Wednesday, January 27, 2021

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Dr. Jennifer Riria – Story of an Inspiring Leader from 1991

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Jennifer Riria – Every Leader can be a successful entrepreneur but not every successful entrepreneur is a leader. Who do we call a leader? The leader is one who accepts the challenges, believe in oneself, and pushes existing boundaries then he / she is a transformative leader. Leadership or a leader touches the lives of people. And hence I say you can achieve a million-dollar turnover. But not everyone can inspire people.

This is the story of a woman who dared to push the boundaries and ended up building a national institution against great odds. A woman who touched the prime of the business world even after having a very humble beginning.

Jennifer Riria at Women’s World Banking
Jennifer Riria at Women’s World Banking (Source – Women’s World Banking)

Jennifer Riria’s early life & education

Jennifer Riria born in 1955 in Haven Gary village south Amenti in Marin County. She was the fourth child of the Riria’s. She lived with her 10 siblings in an extremely poor condition. Jennifer Riria’s earliest encounter with books was at Kevin Gary’s primary school. she said herself the task of getting an education was nothing but her idea to rise above her circumstances. Poverty, willing to change her circumstances made her take her studies seriously. She always believed her studies hold the power and are the only way she can change her fortune. She always knew she wanted to complete her education at a good institution in order to be successful. She did her best to secure her place at precious blood girls Nairobi for her secondary education. In 1972 the youthful Riria joined the University of Dar es Salaam.

After having passed her a-levels she ended up taking a Bachelor of Arts in Education majoring in English and economics. In 1974 while she was only 19, a life tanning event occurred to the youthful Jennifer Riria she conceived and had her first baby Catherine. She became the mother of a child in her final year at high school.

Dr Jennifer Riria
Dr Jennifer Riria (Source – Twitter)

Motherhood is completely a life-altering experience for any woman. Delivering a baby is yet another wonder of human life. It is not easy! Especially when you are 19-year-old. She completed her high school and gave birth to a beautiful and healthy child; isn’t it amazing? Not only this! Jennifer Riria passed out Securing a scholarship to study in the United Kingdom. She carried her baby along with her. She believed that her life was headed to the skies. The love of a mother for her child is incomparable.

In 1978 she was awarded a postgraduate diploma in education and the following year she graduated with a Master of Arts degree in education administration from the University of Leeds.

She left the United Kingdom the same day she passed her dissertation!

During her interview, she said “I had an opportunity to live in the UK and opportunity to live in the US but to me, these places never appealed. To me, I had to come home”

The Patience, Struggle & The Vision!!!

She envisioned an institution. Through which every woman could achieve success like she has dreamt of. She gave opportunities to women and opened wide her doors to opportunity. She has welcomed every single woman with open arms who has been willing to take the load of hard work to succeed. Jennifer Riria had an opportunity to work for the UN and be a professor at Kenya university. Nothing made her comfortable more than transforming the lives of women in Kenya. As she knew what is hunger, poverty, and how difficult it is to be poor and a woman.

While doing her bit for women, she received umpteen letters threatening her to stop misleading women. To stop giving them money! They claimed she was making them have big heads. Meaning she was helping and supporting women who wanted to do something on their own and not be dependent on their men for money. They claim her to be a culprit who was making women disobey their men.

It was in October 1991, however, when a real change of calling occurred to Jennifer Riria, the Ford Foundation and UNDP supported her appointment to rehabilitate Kenya women finance trust. the institution had only four permanent employees, zero clients but the determination to achieve her targets for so many women like her. Within six months of licensing, Kenya women financed trust operation, It recorded a profit of four hundred and fifteen million. she led Kenya women financed trust deposit-taking microfinance to scoop the 2011 excellence leadership award from the Women’s World Banking and MasterCard foundation.

Jennifer Riria at Lioness of Africa
Jennifer Riria at Lioness of Africa (Source – Lioness of Africa)

During her interview, she said

“I like to think of myself as a lion! In this life now, you have to think of yourself of something that you keep reminding yourself of when you come through very many pitfalls and so forth” and “so I tell myself I’m a lion! and I’m going to behave like a lion king of the jungle”

She survived a poor rural background, she took part in water fetching, walked 7 km bare feet to complete her education. She saw women and her status in society treated as a slave and survived everything to be one of the most successful businesswomen. Currently, you cannot tell the story of Kenya women finance trust without mentioning the founder Jennifer Riria. For 25 years now, she steers the widely known institution into prosperity.

During her reign, the Kenya women finance trust and the Kenya women holding has helped 900,000 women with a workforce of over 3,000 people. The success of this institution was Jennifer’s dream from her early 20s and she achieved it profoundly to inspire all of us.

Dr Jennifer Riria at Lioness of Africa
Dr Jennifer Riria at Lioness of Africa (Source – Lioness of Africa)

“The past may affect your life, but it does not determine your future. What determines your future it is what & how you want the world to be when you are not there anymore – Jennifer Riria”

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