year-old grew up with 24 siblings. In 2003, Loroupe created an annual series of Peace Marathons sponsored by the Tegla Loroupe Peace Foundation “Peace Through Sports” . In 2006, she was named a United Nations Ambassador of Sport by the late Secretary General Kofi Annan.

5. Janet Mbugua

Janet Mbugua Ndichu was born on the 10th of January 1984. She is a Kenyan media personality, brand ambassador, YouTuber, author and actress.

She began her career in the media industry at age 19 at Capital FM Kenya before going on TV. She has a great run on the screens having worked both internationally and locally. She has worked at some of Kenya’s most notable TV stations like KTN, Citizen TV and most recently NTV’s ‘Here & Now’ show.

The mother of two and wife to Eddie Ndichu is so much more than a media personality. Over the last couple of years, she has been known to champion for women’s rights with the Inua Dada foundation and fighting period poverty.

In 2019, as reported by The Sauce she announced the release of her first book that centred on menstruation titled ‘My first-time stories’. Janet is also an ambassador for the ‘Help A Child Reach 5’ campaign with Lifebouy.

6. Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Amondi Nyong’o born 1 March 1983) is an award-winning Kenyan actress.

She is the daughter of Kenyan politician Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o. She attended college in the United States, earning a bachelor’s degree in film and theatre studies from Hampshire College.

Nyong’o began her career in Hollywood as a production assistant. In 2008, she made her acting debut with the short film East River and subsequently returned to Kenya to star in the television series Shuga (2009–2012). Also in 2009, she wrote, produced and directed the documentary In My Genes.

She then pursued a master’s degree in acting from the Yale School of Drama. Soon after her graduation, she had her first feature film role as Patsey in Steve McQueen’s historical drama 12 Years a Slave (2013), for which she received critical acclaim and won several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She became the first Kenyan and Mexican actress to win an Academy Award.

She is famous for her role as Nakia in the Marvel Cinematic Universe superhero film Black Panther (2018) and her starring role in Jordan Peele’s critically acclaimed horror film Us (2019)

She is vocal about preventing sexual harassment and working for women’s and animal rights. In 2014, she was named the most beautiful woman by People. Nyong’o has also written a children’s book named Sulwe (2019), which became a number-one New York Times Best-Seller.

Nyong’o was on the July 2014 cover of Vogue, making her the second African woman and the ninth black woman to cover the magazine.


Lupita is such an inspiration that she has been mentioned in songs by Lecrae, Jay Z, Nicki Minaj and Beyonce’s ‘Brown Skin Girl’. 20th of October is Lupita Nyong’o day in Harlem, New York.


7. Amina Abdi Rabar

Amina Abdi Rabar is a multi-talented Kenyan media personality. She is a mother of one and wife to popular Radio Dj John Rabar.

She studied at the Kenya High school and later joined Homeboyz Radio’s MTA academy by chance when she had an advertisement on the radio. She had initially wanted to pursue a degree in International relations but her parents were unable to get finances.

Her hardworking nature led her to get an internship at Homeboyz radio and since then she has never looked back. The bubbly award-winning personality has worked her way to present the breakfast show at Capital FM Kenya from the evening show Hits Not Homework. She is also the TV host for the Friday night entertainment show The Trend as well as the Maisha Magic music show ‘The Turn Up’.

She was the first-ever Kenyan presenter to be on radio and TV every day when she hosted the K24 morning show and Hits Not Homework on Capital FM between 2015 to 2017.

Amina is the definition of girl power, as she can do it all, she is the voice of Coke Studio Africa, she has emceed top Kenyan events and as recently reported by The Sauce, she is set to become the first East African to host the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards. She has interviewed top international superstars like T.I, Ne-yo and Melinda Gates. She has worked with brands like Always, Cocacola, Samsung and DStv.

She has been named among the 100 influential Kenyans in 2018 and in 2019.

Other notable Kenyan women are, former radio presenter and women rights advocate Adelle Onyango, Marini Naturals founder Michelle Ntalami, Food blogger Kaluhi Adagala, Bodybuilding champion Evelyn Owala, former radio queen Caroline Mutoko, Supreme Court judge Njoki Ndung’u disc jockey Pierra Makena, Suzie Beauty founder Suzie Wokabi, Centonomy founder Waceke Nduati, the late politician and environmentalist Wangari Maathai, public relations guru Gina Din, former TV host and publicist Anyiko Owoko, Keroche Breweries founder Tabitha Karanja, the late politician and novelist Grace Ogot and supermodel Ajuma Nasenyana.

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