Kenyans of a certain age will immediately recall her name as her best known novel, The River and the Source, was required reading for the high school leaving national examinations (KCSE) from 1999 to 2004.
The line by the main protagonist’s father, Chief Odero, the father of Akoko “A home without daughters is like a spring without a source” was a fitting one for a book that placed the stories of the lives of three generations of women at its center.
This book that embraced the spirit of strong African women, while immersing and celebrating Luo culture and tradition, from pre to postcolonial times, won the 1995 Jomo Kenyatta Prize for Literature and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize, Best First Book, Africa region.
Dr. Ogola was herself a strong and very accomplished woman even before writing her first book. She worked as a pediatrician and continued her work in the medical field serving in directorial positions at several NGOs focusing on HIV & AIDS at the height of the scourge in the country. This was in addition to writing three more books.
Today, Google honors this legendary Kenyan novelist, doctor and human rights activist on what would have been her 60th birthday if she had not passed away in 2011 after a long battle with cancer. The doodle was set for Google Kenya users.
Her words ring true today as they did when she first spoke them at Beijing conference in 1995, discussing the dignity of the African woman: “Unless we recognize that each individual is irrepeatable (sic) and valuable by virtue of simply being conceived human, we cannot begin to talk about human rights. The accidental attributes that we acquire such as color, sex, intelligence, economic circumstances, physical or mental disability should not be used as an excuse to deprive a person of life.”