30 Apr 2009
The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids (CTFK) will award Kenyan Rachel Kitonyo
with its Judy Wilkenfeld award for International Tobacco Control Excellence. The awards will take place in Washington DC on May 6.
In a country where 12,000 people die a year from tobacco related illnesses, CTFK president Matthew Myers said Kitonyo’s dedication and leadership in helping to reduce tobacco use in Kenya and throughout Africa made her a highly deserving recipient of the award.
“Her efforts are helping to reverse the tobacco epidemic and its devastating toll in Africa,” he said. “She exemplifies Judy’s gift of uniting and inspiring people, fostering consensus and nurturing those with whom she works.”
The award, in its second year, was established to honor the organization’s international program founder Judy Wilkenfeld who passed away in May 2007. It recognizes international tobacco control advocates who contribute significantly to reducing tobacco use and inspire others to do the same in the spirit exemplified by Wilkenfeld.
For more than 20 years, Wilkenfeld worked to reduce tobacco’s toll on humanity and she played an integral role in the development and adoption of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, and the emergence of the Framework Convention Alliance.
Kitonyo’s closest colleagues describe Kitonyo as purposeful, energetic and passionate. And like Wilkenfeld, her integrity, cultural sensitivity and respect for others have enabled her to unite people and create significant change for the tobacco control movement in Kenya and Africa.
In 2005 Kitonyo established the Institute for Legislative Affairs (ILA) and currently serves as its executive director. The ILA took a leading role in strengthening, revising and guiding a strong tobacco-control bill through Kenya ’s parliamentary approval process. The bill contains provisions relating to smoke-free places, pack warnings and a ban on advertising, promotion and sponsorships of tobacco products. As a result of ILA’s efforts, the bill became Kenya’s Tobacco Control Act, enacted in 2007 – providing Kenya with one of strongest tobacco control laws in Africa .
Under Kitonyo’s leadership in 2006, the ILA founded a new umbrella coalition, the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance. Kitonyo also helped draft a constitution in late 2008 for a new African alliance of tobacco control organizations, which became the African Tobacco Control Alliance. The alliance then elected Kitonyo as its first chair.
Kitonyo said she was pleasantly surprised to hear she would receive the award. “It assured me that the work we are doing here in Kenya to combat the harmful impacts of tobacco use is not in vain.”