Margery Kabuya

Margery’s Tribute to Friendship among Women

From the onset Margery, a mother of two adult daughters and a grandmother to one little girl, life was your kind of ordinary. Born in Ngong Town, her early childhood revolved around Kajiado, where she spent her years schooling. Later she went to Butere Girls in Western Kenya, completed her form 5 and 6, and thereafter enrolled at the University of Nairobi where she did a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and political science. Upon completion she then enrolled for a Master's program in the USA. This she did through the Rockefeller Foundation (RF). During her university years, she applied for a scholarship from RF which had a staff training program, where the foundation paid for your masters and PhD education, with the hopes that upon completion one would become a lecturer. This greatly suited Margery and so she chose the University of California and Los Angeles (UCLA) where she spent a year doing her masters in sociology. Later she changed to social work, therefore doing an extra two years studying social work. Upon completion, Margery graduated with a Masters in social work. When she came back home, she got a job with an American NGO, Christian Child Fund, where she worked for the next 24 year. She went in as a program officer and her second year into the organization she was made the sponsor's Relationship Manager. In the third year she became the Program Manager and by her fourth year, she had been made the Director of the organization. She served as the Director for 15 years, and later they began a regional office that would oversee Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia. She was made the Regional Director. Three years into her new role, she retired.

Margery Kabuya

During her time at Christian Child Fund, her job together with her colleagues entailed initiating child development programs. They initiated education projects, water projects, income generation projects for mothers, just to mention but a few. During this time, she developed a particular interest for girls especially in Maasai land. During her primary schooling, she had witnessed first hand how her classmates would not show up term after term, as they would be married off. She remembers fondly as her headmistress then would spend the first week of school tracking down the girls and bringing them back to class. This definitely left an indelible mark in her heart.

Years later, she went back to carry on her former teacher’s torch, thus developing the program dubbed “Booking Girls for Education.” In Kenya, girls in traditional Maasai culture are often promised to a husband before they are born, with little chance of receiving an education. Working with the Christian Children's Fund, Margery Kabuya set up a boarding school and persuaded tribe elders to permit young girls to receive at least eight years of schooling before marriage. Her efforts did not go unnoticed, as the program became such a widely acclaimed international success that she was nominated for the prestigious CNN Hero Awards in 2006. It so happened that her nomination was in tandem with her resignation after 23 years of service, with 19 years of directorship. Having being a CNN Hero Award nominee was the perfect send off for her and she couldn't have asked for anything more!

Four years later after her resignation, on September 30th 2010, Margery got a call that her husband had passed away. Suddenly, without any warning, the love of her life was gone. They had been together for 27 years, and she was looking forward to many more years with him. Bouncing back from this was the most difficult thing she ever had to do. The journey was nothing short of torturous and painful. Her girlfriends came in droves to support her during this time. She recalls seeing all the friends she had made as early as class one coming to visit her and sitting by her side, ready to offer her the much needed comfort. Over the longest period of time, her house was never short of people who came to her aid.

Margery Kabuya promoting 'Celebrating Friendship among Women'

One year later, having gone through the grieving process, Margery begun to reflect. How was it that women had surrounded her during this tough time, and yet there is so much negativity surrounding women and friendships in our world today? She began to recall stages in her life when she had needed help, her first go to was a woman. When she needed a loan, it was a woman friend she talked to. When she had her first child, who was there for her? Again a woman. And when she was grieving, who again helped her? The support went back to her girlfriends, some of whom she had known for 50 years. It was then that Margery started to look for books that talked about women and friendships especially African women, and much to her amazement, she found none. She decided then that she was going to write a book on the same, and promote the positive story of women and friendship.

Friendship among Women

Writing a book has never been easy. Even the greats in the industry will tell you a thing or two about the difficulty. It was no different with Margery. As a first timer the process was daunting to say the least. Her decision to write a book accomplished two purposes. For starters, it was a childhood dream of hers to write a book, and she had participated in writing an article or two in the high school magazine. Secondly and more importantly, it was a way to grieve the loss of her husband, as she poured all her thoughts and emotions into the book. However like any other entrepreneur the world over, fear of stepping out stopped her in her tracks. Her turnaround came when she came across this statement in a book that changed her perspective: “You need to get to a point in your life when you are ok with what happens to you. If people like you, you need to be ok, and if people do not like you, it should be ok too.” Just like that, Margery got the encouragement she needed to write the book that was long overdue. She walked with the motto in her head, telling herself over and over that if people like and buy her book, she would be ok, and if they don’t like the book and don’t buy it, she would be ok too. And so she started the book writing process.

