Rachel Kitonyo of Kenya Honored for… | Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids
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Rachel Kitonyo of Kenya Honored for Leadership in Global Fight against Tobacco

April 29, 2009

Rachel Kitonyo WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rachel Kitonyo of Kenya will receive the second annual Judy Wilkenfeld Award for International Tobacco Control Excellence for her leadership in the fight against tobacco use in Africa and around the world. The Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids will present Kitonyo with the award at its annual awards gala in Washington, D.C. on May 6, 2009.

The Wilkenfeld award was established in honor of Judy Wilkenfeld, the founder of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids’ international program, who passed away in May 2007. The award recognizes international tobacco control advocates who both contribute significantly to reducing tobacco use and inspire others to do the same, in the spirit exemplified by Wilkenfeld.

“Rachel Kitonyo’s dedication and leadership in working to reduce tobacco use in Kenya and throughout Africa make her a highly deserving recipient of this award. Her efforts are helping to reverse the tobacco epidemic and its devastating toll in Africa. She exemplifies Judy’s gift of uniting and inspiring people, fostering consensus and nurturing those with whom she works,” said Matthew L. Myers, President of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.

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, among others. As a result of ILA’s efforts, the bill became Kenya’s Tobacco Control Act, enacted in 2007, giving Kenya one of the strongest
tobacco- control laws in Africa.

Under Kitonyo’s leadership in 2006, ILA took a leading role in founding a new umbrella coalition, the Kenya Tobacco Control Alliance. Kitonyo is also making an impact on tobacco control in Africa outside Kenya, helping draft a constitution in late 2008 for a new African alliance of tobacco-control organizations that became the African Tobacco Control Alliance. Kitonyo was elected by the Alliance to serve as its first chair. The latest figures show that 12,000 people in Kenya die per year due to tobacco-related illnesses.

“It was a pleasant surprise to hear that I had received the Judy Wilkenfeld 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,” said Kitonyo.

Kitonyo’s closest colleagues describe her as purposeful, energetic and passionate. Like Judy 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.

The Campaign and the Wilkenfeld family and friends established the annual award to honor a tobacco control advocate who is not only an achiever, but someone who works daily to unify the community, mentors and serves as a role model for others, and demonstrates a unique respect for the diversity of colleagues.

Judy Wilkenfeld worked to reduce tobacco's toll for more than 20 years, first as a public official and then as a leader of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids international efforts. Among her many accomplishments, she played an integral role in the development and adoption of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the emergence of the Framework Convention Alliance.