Saturday, October 1, 2011

Kenya Has Lost 4 Prominent Women

In an extraordinary turn of events, four prominent Kenyan women have died during the past month. One of them, Dr Margaret Ogola, gave MercatorNet one of its first and best interviews in 2005, speaking eloquently about the top issues facing her country and the continent: poverty, AIDS, healthcare and, above all, the need to strengthen the African family.

Africa needs good women leaders and it has many of them. But to lose four of its own distinguished daughters at once must be a severe blow to Kenya. They are: Virginia Wambui-Otieno, who for many years conducted a political campaign over matrimonial property law (died August 30); Professor Sophia Githinji, an educator and author (September 21); Dr Ogola, a paediatrician and healthcare administrator (September 22, at the age of only 53); and Professor Wangari Maathai, conservationist and Nobel Peace Prize winner (2004) (September 25).

These women were all staunch campaigners for their causes, but Margaret Ogola was a special kind of heroine. Many people, including a generation of Kenyan schoolchildren, have met her through her books, most famously The River and the Source, which won the 1995 Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for best first book in the African region, and the Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature the same year. The novel follows four generations of Kenyan women in a rapidly changing world -- a theme continued in its sequel, I Swear by Apollo (Michigan State University Press).

Her third novel, Place of Destiny, which won her a second Jomo Kenyatta Prize in 2007, is semi-autobiographical, telling the story of a woman dying of cancer and the rise to recognition of a former street kid. Dr Ogola battled cancer for many years and dealt with the dirt poor in society for most of her professional life, a colleague writes.

Read it all here

David Virtue reports that church leaders in Kenya paid tribute to Wangari Maathai, the first African woman Nobel Peace prizewinner, as a person who cared for God's creation through campaigning for environmental protection. Maathai died September 25th at the age of 71 in Nairobi Hospital. She had been battling cancer.

"She volunteered, mentally and physically, to save God's creation through her conservation efforts. She gave many trees to our church to plant. When [we] see these trees growing well, we remember her," the Rev. David Gathanju, moderator of the Presbyterian Church of East Africa, told ENInews on Sept. 26.

Former Anglican Archbishop Benjamin Nzimbi of Kenya said, "I am glad she received the Nobel. She was a strong and consistent leader, especially in environmental care. The churches and other organizations benefited immensely from her work. Her work gives key lessons for the world."

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