The Rise of Kenya's Women

Reposted with permission by Vaishali Shah

My roots in Kenya began with my grandfather M. P. Shah’s journey decades ago. He arrived there from India to seek opportunities, and through hard work and perseverance, did extremely well. My father’s birth in Nairobi further cemented my relationship with Kenya. It is a land that has been good to us and we have continued to give back and contribute as often, and in as many ways, as possible.

As a woman in business, my particular focus and aspirations for Kenya are for the women. It is time for them to come to the fore and be given the opportunities that have till now been reserved for men. 2015 is the “Year of Women’s Empowerment” as declared by the African Union; societies are beginning to change, more women are taking charge of their future, holding political office and running successful businesses. I have great hope for the future of women in Africa. There are many encouraging statistics and an increasing number of role models to inspire future generations of women. In 2006, the inauguration of Ellen Sirleaf as president of Liberia made her the first elected female president in Africa. In 2012, Joyce Banda became the first female president of Malawi.

Yet, much still needs to be done, and many barriers to overcome, but as Tabitha Karanja, founder and CEO of Keroche Breweries, the first brewery to be owned by a Kenyan, said “we have fought countless battles and we seemed to have sunk at times, but true to the word we believed we could make it, we rose above the barricades and the story is now told of how we made it and won the war.”

If women are to take their rightful place in the business world, they need to be mentored and given the right information, education and skills from those who are already successful so they can fully realise their potential. With that very much in mind, Minerva Trust and Corporate Services, (Jersey, British Channel Islands), where my family is the largest shareholder and I am Group Head of Marketing, launched our first event of Female Focus in Nairobi in 2014. Female Focus is a dynamic and exclusive international network of successful businesswomen. It provides members the opportunity to build and nurture business relationships through sharing their expertise and knowledge in their particular field. They can learn from each other, build strategic business relationships and offer support within the group. The feedback from our launch event was overwhelmingly positive; women seem to be thirsting for such a network. 

As Lupita Nyong’o said in her Oscars Award acceptance speech, “no matter where you’re from, your dreams are valid.” Our intention in launching Female Focus in Kenya was that we could play some part in making Kenyan women’s dreams of being successful business women, a reality. 

As a woman immersed in business myself, it gives me tremendous satisfaction to know that my family is making a contribution to the country where my grandfather chose to come to seek a better future. He overcame many obstacles and endured hardships, but persevered and succeeded. I know the women of Kenya can and will do the same; their time has come!

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