In memory of a mentor, inspirational leader and a trailblazer – SACGP, Madam Wanini Kireri, EBS, Former Commandant – Prisons Staff Training College
23rd June 2022
Today, the world marks Public Service Day – A Day etched by the UN twenty years ago to celebrate the value and virtue of public service to the community; highlight the contribution of public service in the development process; recognize the work of public servants, and encourage young people to pursue careers in the public sector.
There is no better day than today to celebrate and commemorate one magnificent public servant who literally took and owned the very ideals of public service to a whole new frontier. Wanini Kireri may be unknown to many in the civil society (or maybe not) but she was a truly well-established and highly celebrated civil servant who worked and rose through the rank and file of the Kenya Prisons Service, championing reforms and human rights throughout her whole career. Having worked for a long time under her tutelage, I learnt selfless leadership, passion, zeal, persistence and grit – ideals that I would long after strive to personify within my career and life.
She stood firm for what she believed and championed her cause fervently – humanizing the work of corrections and giving offenders a second chance, literally believing in them to be better citizens. And she did this effortlessly, working with and through colleagues and partners to bring to light and pursue a lifelong goal of leaving a better correctional system. For this, she was widely celebrated with accolades nationally (Wanini was the first recipient of the Public Servant of the Year Award in 2015) as well as internationally (recognized and awarded by the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA) as the Outstanding Correctional Service Employee 2018. This is just but a snippet of the many accolades that Wanini received over the years. But her greatest appeal was not driven by fame and recognition, but in the spirit and ethos of Service to the Public. She fervently believed in creating a better correctional service and dedicated her life and career to doing exactly that.
Truly there is no greater realm of calling than dedicating your life to service to the people and doing so wholeheartedly and selflessly. Wanini is one of the many sung and unsung heroes that dot our public service. People who bring to life the values, attitudes and dedication to Service. There is no better day to celebrate and lift such individuals than today. Under this year’s theme, “Building back better from COVID-19: Enhancing innovative partnerships to meet the Sustainable Development Goals,” we are all challenged to build bridges and partnerships across the divide in the spirit of SDG 17 to meet the challenges of a post-COVID-19 era.
To achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, we need to build effective, accountable and inclusive public institutions that respond to the needs of the citizens and is geared towards improving people’s lives. Without partnering with the Wanini’s within the public service as the cornerstone of such transformational growth and reform, realizing a better future for all will be impossible.
As we mark this important day, let us celebrate not only the work of public servants worldwide but their commitment to working in partnership to build a better future for all people (Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General).
PS: Ms. Wanini Kireri passed away on 31st May, 2022 after a short illness. May her soul continue to Rest in Peace and may her legacy live forever.
-Dennis Mungo, Executive Director, Youth Alive! Kenya