6. LeAnne Peris, OWNER- DINER EN BLANC NAIROBI, 27
Every year, LeAnne hosts Kenya’s most chic of picnic parties, called Diner en Blanc that attracts over 500 people from around the country and has been a phenomenon in other locations globally. The idea of the picnic is to give the guests a new experience every time in different locations. “Guests gather dressed in all white at designated locations and we transport them to a secret location for a night of gourmet dining and dancing. It is the world’s first viral picnic held in over 90 cities globally and I own the Kenyan franchise,” she says. The serial entrepreneur, as she describes herself, owns a wedding and events planning business, Aster Eden Planners, under which she has organised the Diner en-Blanc since 2015. Her journey began with a Sh1,000 loan from Safaricom’s lending service, Mshwari. Frustrated with a Sh12,000 per month salaried job, she quit and sought an investment opportunity. “I did not have any capital and the job I was in at the time was not paying me enough to survive. As fate would have it, someone I had interacted with before invited me to a meeting. He was going to give me a job, so I borrowed Sh1,000 from Mshwari and went to the meeting. I ended up winning a one year, six-figure a month, management consulting contract,” she says. “This gave me enough capital to set up my business consultancy and to launch the Diner en Blanc event in Nairobi and my event planning business.” The Bachelor of Commerce graduate from Kenyatta University has since consulted for companies such as Kenblest Ltd and Swedken Tours.
7. Umra Omar, FOUNDER, SAFARI DOCTORS, 34
Umra was last month nominated the most influential person of African descent by the UN, under the humanitarian category, in recognition of the rise and role of her organisation Safari Doctors. She offers free medical services in remote villages in Lamu, Kenya. The latest award comes as one of many, she has received before. In 2016, Umra was listed among CNN Heroes at a ceremony held in New York. Earlier this year, she was nominated for the African Leaders for Change awards in Johannesburg, South Africa, which will take place in November this year, recognising people who contribute to the community without seeking financial gain. Umra started Safari Doctors in 2014 to provide accessibility and mobility of health services to remote villages in Lamu. While on holiday in Kenya, Umra learnt through an acquaintance of the medical need in the area and the health projects that had stalled due to the perceived insecurity. “The plan was to start the organisation with very basic service delivery, such as hiring a nurse to conduct motorbike outreaches once a month to Lamu villages. We served up to 100 patients per month in 2015. It has since grown to include mobile boat services and we plan to provide services to at least 1,000 patients per month,” says Umra. Born and raised in Kenya, Umra left a career as a health communication consultant at the Open Society Foundation in New York, to start the organisation. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Neuroscience and Psychology and a Master’s degree in Social Justice in Intercultural Relations from Oberlin College and the School for International Training.
8. Nina Galot Thacker, COMMERCIAL DIRECTOR, LONDON DISTILLERS KENYA, 38
As the commercial director at London Distillers Kenya (LDK), Nina has initiated an agenda of transformation that has seen the company adopt Kaizen, the Japanese performance programme, move to renewable energy, and move into the awards lists for its good practice. “Through my leadership, the company has adopted renewable energy and so far we have managed to install the largest roof top solar energy plant for our company in East Africa,” says Nina, in an initiative that won the company a nomination in last year’s Kenya Manufactures Association on Energy Management awards. Beyond this, her work involves the running of the management and commercial sides of the business, with her main focus on the production unit, machinery operation, maximum plant utilization and efficiency. Born and raised by an entrepreneur she credits her father, Mohan Galot, as her inspiration because he emphasized the importance of education for both boys and girls. “He instilled honesty, integrity as the key to life, backed up with hard work and perseverance. My husband Chintan Thacker, also an entrepreneur, has also played a pivotal role in my career,” she says. She graduated from the USIU holds a Bachelor’s Degree in International Business Administration in Marketing and got her first job within the LDK sales and marketing team. “At this position, I learnt and understood the market demand of our products and the bottles neck technology, which was a challenge at the time for most beverage companies, globally.” In 2008, Nina led the launch of Bounty Company Limited, a sister company to LDK and the producer of Safari Water. She is the Managing Director at the bottled drinking water company, in which 60 per cent of its staff are women. “This is the highlight of my career, we launched a product in an already crowded market, but it has become quite popular countrywide.’’
