Judith Mbula Bahemuka

Judith Mbula Bahemuka is a professor at the University of Nairobi as well as a sociologist with a specialisation in rural development. The focus of her work has been poverty reduction through the utilisation of farming systems to provide sustainable livelihoods for rural families. She has also gained recognition for her contribution to knowledge on the role of women in agricultural development.

Judith is acknowledged to be one of the country’s greatest academic minds. In 1970, she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Marygrove College in Detroit in the United States. She graduated from the University of Nairobi with a Master of Arts in Sociology and later on with a doctorate in the same. Judith also holds a Post Doctorate Certificate in International Agriculture and Rural Development from Cornell University in the US, and a Certificate in International Relations from Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota. Moreover, she was awarded the Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Kalamazoo College in Michigan and Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut.

In addition, Judith has held several fellowships, such as the Hubert Humphrey Fellowship which she held from 1982 to 1984, and the University of Nairobi Graduate Teaching Fellowship which she held from 1974 to 1977. Judith’s long career has enabled her to work in various capacities and accumulate experience in several areas. She worked with Kenya National AIDS Secretariat from its inception and supported the 1992 to 1993 Evaluation of AIDS in Kenya. Between 1994 and 1998, she worked as a professor at the University of Nairobi, and also served as the chairperson of the university’s Department of Sociology. During this period, from 1995 to 1997, she participated in preparing the Sessional Paper on HIV/AIDS, chairing the committee on women, children and HIV/AIDS.

In 1997, she became the UNESCO Chair on Women Education, Health and Sustainable Development and held this position until 2003 when she was appointed the Kenya Permanent Representative and Ambassador to United Nations in New York. She held this position until 2006. In the year 2000, she established the International Learning Centre at the University of Nairobi and served as the first director. The centre has so far produced high quality scholarly work under the title ‘East Africa in Transition’. Judith was also the chairperson of the Social and Human
Sciences National Committee at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) National Commission., and represented Kenya on the UNESCO executive board. The Loreto Convent Msongari alumna has also served as chairperson of several national boards such as the Kenya Rural Enterprise Programme (KREP) Development Agency Board of Directors. She has also been the vice chairperson of the Commission for Higher Education, now the Commission for University Education. In 2013, she was appointed chancellor of the University of Eldoret. Internationally, she has worked closely with the Global Partners Project which brings together the Great Lakes Colleges Association of USA, Associated Colleges from the South, and the Association of Colleges of the Midwest. Judith also held positions as the Kenya High Commissioner to Canada and the Ambassador to Cuba between 2006 and 2009. Judith’s work continues to make an impact both in the country and internationally.

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