People who made impact in 2016
By Lilian Kaivilu
This year has seen a number of milestones in the country; at the political scene, security as well as international development. The country hosted a number of high profile guests during the year and consequently sealed a number of business deals. But as the year comes to an end, we sample some of the people who made a positive impact to the common citizens in 2016.
She is the youngest Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. Despite her age, Malala has depicted unwavering passion towards empowering fellow girls, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. In July, Malala visited Kenya to celebrate her 19th birthday in Kenya’s largest refugee camp where she interacted with girls in harsh conditions.
Her aim, she said, was to stand with the girls at the Dadaab refugee camp and speak advocate for their rights for education. We cannot talk about peace without your voice. I’m here to stand with you, as someone who knows how it is to flee their home in the middle of the night,” she said.
Coming at a time that the country had announced the closure of the refugee camp, Malala’s visit was a positive assurance to the girls in the north eastern region. At the time of her visit, 75 girls at the camp were graduating from a mentorship programme funded by Malala Fund. Malala’s visit to the Dadaab refugee camp and the availability of the mentorship programme was of great impact to the girls who would have otherwise missed an opportunity to positively change their lives.
Queens Young Award Winners
In 2016, three Kenyans made it to the Queen’s Young Leaders Awards. The award recognizes young people aged between 18 and 29 years in Commonwealth member countries who are making impact in their communities. Chebet Lesan, founder of BrightGreen Renewable Energy, was among the three finalists from Kenya. Her initiative is aimed at reducing indoor air pollution by introducing clean cooking fuel from recycled waste. Lesan, and the other winners will receive their awards from Her Majesty The Queen in early 2017. They will also get training, mentoring and networking sessions during a week-long residential programme in the United Kingdom.
Among the finalists is Domtila Chesang, the co-founder of Kepsteno Rotwo Tipin (Let’s Abandon The Knife), a community based organisation. Through this initiative, Chesang advocates for an end to female genital mutilation and early child marriages.
Towett Ngetich also made it to the final list of the Queen’s Young Awards 2016 for his social enterprise Uthabiti that seeks to detect counterfeit dugs. He also participated in the launch Onward, an online platform which encourages young people to be changemakers in their communities.
The victory for the three Kenyans will transform into immense benefits for the Kenyans who are current beneficiaries of the three initiatives. The Queens’s Award as well as the training and mentorship sessions that come with it, will help scale up the initiatives hence reaching more Kenyans.
Margaret Kenyatta, Beyond Zero Campaign
In September 2016, Kenya’s First Lady completed the 33-month Beyond Zero campaign by issuing the last mobile clinic to Nairobi County. The campaign that was launched in January 2014 and spearheaded by the First Lady saw all the 47 counties get a mobile clinic each. The move sought to reduce child and maternal mortality in the country.
To support the initiative, the First Lady launched the First Lady’s Half Marathon as an avenue to raise funds for the campaign. The Beyond Zero initiative has seen provision of mobile clinics to all counties in the country. This means that more mothers are now able to access healthcare more conveniently and without having to travel long distances.
In March 2017, the First Lady will hold a thanksgiving marathon to celebrate the success of the Beyond Zero Campaign. Afterwards, the Beyond Zero Initiative hopes to establish a health facility with a 150-bed capacity and a section for special care patients. It will also have a seven-bed Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
KNH surgeons separate conjoined twins
In November 2016, a medical operation carried out at Kenya’s largest referral hospital-Kenyatta National Hospital put the country in the world map.
The successful surgical operation on conjoined twins, Favour and Blessing, was led by Dr Fred Kambuni, Lead Orthopaedic Surgeon. The operation lasted 23 hours. The surgery involved nine pediatric surgeons, nine neurosurgeons, 10 plastic surgeons, 11 anesthetics and more than 30 nurses. It was the first ever operation of that nature to be suc.cessfully conducted in the facility
Dr Kambuni explained that the two girls were successfully separated and were out of danger. The operation cost 1.2million (Sh128m). In an interview with the media after the operation, Kambuni said: “When they (the twins) wake up, they will be surprised that they are no longer together. These are people who have stayed together for two years and two months.”
Dr Susan Kiragu-Kanayo, Co-Founder, Children in Freedom
By December 2016, the Children in Freedom had 81 children in school through the organisation’s education programme. While highlighting the milestones that Children in Freedom has made thus far, Kanayo noted that for the first time three of the students in the programme joined universities in the country. Next year, the organization will have 10 beneficiaries transitioning from secondary school.
It all started in 2009 when Dr Kanayo and her co-founder climbed Mt Kenya in order to raise funds for children who lived in poverty and consequently could not afford education. She started by buying books, pens and other stationery. Today, she has mentored more than 5,000 children and educated 81 others. Through this programme, these children’s lives have been positively changed. Otherwise, they would have been out of school as a result of poverty.
Kenyans with albinism hold first ever beauty pageant
In October 2016, Kenyan nominated Member of Parliament Isaac Mwaura organised the first ever beauty pageant for people living with albinism. The event attended by the deputy president William Ruto among other dignitaries saw 20 beauty queens showcase various talents.
This was a great and first opportunity for people living with albinism to be viewed differently in the Kenyan society and beyond. The event not only changed the perception that people hold towards this community but also put them in the global arena. Speaking during the event, Mwaura expressed optimism that the beauty contest would change the perception that the society holds towards people living with albinism as well as stop the illegal trade of the body parts of the community.
Kenyan students showcase solution to clean water
Kenya has been known for a number of innovations that make global headlines such as mobile money transfer platform-Mpesa. Many innovation experts have cited the country as the next Silicon Valley. This year, two Kenyan students engraved this dream by emerging among the top contestants in the 2016 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Arizona, USA.
If scaled up, the innovation by the Shree Cutchi Leva Patel Samaj School students will help provide residents of arid areas with clean drinking water. The project by Vishal Vekaria and Mansi Apte was titled Acacia xanthlophloea characterisation and preservation techniques of sapwood (plant xylem) as a low-cost membrane for arid and semi-arid areas in Kenya. It demonstrated how Kenyans in arid and semi-arid areas could use locally available acacia plant to purify drinking water.