She had already decided that her book was going to emphasize the positive aspects of women and friendship. She had no format when she begun, but as she went through the process of interviewing various women and understood the relationships they had with each other, the book started to take shape. The research process took two years as she interviewed over 50 women located in various parts of the country. From there she took another year writing, editing and rewriting. She did not use a ghostwriter or editor for her work; she did it solo, and upon completion, she gave the manuscripts to a few professionals to go through it and give their honest opinion. This was a critical process in completing the book.

As a new author, her challenges came while deciding whether to self-publish or have a publishing house do it for her. She decided on self-publishing as she had heard that publishing houses take time before they publish a first time author. Having friends in the industry helped her too, as she got referrals of experts for the layout and design of the book, including the cover, and a referral to a printing company in India. She did a print of 1000 copies which she launched on the anniversary of her husband’s passing. She had intended it so, in honour of his memory. The ceremony was graced by many of the ladies who had been interviewed including the oldest couple interview who had been friends for 66 years and many friends, colleagues and the media.

Celebrating Friendship among Women is a book about the power of women connections. A close look at the subject in Kenya reveals that genuine friendship cuts across ethnic, age, class and religion divides. This book, which is also an autobiography, a cultural account, a historical and a do-it-yourself didactic material, is a must-read. In it, you find yourself looking in a mirror while getting surprised about a topic that is so simple, so taken for granted, so under-explored. At a time when Kenya is being ripped apart by negative sentiments based on ethnicity, religion and class, Margery Kabuya’s book goes against the grain. You encounter a deep friendship between Njeri and Gathoni, Metian and Sinet, Sau and Chemtai, Khadijah and Asha, Winfred and Mwikali, Joan and Amina, Wangu and Akoth, Margery and Mrs. Were; and a host of others. The book has 11 chapters and only one is on toxic friendships because, yes these exist. However she chose not to focus on them because there is too much good in women friendships to always focus on the negative.Margery Kabuya with Anyang' Nyong'o (Left) and Gitobu Imanyara.

Some of the lessons she learnt in the process of writing the book, which are discussed in the last chapter of the book include; friendship is an investment in time, forgiveness is a value in friendship, the ability to listen is key, there is a need to be authentic and honest in friendship, rituals are important in friendship, true friends are few and we all need to do a friendship audit periodically in our lives.

Lessons to live by - for those interested in future writing

Writing is one thing and selling books is another thing altogether

Kenyans sort of prefer international authors and textbooks as opposed to African books. She has discovered that Kenyans would rather read about women friendships among American women, or even Chinese women, as opposed to Kenyan women.

Keeping your head up all the time is a crucial part of the game. Margery has learnt not to be discouraged despite the challenges that writing a book comes with, because knowledge needs to be shared and for that reason she has gone ahead and written another book titled Our Values, Our Destiny -  A Conversation on Values in Kenya which was published in 2016.

In her spare time, Margery enjoys travelling, especially by train. She also enjoys talking to her friends and reading. Her parting shot to all entrepreneurs, “Don’t be discouraged. Keep on doing what you must do, and never give up.” 

FB: MargeryKabuya

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Margery Kabuya

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Diana Ashley

 

Diana Ashley is "A Fearless influencer of society.
Book lover. Coffee lover. 


You can check me out on 
https://thebookswag.wordpress.com"


Nana Wanjau

Nana’s Dedicated Service to Ostracised Widows

Nana Wanjau is clearly not your kind of ordinary lady. A woman who wears many hats, Nana has perfected the art of excellence in all that she does. From a stay at home mother for 10 years, to a former President of the Rotary Club (Nairobi East to be precise), to a founder of three powerful companies, Nana is definitely a force to reckon with.

