She made her mark supporting the women’s and youth agenda
Zipporah Jepchirchir Kittony is best remembered for her role as former head of Maendeleo ya Wanawake. The organization seeks to unify, nurture and empower women socially, economically and politically so as enable them to deal with the unique challenges that face them in society. In this capacity, she campaigned for the eradication of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) in Meru and Maasailand, gender equality in politics, girl child education, and better nutrition for women.
Born in the early 1940s, Kittony was privileged to go to school at a time when girls generally did not. She attended school in Kapsabet, and later Kapropita Girls’ High School.
Upon completing her high school education, she trained as a teacher between 1961 and 1962, after which she worked with the Family Planning Association of Kenya.
In 1970, she moved with her husband and children to Nairobi, where she was hired by the World Assembly of Youth, a programme that taught young people discipline and self-sufficiency. She worked here for six years, traveling the world as part of her job – an opportunity that expanded her worldview.
In 1975, she attended the UN World Conference on Women in Mexico. Thereafter, in 1976, she moved to Kitale and made history when she became the first woman in the country to become Chairperson of the Royal Agricultural Society. While serving in this capacity, Kittony had to prove herself to her colleagues as she often faced criticism and discrimination due to her gender. She used her voice in this role to advocate for women’s rights.
In the early 1980s, Zipporah joined Maendeleo ya Wanawake. She served for 13 years as Chairperson of the Trans Nzoia branch until she was appointed National Chair of the organization in 1996, a position she held for another 11 years.
She was part of the team that lobbied for the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) to be headquartered in Kenya. Kittony also helped set up maternity homes at the Kenya coast in Kilifi, Malindi, Kwale, and Taita, where women could not access maternity services.
Since 2013, Zipporah has been a nominated Senator, having served as a nominated MP in the eighth Parliament. She is also Vice Chair of the Health Committee in parliament and a member of the Committee of Finance, Commerce and Budget.
She actively advocates and influences decisions as she partners with Beyond Zero campaign, initiated by the First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, to deliver better health service to reduce prenatal and postnatal deaths of both infants and their mothers.
Her efforts and dedication towards the emancipation of women have not gone unnoticed. She was named Woman of the Year by the American Biographical Institute in 1999.
She was also awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior (OGW) and the Moran of the Burning Spear (MBS). In 2008, she was awarded an honorary doctorate degree from the United Graduate College University in Tennessee in the USA. In 2009, she was designated Goodwill Ambassador to the Kenya Society for the Mentally Handicapped.
Kittony recently retired from politics. However, she remains a consultant on issues of women’s empowerment and encourages young women to play an active role in politics. She believes that the sky is the limit for women in Kenya and urges them to work hard to realize true gender equality.