Few women in the micro-finance world are as recognizable as Jennifer Riria.She can be tagged as a model leader for women’s empowerment which is visible in her contributions so far.
She is the CEO of Kenya Women Holding, twice-voted Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year (East Africa and Kenya respectively in 2013 and 2014) and a Ford Foundation “Champion of Democracy.” She was first female Board Member of the Nairobi Stock Exchange and the Chair of Post Office Savings Bank for four years. She is also the chair of Women’s World Banking’s Board of Trustees. This level of success however, more so for a woman in a patriarchal society like Kenya, was not easy.
Growing up in a poor household in rural Kenya, Jennifer witnessed firsthand the abuse women received at the hands of society.
“I watched my mother and other women in the village operate as donkeys. They would carry on their backs firewood, bananas, a bag of other stuff and a baby. I saw them get abused, beaten and work 24 hours a day,” she said in an interview.
Education was her escape, she did well enough to be placed at the prestigious Precious Blood High School in Nairobi as a teenager and has not looked back since. Instead, she has reached out a hand to help women and girls that were just like her once. thereby supporting other vulnerable women.
After Jennifer graduated from University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, she pursued additional studies in the UK at the University of Leeds. Upon completing that, Jennifer returned to Kenya to complete her PhD at Kenyatta University. Jennifer taught at the university for ten years. It was only after a stint in the United Nations that she took a full step into the world that now holds her in such high esteem.
All her life as an accountant and auditor she never dropped the virtue of being a leader and helping others around her.
Jennifer believes “it is essential to support women, if we want to make a difference”.