Born to a Kenyan father who was based in Ivory Coast and a Tanzanian mother based in Lusaka, Zambia, Nana was raised by her grandmother in a small village called Bukoba, at the shores of Lake Victoria in Tanzania. “I grew up a global child,” she laughs as she remembers shuttling around the three countries. After her high school years, Nana went to stay with her mum in Lusaka. Her mother, a medical doctor, urged her to enroll to medical college and study medicine. This was definitely not her cup of tea, and two semesters later, she rebelled and dropped out of college. Knowing that her chances of survival were slim after the stunt she pulled, she moved to Ivory Coast where her father was based. Years later her father’s work brought him back home and at 21 years of age, Nana came to Kenya and settled. Little did she know, destiny was around the corner. She met her husband as she was celebrating her 21st birthday that a friend had made him attend, and as they say the rest is history.President Nana Wanjau lead a team of 39 climbers to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. She climbed the Kilimanjaro twice in one year (2015) to raise funds for charity projects.Nana, with sons Vante and Vidray, “They keep me fit”.

What Happened Next

Nana enrolled in college at the then Kenya School of Professional Studies (KSPS) where she studied ICT, and dived into her first job as an IT enthusiast. Her work was demanding and called on her to travel on many occasions. Married and with plans to have children underway, Nana made her best decision ever. One evening, as she was serving her husband food, she casually mentioned she wanted to be a stay at home mother. This came as a surprise to him, as his first worry was that with her bubbly personality, Nana would eventually get bored of staying at home. Nonetheless he was supportive.  They needed a second income though, to pay their bills and to support their lifestyle. Thus Saltaway Investments, a real estate company, was born.

Like any other Kenyan, they had acquired land in various parts of the country, and real estate became a natural inclination for a business venture. It was easy to set up, Nana admits. Forming the company with her husband, an architect who brought in his expertise and networks, she swiftly ended her employment journey and begun developing property. It so happened that by the time her first child was born, she was already a landlord. 15 years later, Nana rejoices in her decision to follow her heart and stay at home with her children; and venture into the real estate business.

“We began small,” she says. Putting together their savings and their personal incomes, in addition with a loan from a Sacco, the capital of the company was raised. Their first project was a block of four apartments. After completion, this gave them the confidence boost they needed knowing that they could actually accomplish their goal. Years later, they have commercial property, apartment blocks for sale and rental property.

“The journey has its ups and downs”, she says. Two words that she lives by and would like to share with anyone interested in real estate: due diligence. Always do your due diligence before purchasing a property. Use real lawyers too to accomplish this. She tells of a story where she had bought land along Ngong Road only to discover much to her detriment, that somebody else also had a legal title deed just like hers. “This can be very frustrating,” she tells, “and lead to long court processes that almost lead nowhere. Another thing, before you invest in a property, ensure the developer has enough money to complete the project. Again how do you do this? Due diligence. Usually most people invest in developing property and once the project has gone for only a year, they discover that the developer has no money and the project stalls. If you have invested most of your money in a project the strain becomes too heavy.”

On Two Companies and a CSR

Nana Wanjau is the CEO of Branding Beyond Borders (B3). Branding Beyond Borders is about connecting great minds globally. It is a global network of speakers, coaches, mentors and trainers.

Nana Wanjau is passionate about women empowerment. She believes an empowered woman leaves no one behind, be it a girl-child, boy-child, orphan, widow or prostitute. Nana is the Founder of PowerWoman International, a vehicle she uses to accomplish this mission.

Taleo the widow from Kajiado at her original house.
Taleo’s complete brick house.

PowerWoman International builds houses for the ostracised widows and the forgotten widows in the country. No woman should loose her dignity nor rights because she lost her husband. So far they have had impact in the Coastal region, Central, Narok and Kajiado as well at the Western parts of Kenya. Her work with widows has attracted extensive local and international media. November 2016, this initiative was show cased at the Estonian Parliament as an example of what Kenya is doing to uplift the plight of the ostracized widows. This case study is now being used in their schools as part of their global education topics.

PowerWoman International supports the ostracised and forgotten widow on four pillars; Shelter, Counseling, Economic Empowerment and Education (children). PWI works with various widows foundations already on the ground to identify the correct profile of the widow in need. Nana says it’s about restoring dignity to the widow and her children. Raised by a widow herself, her grandma, Nana has a first hand experience of the plight of widows.

The forgotten widow ceased to exist in the eyes of the community immediately her husband dies. As for the ostracised widow; at the demise of her husband, she is culturally required to be sexually cleansed before she can be inherited. Due to the high prevalence of HIV, some widows are beginning to reject this cultural practice. The widow who rejects this practice is believed to be carrying a ‘death omen’ and therefore must be banished from the community. This means she is driven from the community and must live far away where she will not engage with ‘normal’ people. As a result the ostracised women end up living in bushes and forests, away from normalcy and civilization and with no formal establishment. “That is where PowerWoman International comes in,” Nana explains. “We look for those widows who have been shunned by the community and are living in the wilderness as a result and build houses for them. We don't build houses for just any widow,” she insists. It is important for her that the message is set across.