9. Emily Orwaru, AERONAUTICAL PLANNING ENGINEER, KENYA AIRWAYS, 29
When Emily was nine years old, she caught tonsillitis that left her partially deaf. While in university, she developed keratoconus, a disorder that affects both eyes, leaving her partially blind; and after university, she was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. Yet at the age of 24, she managed to become an Aeronautical Planning Engineer in an industry dominated by men. Her job involves planning and scheduling aircraft and aeronautical components maintenance at national carrier Kenya Airways. “Safety is key in aviation and for an airline to meet airworthiness standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), routine maintenance is scheduled during the life of an aircraft or aeronautical component,” she says. Emily’s passion for aviation began when her father brought her a portrait of an F-5 fighter jet. She immediately fell in love with it and knew she wanted to fly. She quickly found she had more interest in aerodynamics and the theory of mechanics than the dynamics of flight, and decided she wanted to become an aerospace engineer. “It was the same year that I lost the hearing in my right ear and was on a hearing aid for several years through high school although I stopped using it later because of the stigma associated with wearing hearing aids. After high school I was awarded a Russian government scholarship to study Aerospace engineering,” she says. “Because of the Keratoconus condition I developed at an early age when I joined the Samara State Aerospace University I had to become fully dependent on rigid contact lenses, without them I cannot see. In 2014, I was ready to plunge into my career, but I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer and almost gave up. However, even from my hospital bed during chemotherapy and radiotherapy, I went online and applied for jobs and somehow this gave me some kind of hope.” Her turning point eventually came when she landed her first paying job at Kenya Airways, after two years of internships in multiple companies. She is now involved in a community based group in her home village in Nyamira. “Everyone is well represented in the group including people living with disabilities who have beat the odds and excelled in their specialisation.’’ She is also a member of Faraja Cancer Care, a support group.
10. Dr. Shitsama Nyamweya, NEUROSURGEON, KENYATTA NATIONAL HOSPITAL, 32
A woman of many firsts, Dr Nyamweya appears a second time in Top 40 Under 40 women’s list for continuing to excel in her profession. To date, she remains only one of Kenya’s two female neurosurgeons and also retains the distinction of being the first woman to graduate with a Master of Medicine Degree in Neurosurgery from the University of Nairobi in 2015. Dr Nyamweya who is currently based at Kenyatta National Hospital, is for most a woman of high ambitions. Her neurosurgical procedures mainly address brain and spinal complications that are largely as a result of road accidents, cancers and birth defects such as hydrocephalus and spina bifida. Outside the hospital, Dr Nyamweya is also involved in awareness creation aimed at preventing the above conditions including: adherence to road safety measures and early cancer diagnosis and treatment. Of the 22 neurosurgeons in Kenya, only two are female. Dr Nyamweya is therefore keen on mentoring young girls and women to enable them develop an interest in neurosurgery and excel in it. Her position as a lecturer at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) School of Medicine provides her with a platform to do that while teaching. “When I was studying neurosurgery, I didn’t have any women role models to look up to or approach for advice. This was a major challenge. That’s why I want to be there for others now. I want them to know that if I did it, they also can.” Dr Nyamweya states that she would also like to link women to fellowship opportunities both locally and internationally that will enable them work with experts and acquire practical experience in the neurosurgery field. She is also looking at ways of identifying financial institutions and funding bodies that can sponsor students enrolled in the neurosurgery Master’s programmes so as to increase its uptake and address the human resource gaps.
Well done girls! Go! Go! Go!
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