Story of Michelle Emali
Many beliefs and habits are formed and entrenched during one’s formative years. And in case where alternative worldview is unavailable, people hold on to that which was passed on to them in their younger years. But the opportunities that come our way to study, work, and network often serve the role of shifting some of these beliefs.
This is the story of Michelle Email, and ELF-Africa Fellow. Growing up she knew and viewed leadership as a preserve of certain people, men to be precise. Because for her, growing up she seldom interacted with any women who had influence or were entrusted with public responsibility. This got her thinking that women were by fate designed to always be at the back burner.
“I used to believe that leaders are born and that women cannot be good leaders,”
This perspective would be challenged in 2013 when she sat in her first ELF-Africa class. Having chosen to beat the odds, Michelle founded Vijan4Peace and Empowerment, a community-based organization to rally young people to champion for peace in the lead up to the 2013 general elections. The then third year student was attending a peace conference where she had the rare privilege of hearing ELF-Africa founder Caren Wakoli speak. This was the beginning of her new self and her journey in intentional leadership.
“I was so inspired by how Caren spoke and how passionate she was about positively changing the lives of young people. I approached her after the event, introduced myself and of course, asked for a meeting.” she says.
After this chanced meeting with Caren, she joined ELF-Africa’s pioneer cohort dubbed Ladies of Splendor where she was elected the cohort president. It was through this leadership that Michelle and her cohort gained agenda setting, effective campaign, ethical leadership, and mobilization skills that they used to support their friends who were running for different seats in the school leadership under the umbrella of SONU-Students Organisation of Nairobi University, which has now since been rebranded to UNSA-University of Nairobi Students Association.
Other areas in which she grew through the ladies of splendor leadership programme are public speaking, negotiation, and emotional intelligence. In the foregoing days, ELF-Africa would link them with other like-minded organizations such as the National Democracy Institute and Heshimika Program, and the Heinrich Boll Foundation where her interest, passion, and capacity in leadership continued to be nurtured and her worldview shifted.
“I now believe that leadership should be nurtured, and it can come as early as in childhood. It is never too early to start working on your goals.”
On completion of the ladies of splendor leadership program and the mentorship that comes with it, Michelle was elected at the chairperson of the Maendeleo Ya Wanawake Organization in her Kilimani Ward. This as she says was just the starting point of the many opportunities, she would have to apply her leadership skills. A welfare group in Harambee Ward, Makadara Constituency soon tapped her as their patron, a role she has served in with distinction.
With the fire of leadership as service still burning in her, Michelle now has her eyes trailed on the Makadara parliamentary seat which she intends to run for in the 2027 general elections. She says having learnt the value of investing in communities and instituting sustainable impact from ELF-Africa, she feels representing the people of Makadara in the national assembly will put her in a pole position to champion for the overdue social change and economic empowerment of her constituents.
She signs out by sending a message to other young people in Africa and across…keep dreaming and believing, then work towards what you believe is possible.
Michelle Emali is an ELF-Africa Fellow of the pioneer cohort