PowerWoman International is partly sponsored by Branding Beyond Borders (B3). However, PWI has also partnered with Nestle Kenya and Chandaria Industries to implement the Economic Empowerment arm. PWI is still looking for partners in education and shelter.

Nana recalls her first project which was for a lady called Grace. “I travelled to Nyanza, and located her whereabouts. She was on the outskirts of Nyanza in her little small hut. My heart bled for her. I saw her huddled on the corner with her two daughters who had been banished from the community with her. Building started immediately, and I can never forget the words she said to me once the project was finished: ‘You are medicine to my soul’.” Seeing the woman smiling and laughing was enough for Nana to continue with her project. She had succeeded in restoring her dignity by giving her a home and that is all the fuel she needed to keep going. When Nana began this venture, she admits it was totally out on a limb. On her completion of the first project which she financed fully on her own, she was approached by an individual who was willing to finance the next house, and so she built a second one. As we speak she has two more partners who have joined in, and they are in the process of building a third and fourth house for the widows. “My target is to build 100 houses in a year,” she says. “It’s not hard. I only begun the other day and I am already at my fourth house. Imagine what I can do in a year!” She admits that even though this is a noble gesture for the widows, sometimes good things become bad. For a widow who has been living in the bush and now with a house, inevitably the status changes. She begins to have friends, even boyfriends, and that eventually may lead to more children. To try and curb this, Nana admits that there is a need for counselling sessions for the widows on how to face life with the advantages and necessities that have come their way, before and after the house is handed over to them. They also do annual visits to the widows, with a Christmas care package and they use this time to talk to them, encourage them and mentor them. A practice they intend to carry on throughout the year and not just as a one off.PowerWoman International works with communities to reintegrate the forgotten widows and ostracised widows into society.Branding Beyond Borders in partnership with KNCCI hosting renown American speaker and author Joseph Pine at a CEO Breakfast in Nairobi.

On being President of the Rotary Club of Nairobi East 2015 - 2016

When she was living with her mother, who was Rotarian, in Lusaka, Zambia, every weekend they would be visiting the slum communities and doing some sort of service. Her mother was widely known for her heart of giving and service; and she served her community to the best. As a medical doctor, everyone would come to see her and she never tired of their presence. “Our home was always full of people who needed one form of help or the other,” she muses. To date, Nana has held on fast to this practice as she carries her sons to every community and service engagement she is doing, be it in Mathari for mentorship or Korogocho. Much to her delight they enjoy it and have integrated a way of service in their lives. Earlier in life the Rotary Club had approached her twice for the presidency position and both times she had declined as she considered it a full time job, and she wanted to be with her kids. It was when her boys were all grown that she accepted the call and took up the position. Some of her greatest achievements during her tenure include water harvesting for 20 schools in Kajiado County, establishing an education scholarship to needy children in the slums of Korogocho, digging nine boreholes in Siaya County and her attempt to break the world record in climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, leading 39 climbers on the journey. Documenting her journey and experience gave her traction which eventually led her to Addis Ababa at the African Union to talk about service and leadership. Nana is an alumni of Strathmore Business School and a certified member of The Women on Boards Network amongst many other associations.

As we conclude her story, Nana looks at me and says, “When all is said and done, let this be said of me, not of my accomplishments and achievements, but that I was a good mother.” All her success and victory means nothing to her if her family is falling apart. Because despite her busy schedule, Nana considers motherhood to be her number one calling and her children, the loves of her life. She has endeavoured to pass on Godly values and service to humanity. Her boys Vante and Vidray are involved in various activities including music and sports, and she also likes to do the mom thing by signing them up on amazing programs. Vante had a chance to go to the US and tour NASA while Vidray went to the UN in Geneva, through various leadership programmes. Not surprising that they both are in leadership positions in their schools.

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Nana Wanjau
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Contact Nana Wanjau

Phone: +254 (0)7227-07227
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WEBSITE | FACEBOOK | TWITTER | LINKEDIN

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Diana Ashley

 

Diana Ashley is "A Fearless influencer of society.
Book lover. Coffee lover. 


You can check me out on 
https://thebookswag.wordpress.com"

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