Lizzie Wanyoike and the rise of beauty therapy as art and craft

She left a mark on the lives of many youths, including my daughter

In Summary

• The late education visionary uplifted youth by giving them a second lease of life

Nibs CEO Lizzie Wanyoike
Nibs CEO Lizzie Wanyoike
Image: Image: Facebook

Lizzie Wanyoike (1951-2024), the visionary founder of the popular Technical and Vocational Education and Training college Nibs, is gone. She died last month. However, she left a remarkable mark on the lives of many youths, including my firstborn Nina.

My daughter faced a challenging situation after completing her KCSE in 2018 without meeting the requirements for university entry. Resolute and firm, she refused to resit KCSE, characteristic of the resolute stance of her generation, often referred to as Gen Z.

In our family’s moment of despair, Nina’s grandmother, an avid listener of Kameme FM radio, shared the inspiring story of Lizzie Wanyoike and her unwavering encouragement for youth of Kenya today not to succumb to despair.

Instead, Wanyoike advised many to take matatus of route 237 or 145 on Thika Superhighway, alight at Ruiru Kimbo and visit NIBS. Following this guidance, we visited her at her office, where she warmly received both my daughter and me.

Studying Nina’s KCSE result slip carefully, Lizzie reassured us, saying, “Daktari, worry not.” She then asked the young girl fresh from high school about her aspirations, to which she confidently expressed her interest in hairdressing, cosmetology or beauty therapy. Despite my academic apprehensions, Lizzie prophesied that daughter would thrive in these fields and would one day support herself and others.

True to Lizzie’s visionary guidance, Nina enrolled at Nibs in 2019, focusing on beauty-related studies. By 2021, she had completed her diploma studies. As the Covid-19 pandemic wreaked havoc on Kenyan households and economies, she delved into cosmetology, earning a minimum of Sh1,000 a day by 2022.

The impact of her training became evident as she generously shared her earnings, often bringing groceries for the family. Her financial stability and entrepreneurial success in the beauty industry surpassed the prospects of many of her peers, who were waiting for teaching jobs from the Teachers Service Commission, a process known for its prolonged waiting period.


Hairdressing, cosmetology and beauty therapy have evolved into integral components of a thriving sector within small and medium-sized enterprises in Kenya today. Graduates of TVET institutions in this sector play a crucial role in the socioeconomics of our societies, particularly in the context of youth employment.

This industry not only contributes to personal grooming but also serves as a significant source of livelihood, fostering entrepreneurship and economic growth. The sector’s accessibility, coupled with the rising demand for personal care services, positions it as an attractive avenue for young entrepreneurs, creating opportunities for economic empowerment and community engagement.

The beauty and grooming sector, comprising hairdressing, cosmetology and beauty therapy, transcends the concerns of mere personal care; it is an art form.

This connection to art is palpable in the creative expression of aesthetic concepts, artistic techniques and the incorporation of principles of design and colour theory. Hair styling, makeup application and beauty treatments represent unique forms of artistic expression, making this sector an integral part of the broader artistic practice.

Our governments and education stakeholders need to concentrate more on the symbiotic relationship between the beauty industry and art. They should explore in terms of policy ways that can leverage this connection to foster creative education programmes for beauty professionals. For example, to date, there are no standard textbooks for this sector. Is there a policy gap?

By promoting the incorporation of cultural heritage into beauty practices and offering financial incentives and mentorship for entrepreneurship, county governments can play a pivotal role in enhancing the artistic and creative ecosystem in a society.

The sector’s adaptability and resilience have become increasingly evident, especially in the face of global challenges such as the Covid-19 pandemic. While the pandemic disrupted numerous industries, the beauty and grooming sector demonstrated its ability to navigate challenges and emerge as a resilient force in the economic framework by networking with digital and social media spaces.

The gamble has paid off in a major way. Many beauty therapists, including my daughter, have a strong presence on social media platforms, where the young and youth, clienteles included, spend most of their social time.

Affordable TVET holds paramount significance in the context of developing economies like Kenya. This form of education serves as a powerful tool for addressing the pressing issues of unemployment, poverty and skill gaps, offering a practical and accessible pathway to economic empowerment and sustainable development.

For low-income families, TVET provides a cost-effective alternative to traditional higher education, allowing individuals to pursue specialised skills without incurring the high expenses associated with university degrees.

This is particularly crucial in our motherland, where most jobs are in technical and vocational sectors. By focusing on practical skills, TVET ensures that individuals are well-prepared for the demands of the workforce, increasing their chances of securing stable employment and breaking the cycle of poverty.

Major principles that underpinned Mwalimu Wanyoike’s TVET vision for years exist. Firstly, her NIBS technical college emphasises on relevance, ensuring that the skills imparted align with the needs of industries and contribute to economic growth.

Secondly, she adopted inclusivity as a priority to ensure her programmes are accessible to a diverse range of individuals, promoting gender equality and social inclusion.

Wisdom says: Bury my bones but keep my words. May Kenyans keep Mama Lizzie’s educational philosophy and vision beyond her demise.

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