BY LYNE OYUGI

On March 2nd 2022, UN Women appointed Kenya’s Dr Jemimah Njuki to lead their work on Women’s Economic Empowerment around the world.

Dr Njuki is a leading voice on gender equality and women’s empowerment globally. In 2021, Apolitical named her one of the 100 most influential people in Gender and Policy.  In 2020, she was appointed by the Special envoy for the Food Systems Summit 2021 to lead the Lever on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment for the Summit.

She mobilized women’s voices globally through regional dialogues in Africa, Asia and Latin America to ensure women’s voices were represented in the Summit.  This was especially critical given the role that women play in Agriculture and food systems more generally.

One of her key achievements was the launch of the Global Food 5050, an index and gender accountability mechanism for organizations working in food systems around the world. She pushed through the formation of a collation on Making Food Systems work for Women and Girls, a coalition that is supported by several governments.

She worked alongside gender advocates including Sabrina Elba and Dr Amina Mohammed to ensure women’s voices, concerns and priorities were part of the outcomes of the Summit. She presented a 10-point agenda for addressing gender inequalities in our food systems at the Pre-Summit in Rome and the Summit in New York.

As part of the UN Food Systems Summit, she was part of the technical team that supported the development of the common Africa position on Food Systems.

In Kenya, she has been very active in the governed led technical group, advocating ensuring that women were a priority in the government led National Food Systems Transformation pathways.  

Prior to joining UN Women, Dr Njuki has been leading the work of the International Food Policy Research Institute IFPRI in the region as their Africa Director, working closely with governments in the continent and with the Africa Union and other regional organizations to ensure policy is evidence driven, is inclusive and that government programs have an impact on people.  

In 2019, she was named the Woman of the Decade by the Women’s Economic Forum for her global work on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

In 2018, she was a New Voices Fellow, a fellowship that supports development experts from the Global South to amplify their voices.

Her extensive resume includes positions with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) leading IDRC’s work on gender equality and specifically leading the design of the Growth and Economic Opportunities for Women program that focused on economic opportunities for women in underrepresent sectors, the role of public procurement in economic empowerment of women, and how to address the unpaid care work of women through public policies and investments.

She also worked at the intersection of gender equality and funding priorities significantly increase both the volume of funds going to gender equality and women’s empowerment and to women led research teams and organizations, as well as the number of projects that integrated gender equality and the empowerment of women as their objective.

She was instrumental in ensuring gender equality and women’s empowerment was at the center of IDRC’s work, in line with Canada’s Feminist International Assistance Policy.

She led the pioneer Women in Agriculture Program of CARE USA working across Africa and Asia with women and women groups working in agriculture and food systems especially focusing on often marginalized women including those from the scheduled castes and tribes in India.

For four years, she led the Poverty, Gender, and Impact Program at the Kenya based International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) where she is still remembered fondly for developing the first gender strategy and research program focused on the role of livestock in empowering women smallholder producers and entrepreneurs.

She is an accomplished author and has written numerous books and articles on various topics including why land rights are critical for the empowerment of rural women, addressing the double burden of unpaid care work for women, and the need to reimagine solutions to gender inequality through addressing structural causes of inequality including unequal policies, institutions, and norms.

Dr Njuki serves on several boards including the African Women in Agriculture Research and Development (AWARD) and the African Voices Foundation.

She founded and runs the Million Girls Trust, an educational and technology program for young girls from under privileged backgrounds. The Trust provides scholarships and computers in rural schools in Kenya.   She is the founding Editor of the Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security, a journal that encourages scholarship of researchers working on gender equality and women’s empowerment in the Global South.