Three years after winning Miss Tourism Kenya and Miss Tourism Africa crowns in 2001, writes BOBASTLES OWINO NONDI, Debra Sanaipei Ntimama has just launched a non-governmental organisation to provide healthcare, education, and clothing to needy children.
Launched on December 8, 2004, Ntimama’s Malaika Network Foundation will raise its Sh10 million (about US$125000) locally and internationally. She says this money is required over the next three years starting in 2005 when 24 needy youth are to be taken to secondary school. The foundation will build schools and medical facilities in rural areas where they are needed most across the country. Although her focus in 2001 was the ‘marginalized Maasai girls,’ the ninth born of cabinet minister William ole Ntimama’s children says she is now targeting all disadvantaged children in Kenya.
And Ntimama does not fight shy of voicing her concerns. Any concern. She voices concerns about the handling of beauty pageant contestants: “Why are the organisers charging non-refundable Sh1000 [about US$12.5] fee from contestants while there are sponsors? Why are the mangers taking between 40% and 50% from commercial deals while they should only take 20%? Why can’t the guardians of the girls be allowed to have a say in the contracts, as many of these girls know little about contracts? Why aren’t there provisions of things like salaries, cars, and telephones during the contract duration?” She says many managers and organisers often take advantage of the “naïve girls for their own selfish ends.”
Could this explain why Miss World Kenya 2004, Juliet Atieno Ochieng, returned home alone and had no one waiting to receive her when she returned to the country on December 6 from Sanya, China, because she had not won the Miss World 2004 crown? Ntimama has in the recent past been drawn to the controversial constitution of Kenya review process that she says should not be left to parliamentarians alone. “I have written letters to Legal and Constitutional Affairs Minister, Kiraitu Murungi, telling him what I wished and what Kenyans want. Kenyans had spoken and this has not changed. We can’t just let billions of shillings go to waste, and follow the interests of a small group of politicians,” she says. As Miss Tourism, Ntimama travelled with Kenya Tourist Board promoting cultural tourism and trade in the Americas and Europe.
She also worked with, among others, Kenya Airways, Safaricom and German Development Organisation (GTZ) in promoting their services. Besides creating awareness on HIV/AID, raising funds for schools, and planting trees, she made speeches in Germany and Italy and was one of the official escorts of Princess Bernardette of Denmark, and a host of African First Ladies when each visited Kenya. She was a member of the organising team of the International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (ICASA) conference held in Nairobi in October 2003. Ntimama, who now writes a column, Sanaipei Says, “in Daily Nation every Monday and co-hosts Mambo Leo, a current affairs programme on Kenya Broadcasting Television, says she promoted Maasai pride, cultural outfit and welfare during her reign as Miss Tourism Kenya. Acknowledging that there is class gap in Kenya, Sanaipei says that she has managed to blend well in any environment because ,I don’t look down upon anyone.”
This has made the people, regardless of their condition, to accept and look up to me. “Ntimama ‘acted’ with the Reddikyulass stand-up comedy trio of Walter Mong’are (Nyambane), John Kiarie (KJ) and Anthony Njuguna (Tony), in some of their television shows. Almost three years later, little appears to have changed as Ntimama still gives speeches, does fundraising, gets invitations to launches of products and services, travels for promotions, and supports the less privileged in society. She currently sits on the board of Kenya Society for the Handicapped and is a member of the Kenya Autism Society where she does fundraising and creates awareness. Ntimama is quick to say that her commitment to her cause is not pegged to Miss Tourism crown.
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The crown did not define me. I am just doing what I had always wanted to do: being the voice of the voiceless,” she says. She attributes her success to her parents who she looks up to as role models. “They have been a source of inspiration. My father, for instance, always asked us what we thought about his actions and words, even when it came to politics and he took our views seriously.” Ntimama, 27, holds a mater’s degree in international law from London School of Economics and a bachelor of arts in law and politics from Re Montfat University.