Tucked somewhere in Kigumo, Murang’a County, is a well-built and neatly kept three-bedroom house. From the outside, it strikes you as an ordinary home.
But when if you are invited to have a chat with the residents, you realise it is not as ordinary as it appears at first glance.
You are most likely to find a group of girls, who will greet you with a shy smile. But in the inside they may not quite be smiling. Jean Kagia, a prominent Nairobi-based gynaecologist, is the reason that the mostly teenage girls can afford a smile. At least for now.
Dr Kagia may be well-known for her work as a doctor. What many may not know is that she is deeply involved in a project to rescue girls, some hardly in their teenage, from crisis pregnancies.
Those who impregnate them include close relatives. Then, the girls, who are mainly victims of rape, defilement and incest, get rejected by those who made them pregnant, their parents or guardians and the society around them.
So Dr Kagia, the chairperson of Protecting Life Movement, and the team she leads, takes them in through a programme known as Rescue Kiota (kiota is Kiswahili for nest) and gives them shelter. She takes care of them until they deliver. Sometimes, their families, especially their parents, take them back together with their babies.
Some babies are given up for adoption.
Listening to the tales of these girls, some as young as 11, is heart-rending. But Dr Kagia hangs in there, with her signature smile.
You might not have heard of a young woman called Editar Ochieng. She lives in Nairobi’s sprawling Kibera and operates mainly in Sarangombe Ward. She and a group of women that she works with are the epitome of courage. They have been fighting gender and sexual violence against women and children in Kibera.
Some of them and their families have been subjected to violence but they won’t give up.
In Lodwar, Ikal Angelei is a household name. The youthful environmental activist is an international award winner. She is the director of Friends of Lake Turkana environmental lobby, who started the campaign against building the massive Gibe 111 dam on the Omo River on Kenya-Ethiopia border.
Then, there is Dr Agnes Masika, who co-founded with her husband a successful programme in the semi-arid Yatta, in Machakos County, to ensure that it becomes food secure to do away with the culture of hand-outs in Ukambani known as mwolyo.
The stories of these women and 18 others have been captured in a new book by Echo Network Africa (ENA), an institution that advocates women’s financial inclusion led by Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT) co-founder and former university lecturer Jeniffer Riria, which was launched alongside the Democracy Trust Fund (DTF) on November 14.
Those featured in the book titled, Women Changing the Way the World Works, are a blend of the known and not-so-well-known.
The politicians include Taveta MP Naomi Shaban, a former Cabinet minister who is the longest-serving elected female MP now doing her fourth term and the youthful Kajiado County Woman Representative Janet Teiyaa, who defied disability to be elected.
The stories of senators Fatuma Dullo (Isiolo), Prof Margaret Kamar (Uasin Gishu) and governors Joyce Laboso (Bomet), Charity Ngilu Kitui) and Kirinyaga’s Anne Waiguru, the only women elected to those positions in the last General Election, are also in the book.
Featured, too, are retired athletes Ruth Waithera and Catherine Ndereba
As Prof Margaret Kobia, the Cabinet Secretary for Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs notes in her foreword to the book, there cannot be a better way to celebrate these women, than to tell their stories.
And it is these women that we celebrate today, if for nothing else but to give our girls hope that, indeed, hard work never goes unnoticed. We salute you, change makers!