Margaret Kenyatta Gives Speech at Harvard University Annual Leadership Forum

  • First Lady Margaret Kenyatta on Monday noted that deaths during childbirth and HIV infections among women and newborns make her uncomfortable and were key to launching the Beyond Zero Campaign.

    She was speaking during the Harvard University Annual Leadership Forum for Education and Health Ministers in the US where she shared her experience with the Beyond Zero campaign under the theme “Catalyzing the Demographic Dividend: Enabling Women and youth”.

    Margaret underlined the importance of good health as key to harnessing Kenya’s demographic dividend and maximizing human capital investment.

    “It is critical to make strategic investments that would improve health outcomes especially in reversing trends in HIV infections amongst young people, negative consequences of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and early marriages,” she noted.

    [caption caption="Margaret Kenyatta at the Harvard Annual Leadership Forum"][/caption]

    The First Lady disclosed that it was the quest to eliminate maternal and neonatal mortality, and HIV infections among women and newborns that drove her to launch the Beyond Zero campaign.

    She said the principle idea of Beyond Zero was to spur a ‘movement’ across the country about access to quality healthcare, an issue that weighed heavily on the minds of many Kenyans. 

    “The idea needed an anchor – the mobile clinics, a platform and innovative fundraising methods to raise capital for implementation of the initiative across the country,” she said.

    The Beyond Zero campaign has seen mobile clinics distributed to each of the 47 counties in Kenya in the last five years, taking quality healthcare services closer to communities even in the remotest parts of the country. 

    "Why were women across Kenya (in urban and rural setting) dying while giving life? Why, for example, were children in Marsabit – Kenya’s largest county by land mass coverage – dying before celebrating their 5th birthday?

    "How could this preventable problem be tackled and make healthcare more accessible to marginalized groups? she posed.

    Margaret told the forum – attended by Health and Education Ministers from 15 African countries – that these were some of the questions that were bothering her, leading to the introduction of the fully equipped mobile clinics as an innovative way of addressing the problem.

    “It required boldness, innovativeness, a spirit of humility and capacity to critically question the status quo to move beyond ‘business as usual’ and dare to do things differently.

    “I know that the Harvard Leadership Program prides itself on nurturing exactly those kinds of qualities and I hope I will encourage you to embrace purposeful confidence to tackle challenges that bring transformative change,” she added.

    [caption caption="Margaret Kenyatta with leaders during the Harvard Leadership Forum"][/caption]