Phyllis Omido

Phyllis Omido became famous after her spirited fight against a coast-based lead smelter, consequently leading to its closure. 

She came to learn about the hazards the smelter posed after she was employed by the company as a manager for the plant’s community relations. 

Carrying out her duties, she realized that the plant’s closeness to the local community was alarming and that they faced the threat of chemical poisoning. She recommended that the factory relocate but her plight fell on deaf ears.

Soon after, Omido’s son fell very ill and after numerous tests, the doctors determined that her infant son had high levels of lead in his blood. The doctors concluded that the lead was passed to her son through her own breast milk.

Following the discovery, Omido demanded that the plant pay for her son’s medical bills, a request the factory granted in exchange for her silence. 

However, she felt a responsibility to her community and she quit her job and began doing manual jobs to support her cause which was to bring justice to the people affected by the smelter.

She formed the Center for Justice, Governance, and Environmental Action (CJGEA), which helped raise funds for the testing of locals and supporting them to fund their hospital bills. 

She was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for her efforts towards conserving the environment.

 Omida also won a court battle in 2020 on behalf of the community that lived around the smelter, where the community was awarded Ksh 1.2B ($12M) as compensation. 

She is among the Time’s top 100 Most Influential people 2021.