‘Being successful should not only be measured by how much you make. Perhaps, one of the most important yardsticks for success should be improving the quality of lives of people and proffering solutions to problems that threaten or hinder our prosperity and sustainability’.
When girls, women and minority rights are a topic of discuss, one of the names that pops up is Dr Musimbi Kanyoro.
Dr Musimbi is a successful and accomplished international leader, and advocate for health, development and human rights for women, girls and minority groups with over three decades of experience managing international NGOs, global programs.
She is currently the president and CEO of Global Fund for Women, one of the world’s leading foundation for gender equality and the largest publicly supported grant making foundations that seek advancement in human rights by investing in women led organizations.
Under her excellent leadership, the organization has generated over $140 million in grant making and facilitated a merger with another non-profit. Her job is far from over as she continues to widen the company’s horizon by partaking in important international dialogues, speaking at global functions and frequent contributions in major media outlets.
She has beaten the odds time and time again and has made a name for herself, her shoes becoming more challenging to fit into.
Dr Musimbi Kanyoro was born in rural Kenya in Migori county; settlement located in the western part of Kenya. She moved into suburban Nairobi where she attended the Alliance girls high school which according to her built her self confidence at an early age.
She proceeded to obtaining her Bachelors Degree from the University of Nairobi and a PhD from the University of Texas Austin where she studied linguistics. She obtained another doctorate in feminist theology at the San Francisco Theology Seminary. She has been a visiting scholar of Hebrew and the Old Testament at Harvard and has three honorary doctorate degrees.
As early as the 70s, she became interested with the liberation of South Africa. She was involved in the movement for the abolition of apartheid while in school. This led to her fight for women and girls. She was the National Executive Secretary for the United Nations Student Association.
Before Global Fund for Women, she became the first black woman to be appointed as the general secretary (CEO) of the World YMCA after 150 years. She also proved to be a great leader by increasing the organization’s membership, reopened work in Ethiopia, Eastern Europe, China and other previous Socialist and Communist countries where civil society organizations had been written off. She ensured the organization was up to the 21st standard as she introduced the use of communication technology, diversifying the funding stream of the movement and making women under 30 be on the local, national and global boards. It became an organization for young women’s leadership and also for HIV prevention and care.
Her work has enabled her to travel and lived in different parts of the world including Nairobi, Geneva, Cambridge, Austin and San Francisco. She has written several articles affecting female lives and written or co-edited seven books. A prolific and sought after speaker, she has spoken at numerous functions including the UN general assembly and TEDx women.
She has received several recognition and awards, including a leadership award from the Kenya Government, and recognition as one of the 21 women leaders for the 21st century by Women’s E-News.
In 2015, Forbes magazine named her one of 10 women “power brands” and in 2016, she was named as one of the Forty Women to Watch Over 40 list for making an impact in philanthropy and gender equality.
In 2018, Apolitical honored her on their list of the 100 most influential people in gender policy.
Dr Musimbi serves on the UN Women Civil Society Advisory Board; the World Bank Gender Advisory Board; the Boards of CARE, Landesa, and Sheryl Sandberg’s OptionB.Org; Aspen Leaders Council; the Global Citizen and CHIME FOR CHANGE Girls’ and Women’s Committee; and the Reference Group of FP 2020, an initiative of the Gates Foundation, UKAID, USAID, and UNFPA, managed by UN Foundation. She is also a Champion for SheDecides.
Musimbi traces her passion for human rights, peace, and justice to her Quaker family and community. She is one of 10 children and every daughter was given the same educational opportunities as the sons. “I want the same for every girl and woman, no exceptions,” she said.