Wangari Maathai Avenue sounds just fine

To change the long-standing invisibility of women who shape our history, let's have streets named after them
Wangari Maathai Avenue sounds just fine

Whenever I walk in Nairobi’s CBD, I get captivated by the street names; they boast of a rich history and our heritage.

You see, Moi Avenue, Haile Selassie Avenue, Ronald Ngala, Muindi Mbingu, Koinange, Kimathi and Tom Mboya streets among others remind us of historical figures that played a key role in the independence of our nation. They deserve all the recognition.

But wait a minute, apart from Mama Ngina Street, named after our independence First Lady, there is no street named after a woman in the City? There are many women who shape our history. Women who came before us, fought to break the barriers for us to have an opportunity to make something of ourselves – the pioneers.


Despite being labelled rebels and feminists, they relentlessly pushed and today, we enjoy some measure of freedom. To change the long-standing invisibility of these women, let us have streets named after them.

This is only a small part of gender- sensitive urban policy that will reintroduce women to society and thus, reclaim restore their memory.

Now that some functions of the City fall under the government through Nairobi Metropolitan Services, it would be incumbent upon them, as they re-carpet the streets, to also consider renaming others, especially those not named after a person.

I would love to drive on Wangari Maathai Avenue. For those who spend their weekends enjoying the Karura Forest scenery; where would you be spending your time hadn’t this iconic woman fought to save the space that would otherwise be a concrete jungle?


She was the first woman in East Africa to earn a PhD, served as an MP and assistant minister. And for her efforts to conserve the environment, she won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her contribution to the environment, development, democracy and peace.

I want to walk into a shop along Chelagat Mutai Street. The firebrand Ms Mutai made history by becoming the youngest MP at the age of 24. The activist and politician was known for her stand on political assassinations, land grabbing and corruption. She also championed the inclusion of women in Kenyan politics and society. The political scientist started her activism when she was expelled from school after leading a strike. She would later be arrested severally for her activism.

How about a coffee date at a restaurant along Phoebe Asiyo Street? She is the first woman to be elevated to elder in all the 42 tribes of Kenya, an honour usually given to men. Ms Asiyo is the first woman to head the women’s prison and during her time, the first woman to serve two five-year terms as MP of Karachuonyo.


Taking a walk along Grace Onyango Avenue on a Sunday afternoon when the streets are not crowded would be heavenly. Grace was the first woman to be elected mayor in Kisumu town in 1967 and MP in 1969 – a milestone in women’s leadership.

When Covid-19 finally becomes a thing of the past, it would be nice to have a festival on Tegla Loroupe Street. This long-distance runner has represented our country in global sports events and holds several world records. She was the first woman from Africa to win the New York City Marathon. She is a global spokeswoman for peace, women’s rights and education.

If I were to include each iconic woman on my list, I would not get the space. There are hundreds of outstanding women out there, I celebrate you and pray that other urban centres will deem it fit to recognise you by naming their streets after you. It is just fair to equalise the balance between men and women.

The writer is the Gender Editor, Nation Media Group