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Faith Nyasuguta

In April 2008, Teresa Njoroge, a Kenyan banker, was going about her usual business when a man approached her and requested for a 3-step cash withdrawal service. 

He wanted his money USD 77, 610 (approximately Ksh 10 million) transferred to another bank branch and having done the job before, Ms Njoroge saw nothing unusual and went ahead to authorise the transaction. 

“My branch manager had to authorise it too. Plus the other branch’s manager. We all did approve, and everything was in place and in order,” she mentioned in an interview.

It is this particular transaction that would later land her eight months at Kenya’s Lang’ata Women Maximum Security Prison.

The man whose transaction had been initiated was not the authorised owner of the account and two weeks later, the real owner realised that his money was missing.

“It was a puzzle because six bank employees had authorised the transaction at each stage until payment. The bank could have proven that the client withdrew the money but the security did not have the footage,” she narrated.

Several months later, Ms. Njoroge was arrested and told that she would carry the cross for the other employees involved.

Teresa Njoroge /LinkedIn/

She was taken to the Maximum Women’s Prison with her three-month-old daughter, where she served for a period of eight months.

“I honestly thought I would get justice even though the arresting officer was making a huge mistake. I did tell him that he had the wrong person. I didn’t steal the money, I didn’t defraud the bank but he insisted and acknowledged that he knew he had the wrong person,” she disclosed.

While serving her time, Ms. Njoroge, who had been wrongly convicted of the financial crime realised that quite a number of women at the prison were not criminals.

“70 per cent of the women there were not actual criminals. They were poor and illiterate. Victims of a broken system and society had profiled prisoners. We had criminalised poverty,” she added.

It is these thoughts that led her to set up Clean Start, an organisation that looks to empower women who are in prison, once she had served her time.

The organisation helps women have a smooth transition into society after serving their time.

Ms. Njoroge left prison in November 2011 but it was not until February 2013, that the courts dropped the theft charges after realising that she had been wrongfully convicted.

“This first-hand harsh and unjust experience with the criminal justice system is what inspired me to set up the social enterprise – Clean Start,” she says.

“I had one aim, to ensure that other women would have a more justified experience than what my daughter and I had, one with dignity, hope and a pathway to rebuilding their lives.”

She has since earned Global recognition for her remarkable work. In May 2019, she was awarded by Global Thinkers Forum for her Excellence as an African Female Leader.

Ms. Njoroge /LinkedIn/

Other than that, she has hosted a Ted Talk, and just recently, on June 1, 2022 Ms. Njoroge was among five Kenyans selected to join the Ford Global Fellowship run by the Ford Foundation – an American private foundation with the mission of advancing human welfare.

“There is purpose in pain and there is a reason why that pain comes your way. There is something positive about it. If only you change your attitude,” she advises.

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Faith Nyasuguta

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