Wanjiku Chiuri (PhD ‘96) has built her impressive academic and consulting career on the pillars of education, gender and the environment. Three areas she says are rooted in our shared, basic humanity.
“No society can develop without a grounded education on the environment and gender due to the fact that the environment gives us the source of our livelihoods and gender is critical because any gender discrimination jeopardizes the prudent management of our environment,” she says.
An established international gender expert, particularly in developing countries, Wanjiku did her undergrad in sociology at the University of Nairobi. She also obtained an MES from York University where her focus was participatory project planning and management. In 2003, she won a Fulbright Fellowship to serve as Senior Scholar in Residence at Beloit College in Wisconsin. There, her PhD focus was gender in planning and resource development in developing countries.
Wanjiku’s work over the years has involved themes as far-reaching as citizen participation and poverty reduction — specifically in developing rural areas where she brings an innovative and refreshing perspectives, while integrating a much-needed gender-lens. Particularly groundbreaking is her ability to bring together traditional rules of access to land, existing land tenure policies, and gender.
Today, Wanjiku works at Laikipia University in Kenya where she serves is deputy vice chancellor of Academic, Research and Student Affairs, and is an associate professor of Environmental Science in the Department of Earth Sciences.
Never bound by the halls of academia, Wanjiku applies her expertise and knowledge to an impressive scope of consultancy projects, serving as a gender mainstreaming expert and a gender trainer in various sectors including environment, agriculture, and education.
Wanjiku believes academia should serve the community and the community, in turn, should inform the issues academia addresses. “Academia is answerable to the community that funds it and gives it space in their midst” she says. “Without the community the academia cannot be,” she says.
As such she has been a pivotal member of the Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) team, leading gender and environment issues while mobilizing community participation in sustainable rural development projects. She is on an advisory team that supports the Laikipia County Government on issues of gender, environment and education.
As a member of the Independent Steering Committee, Wanjiku also provides gender expertise to Roots, Tubers and Bananas, a CGIAR centres partnership collaboration of five research supporting smallhold farmers, consumers and other stakeholders. She is also secretary and supervisory committee member of a successful female majority cooperative in Kenya with an asset portfolio of approximately $30 million USD. The for the past three years it's been was honoured as the best managed Savings and Credit Cooperative Society (SACCO) in Kenya.
As if she had any more time in her schedule, her drive for women's rights compelled her to establish a daycare centre for student parents at the Laikipia University — the first daycare of its kind in Kenya.