Running Toward Zero: First Lady of Kenya Speaks at Thunderbird

By Guest Writer, Faduma-Dhool Mohamed (MAGAM ’17, Kenya)

Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta, the First Lady of the Republic of Kenya, has captured the hearts of Kenyans, the rest of the world, and now those of the students at Thunderbird School of Global Management. She is not only a mother to three children of her own, but has extended that motherly love to the rest of Kenya and is indisputably one of the most influential people in the country. Her calm demeanor and poise has radiated across her mission to be the voice for the voiceless. She has imbued a vibrancy in the First Lady’s office that has left women, children and the rest of Kenya better off.

Group Picture. Courtesy Tbird Media Dept.
Group Picture. Courtesy Tbird Media Dept.

In January 2014, Her Excellency launched the Beyond Zero Campaign that partnered with the government in reducing maternal and child mortality. The Beyond Zero Campaign is part of the initiative outlined in her strategic framework towards HIV control, and the promotion of maternal, new born, and child health in Kenya. More information on this initiative can be found at

 Lunch reception for the Her Excellency Margaret Kenya hosted at the Tower Bay Room, Thunderbird. Courtest Tbird Social Media Dept.
Lunch reception for Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta hosted at the Tower Bay Room, Thunderbird. Courtesy Tbird Marketing Dept.

Her Excellency’s visit to Thunderbird on March 16th was a memorable and enriching experience for me. I had the honor of receiving Mama Wanjiru Kenyatta to our campus. (The term “Mama” is used among Kenyans as a symbol of respect, love, and admiration). As a Kenyan national, I was overjoyed that my fellow Tbird colleagues, faculty, and staff had this opportunity to witness the grandeur of the First Lady and glimpse into the maternal-child healthcare situation in Kenya. The First Lady’s ability to use her position as a platform to create sustainable change is laudable and I could not be any prouder to have her as my role model.

Thee First Lady of Kenya addressing international business leaders and students at Thunderbird. Courtesy Thunderbird Media Det.
Audience member asks a question to the Kenyan panel at Thunderbird. Courtesy Thunderbird Media Det.

As Melissa Gaylord (MA ’17, Madagascar) put it, “Being able to listen to the First Lady’s speech was a humbling and inspiring experience. Coming from Madagascar, I know too well how the inefficiency of government members can negatively affect the progress of a country. Listening to a government representative so passionate about the issues affecting her country was truly inspirational. The link she made between business and society and how they should work hand in hand to ensure sustainable development is, in my opinion, the way future business should be conducted, which I thought was a great subject to highlight in an international business school.”

Faduma Mohamed escorting the First Lady of Kenya together with Chelsea Oyen, Eric Bing and Douglas Jackson. Courtesy Tbird Marketing Dept.

“It was great to see how Kenya is addressing some of its major health and development challenges through public-private partnerships. It is clear that the results achieved thus far (over 36 mobile medical clinics) have important implications, not only for health, but also for increasing cooperation among Kenyan government agencies.  It was an honor to hear the First Lady speak and I enjoyed the opportunity to hear about the important progress being made in Kenya,” said Dawson Law (MGM’16, U.S.A).

From left to right: Charles G. Irion (Advisory Board Member at Project Cure), W. Douglas Jackson (President & CEO of Project Cure), Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta and Eric Bing, the event moderator. Courtesy Thunderbird Media Dept.
From left to right: Charles G. Irion (Advisory Board Member at Project Cure), W. Douglas Jackson (President & CEO of Project Cure), Her Excellency Margaret Kenyatta and Eric Bing, the event moderator. Courtesy Thunderbird Media Dept

115 people in total attended the event, which included a speech by the First Lady and a panel discussion on the challenges and opportunities facing Kenya made up of His Excellency Njeru Githae (Kenyan Ambassador to the United States), Dr. Nicholas Muraguri (Principal Secretary of Health), and Ms. Jane Kiragu (Beyond Zero Technical Advisor).

Project Cure was the main sponsor in conjunction with the African Business Club and Thunderbird’s Net Impact chapter. Thunderbird has previously hosted such luminaries as the Dalai Lama in 2006 and the First Lady of Ghana in 2013. “Thunderbird is honored to host dignitaries on our campus. Our entire community enjoys the opportunity to learn from these great leaders and showcase Thunderbird to them,” said Erin Schneiderman, Director of Special Events. Erin did a remarkable job putting the event together and working tirelessly with Project Cure and the First Lady’s office to ensure its success.

Faduma Mohamed and Cedric Yumba looking sharp! Courtesy Tbird Media Dept.

Cedric Yumba (MGM’16, DRC) was thankful for the experience: “Having lunch with the First Lady of Kenya on my birthday was such an inspiring experience. I really like her Beyond Zero Initiative. Indeed, there is hope for Africa!”

A recipient of the UN Person of the Year Award 2014, Mama Wanjiru Kenyatta is a humble and soft spoken woman who is continuously challenging herself and others to make a difference in Kenya. Her commitment towards building a healthier Kenya is admirable and will continue to build a legacy that will live on for decades. Hongera sana Mama!

One thought on “Running Toward Zero: First Lady of Kenya Speaks at Thunderbird

  1. I was very impressed by the First Lady. I especially enjoyed watching the clip of her running the half marathon and sprinting at the end to spread awareness of her “Running towards Zero” campaign. To me, it showed the importance of having an influential leader working to effect change, and a well run PR campaign to spread awareness. Thank you, Fadouma for writing this beautiful article.

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