October 28, 2010 | 3:14 PM
Who She Is:
Dr. Jennifer Riria is the CEO of Kenya Women’s Finance Trust and the Chair of the Association of Microfinance Institutions (AMFI) in Kenya.
Why We Love Her:
Kenya Women Finance Trust began in 1981 but when Dr. Riria took over a few years ago it was being run into the ground, losing over $300,000 a year. Today, with her help, it is back on track and has served more than 200,000 clients through microfinance services.
She was also the first female Board Member of the Nairobi Stock Exchange and the Chair of Post Office Savings Bank for four years.
Dr. Riria is a true believer in women’s empowerment through microfinance in Africa so it seems appropriate that KWFT is the only microfinance institution in Kenya that specifically targets women. She imagines microfinance as a tool without limits, not just to create jobs but also to enable women to have education, improved health-care, and even safer cooking methods.
One of the reasons Dr. Riria is so passionate about microfinance is because she came from a poor background herself. From birth, she struggled to be accepted by her family for being a girl. While she grew up she had to walk over 10km to school everyday. She studied hard and succeeded whenever there was an opportunity. Today she strives to create an easier life for others.
“Because, really, the woman is the core. She holds us up. In Africa, you just have to deal with the issues that affect the productivity of women. They bring food to the table. They bring education to the household. They bring medical care in the household.
Ask me! I know it. I live among them. That is one of the drivers: my personal zeal. It is essential to support women, if we want to make a difference, if we want to transform the way the world works for them and their families.”