Anne Ireri, 38

Executive Director

FIDA-Kenya
My Story,

Protector of the weak

Anne’s career trajectory as a women’s rights champion has been as steep as it has been eventful. Her journey started at the Federation of Women Lawyers in Kenya (Fida) 14 years ago when she was a youthful legal volunteer.

Over the years, she has risen through the ranks to become the executive director this year. She knows the task ahead as the captain of the ship is not for the faint-hearted.

‘In this line of work, you can’t give up even on the worst days. I have to balance between my tough lawyer act and listen to victims of violence,’’ she says.

One of her biggest headaches is fighting stereotypes. ‘‘Our society has remained with the unfortunate stereotype that when a woman pushes for women rights, she is antagonising men’s interests,’’ she says.

"In this line of work, you can’t give up even on the worst days..."

The negative perception that emerged during the women’s movement in the 1990s, she says, curtails efforts to achieve gender parity, yet this is what holds the key to creating a better society.

Early in her law career, Anne realised that she could have been one of the women that she now supports at Fida Centre, only that she was lucky to access education. “I resolved to use all my power and resources as a lawyer to fight for women rights,’’ says Anne who has also worked in Ghana, Uganda, South Africa, Mali and the UK.

Her greatest achievements were being recognised at the UN General Assembly in 2017 for her 160 Girls Project that ensures girls who have faced sexual violence access justice and winning this year’s World Justice Project Awards.

A trained arbitrator and mediator with the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators of London, Anne graduated with a law degree from Moi University, a Master’s in Public Policy and Management from Strathmore Business School, and a postgraduate diploma in Women Human Rights from Sweden’s Uppsala University.

The University of Pretoria doctoral candidate has also pursued a legal course at Harvard University and Netherlands’ University College Roosevelt.

Besides her work, she loves to read autobiographies, travel and try out different recipes. Her advice to the young generation?

‘‘You have enablers such as technology, which my generation did not enjoy. You can do much more with ease. But remember, even with technology, there’s no substitute for hard work.’’

–James Kahongeh