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Julia Ojiambo: Ex-politician Who is First Kenyan Woman to Join Harvard University, Receive a PhD from UoN

Julia Ojiambo
Former politician and academic Julia Ojiambo PHOTO/X, formerly Twitter

Julia Ojiambo is a Kenyan woman politician, academic, researcher and gender activist.

She made a name for himself as the first African student to join the Royal Technical College before it was renamed to the University of Nairobi.

Ojiambo is also the first Kenyan woman to set foot at Harvard University and the first woman to graduate with a PhD in Kenya.

Further, she is the first black African lecturer at the University of Nairobi and the first female MP in the entire Western province.

But who is Ojiambo? Here is her story as told by EAFeed.

Ojiambo was born on November 29, 1936, in what is now Busia County, and is the daughter of pioneer African missionaries.

Her educational background is filled with outstanding milestones; she was one of the first eight students to benefit from Kenya’s African Girls High School pilot project.

Ojiambo was assigned by the Ministry of Education to Friends School Kamusinga as part of a pilot project by USAID to introduce agricultural courses in Kenyan secondary schools.

She sat for the Cambridge School Certificate examinations in 1954 at the age of 17.

Ojiambo was subsequently sent to Vihiga Teachers College to engage in a programme designed to advance teachers from P4 to P3.

Ojiambo was admitted as the first African female student at the Royal Technical College, now known as the University of Nairobi, on April 26, 1956, one year after completing her secondary schooling.

In 1958, this pioneering single student from this institution’s Home Science Department earned a Diploma in Home Economics.

She later got a United Nations/FAO/UNICEF Fellowship to study Community Nutrition at London University, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Community Health.

Ojiambo spent some time in London working as a presenter for the BBC World Service’s East African station.

After completing her undergraduate studies, she was employed by the University of Nairobi as the first African woman assistant lecturer and warden.

Three years after enrolling at the University of Nairobi, she was awarded a scholarship at Harvard University in the United States to pursue a Master of Science in Public Health.

A third scholarship allowed her to join in a PhD programme at McGill University in Canada, but due to family obligations, she chose to pursue her doctoral studies at the University of Nairobi’s new Medical School, becoming the first student to get a PhD in that faculty.

Ojiambo began her academic career as a lecturer, initially at the University of Nairobi and later at Kenyatta University.

She became involved in politics because she wanted to take on more ambitious projects.

In 1974, she stood for the Busia Central Parliamentary Seat against the existing MP, Arthur Ochwada, a reputable politician and former liberation fighter with close relations to the first family because he was married to then-President Jomo Kenyatta’s granddaughter Lucy Nyokabi.

Ojiambo won, becoming the first female Western MP elected to Parliament.

She was, nevertheless, only the second woman elected to parliament, following Kisumu’s Grace Onyango.

Ojiambo’s appointment to the Ministry of Housing and Social Services made her the first woman Assistant Minister.

She was later appointed as Assistant Minister of Basic Education in 1982.

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