Celebrating departed cancer warriors: Kenya's gone but not forgotten heroines

Kenya has lost a number of its women leaders and trailblazers to cancer. Despite succumbing to the disease, these leaders left a mark in the history books as those who made a difference in their respective careers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that there are about 40,000 new cases of cancer in Kenya. Also, WHO estimates that there are about 28,000 cancer related deaths that occur every year in Kenya. These statistics make cancer the third leading cause of death in the country.

These women fought to the end for equality and change. From the first African woman to win a Nobel peace prize, to one of the first female Governors in Kenyan history, we celebrate the lives of the women leaders who made a difference and touched the lives of many people.

Joyce Laboso - Bomet Governor

The late Governor Joyce Laboso Abonyo is remembered as one of the pioneer female governors in Kenya. She got into office as Bomet governor in 2017.

Before her stint as governor, she was Member of Parliament for Sotik Constituency after winning a by-elections following the demise of her sister, Lorna Laboso, who perished in a plane crash. She was also the Deputy National Assembly Speaker between 2013 and 2017. The first woman to hold the position.

Before joining politics, Joyce was a lecturer at Egerton University after graduating from the University of Hull in the UK in 2006, where she got a PhD in Gender and Language Education.

She was married to Dr. Edwin Abonyo and together they had three sons

After her death, her friends and colleagues launched an award in her honour, the Dr. Joyce Laboso Gender Award which will celebrate different illustrious women on International Women's day.

Grace Kipchoim— Baringo South MP

The late Hon. Grace Jelagat Kipchoim was a member of parliament for Baringo South.

Despite having won two terms in office, Grace hardly campaigned as widely as her opponents as she was ill.

She was serving her second term as Baringo South MP when she succumbed to colon cancer while in April 2018.

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Prof. Wangari Maathai - A Nobel laureate, former MP, and Cabinet Minister

The name Wangari Maathai is well known to people around the world as she is the first woman to win a Nobel peace prize from Africa.

Professor Mathaai was known for her fight against deforestation in Kenya and for being a social activist.

Prof Maathai is also known for being behind the six mothers who camped at Uhuru Park’s ‘Freedom Corner’ in Nairobi in a hunger strike, after unsuccessfully petitioning then Attorney General Amos Wako to free their sons.

Professor Mathaai went to the University of Nairobi and the University of Pittsburgh in the United States and also attended Mount St. Scholastica.

She lost the battle to ovarian cancer on December 25th, 2011 at the Nairobi hospital. 

Janet Kanini Ikua — TV personality

Janet kanini was a renowned TV anchor. She succumbed to lung cancer on April 1st, 2017.

Before her death, Janet was open about her diagnosis and even shared that her father had also succumbed to lung cancer a couple of years earlier. She sought treatment in India and would regularly post about her treatment.

She returned home and went into remission a year before her death at 39 years old. She left behind two children and her husband, George Ikua.

(All photos - Courtesy)

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