WOMAN TO WOMAN: My priority is to help women, youth
What you need to know:
- Hard work, honesty and the aspiration to bring change to people’s lives have been my pillars.
- Women who improve the lives of the unfortunate are my pillars.
- Always ensure you keep something, however little. It will create an impact.
Dr Jennifer Riria, chief executive officer, Kenya Women Holding
When did you take over leadership of KWH?
I have led Kenya Women Finance Trust (KWFT) for over two decades.
How has the journey been?
KWFT started as an unprofitable organisation and has propelled to a medium-sized bank, serving low income women and their families.
It has served over three million women and disbursed over US$ three billion over a period of 25 years. This is quite an achievement.
What is the role of Kenya Women Holding (KWH)?
Our main focus are women, youth, and people living with disabilities. We equip them with skills and empower them through our programmes, which include education and health awareness.
You took over KWH in 1990. What is the secret of your staying power in this profession?
Hard work, honesty and the aspiration to bring change to people’s lives have been my pillars.
What are some of the achievements you are proud of?
When I wake up every morning, I am happy to see the lives I have been able to change. Through KWFT, we have touched over four million women and their families scattered across all the 47 counties.
With this, I am a happy woman whenever I am. We have helped women embrace diversity and tap national and county opportunities.
I have launched The Jennifer Riria Foundation to enhance my quest for touching lives
Apart from KWH, what else do you do?
I lecture on gender issues in a number of universities in Kenya. I am a researcher and a gender specialist.
You have received myriad awards and accolades, both locally and internationally. Tell us more on this.
In 2018, I was bestowed with an accolade of Her Royal Highness (HRH) and a high role Goodwill Ambassador by the Institute of African Royalty (IAR) in Nairobi.
I was also awarded an Elder of Burning Spear (EBS) and a Trail Blazer by President Uhuru Kenyatta for my role in development.
These are just but a few. I have received several awards and these are dedicated to hard work and my team, who made it happen.
What would you change about your profession, given a chance?
Where I am now, I don’t think there is anything I would change. I am satisfied with all the things and the results are awesome.
What books do you read?
I read financial management books, motivational books and Christian books. Currently, I am readingThe Real Life MBAby Jack Welch.Smart Women Finish Richby David Bach andWhen Genius Failedby Roger Lowenstein are in the queue. I also read the Bible daily.
Your dream country?
New York, I usually go there to light a candle for the precious people in my life.
Tell us one thing that remains core to your heart?
Helping the unfortunate.
How do you manage to look so young at 63 years? What is your favourite colour?
I love what I am doing and waking up every day with a smiley face rejuvenates me. I love putting bright colours that make me look young. I love my work.
Are you married? How many children?
Yes, I am married to God (laughs, and stops). I had three daughters but I am left with two. I thank God for them.
Who are you mentors?
Women who improve the lives of the unfortunate; they are my pillars any day.
What are some of the challenges you have had to tackle in life?
Having to deal with the loss of my firstborn daughter. I still have to go through a lot to overcome this; it hurts.
What is your normal day like?
I wake up in the morning and give thanks to God. Then I head to the office and read mails; thereafter I have meetings and then head to meet my people (women) to get peace of mind. I feel well when I change a life and bring back a smile on someone’s face.
Does your work interfere with your family responsibilities? If not, how do you manage?
At times it is difficult to balance, but it has never been a problem to me. When it is work-time, I give it my best. The same goes for my family. I give my children and grandchildren the time they need.
What would you change about your professional life?
I don’t think I want to change anything in my career now. I am satisfied with the results and, if anything, would just want to have more people on board; that’s what I would add to my career.
What is your most important investment tip?
Always ensure you keep something, however little. It will create an impact.
What do you do for leisure?
Listening to music and singing, when I'm at home. I also play around with my grandchildren.
Always remember that God is the reason we are where we are, so before we do anything, we must always put Him first. Another thing is that your past might affect your life but it can never determine your future.