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Twins on a mission to save the world



Stella and Winnie Mutai are twins with a five-minute age difference. Inseparable from birth, they took different career paths. Climate change brought them back together.


Lucy Githugo, bird story agency


Stella and Winnie Mutai were virtually inseparable after being born a mere five minutes apart and that is how it stayed, all the way until university. Then came their first big shock.


"Being twins goes beyond being born together and at the same time. It is a purposeful thing that can only be witnessed rather than explained," said Stella Mutai, who is today a specialist at the World Food Programme.


Born and raised in Nakuru, they attended all the same schools. But then came university. For the first time, the future for the twins began to diverge, when they chose different career paths.


"I was so used to being with her for 18 years, and it was hard for me when we had to join different universities and live separate lives in different towns. I did not think we would ever reconnect again or be together most of the time," said Winnie Mutai.


Stella chose to study for a Bachelor of Science in Geospatial Information Science at the Dedan Kimathi University of Technology in Nyeri, while Winnie opted for a Bachelor in Development Studies at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Juja.


Once graduated, and as they pursued their different careers, however, a similar interest meant their new orbits began to re-align.


"We discovered we were both dealing with climate change matters in our different roles when we would get invites and attend the same conferences and meetings," Stella explained.


Stella is now a Geospatial and Remote Sensing analyst at the Emergencies Operations at the World Food Programme (WFP), and Winnie is a Climate Change Finance expert at the Africa Development Bank (AfDB).


As a Geospatial analyst, Stella was the WFP's specialist providing support during the 2022 Madagascar floods, which impacted its capital, destroying infrastructure, and causing loss of life.


"My role in the unfortunate incident was to assess the impact of the floods, mapping out and identifying possible rescue sites," Stella explained.


Winnie is a professional who advises and teaches Finance Ministers in Africa about obtaining grants for their countries. She has established a robust network of government officials and NGOs to provide climate finance for her employer.


"We did not plan to be in this space we are in right now but things just aligned," said Stella.


"While Stella is a married woman, we still meet often to discuss job matters and I call her almost ten times daily. I love exchanging ideas with my sister because she offers sound advice and understands climate change issues at a level that connects us as adults," said Winnie.


The duo has been recognised locally and internationally, with Stella recently acknowledged as one of the top 40 women under 40 in Kenya, as well as one of the Geospatial World 50 Rising Stars.


Winnie is an accomplished speaker who has addressed international meetings and important events like the 38th graduation ceremony of JKUAT, where she was named Alumni of the Year. She spoke to 5,836 graduates about the pressing issue of Climate Change.


In their different capacities, they both agree and believe that Africa has the potential to emerge as a trailblazing global hub of climate action and are animated by a shared vision of giving back to society, drawing inspiration from their international travels and encounters with influential world leaders.


Their fame has prompted other well know figures to reach out and offer advice and encouragement, both in person and through social media.


"Low and middle-income countries tend to only come up in the context of adaptation, adjusting to the effects of climate change, or financing to help them recover from loss and damage. My challenge to the twins is to think of innovative ways Africa can support its own transformation while helping the world avoid climate disaster," said Lizz Ntonjira, current Communications and Engagement Director at WomenLift Health and former AMREF Global Communications Director.


"I would advise the twins to continue to horn their skills in specific areas of expertise, and at the same time try to develop leadership skills that will enable them to grow and lead organisations where they are working. There are very few women in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and they have a good opportunity to grow their talents and passions on environmental issues," advised Dr Philip Osano, Stockholm Environment Institute Africa Center Director.


The twins have said they intend to continue to work in their individual areas of expertise to aid the continent's fight against climate change.


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