“ELF helped me believe in myself and step out of my comfort zone”

Vincent Ogallo Mwita is an ardent social worker focused on full eradication of female genital mutilation & gender-based violence cases, with keen interest in championing democracy & youth inclusion in national and devolved system of governance from the South west part of Kenya, Migori county.

Vincent was born and raised in a community where female genital mutilation and gender-based violence cases were a norm. Growing up, youth voices least mattered in the development agenda. This was a struggle for him as he always felt that more needed to be done on GBV. In his quest to form a network of champions against Gender based violence and poor governance that excluded voices of young people from key leadership and decision making spaces in his county, Vincent came across Tunaweza capacity building training, which he choose to be part of.

“I had interacted with most Leadership and Development alumni. Their knowledge, ability and understanding of various issues and conduct really inspired me. I needed to be part of ELF, I was always checking out for any openings,” he adds.

The Tunaweza training project in 2019 was a transformation and turnaround season for Vincent and other trainees as they were able to get capacity building development that shaped their leadership perspective, equipped them with skills to meaningfully engage their county leaders in order to spur social accountability and community-driven development.

Currently, Vincent is the Tunaweza coordinator, Migori county, and also serves as an executive member to the Commonwealth Youth Gender Equality Network (CYGEN); a youth led global network of the 53 African states which actively promotes and supports the meaningful inclusion of youth voices on gender equality issues in local, national, regional, Commonwealth and international agendas.

“The training gave me an opportunity to believe in myself and step out of my comfort zone to go for leadership opportunities even beyond my county of residence. I was able to apply many other leadership and skills development opportunities. Recently, I was among the 207 trainees from 14 African countries who just concluded Yali’s training and I am among the 700 selected Young African Leaders for Mandela Washington Fellowship 2020 who are currently undertaking online trainings.”

Together with other Tunaweza fellows, they have strategized and come up with Migori Tunaweza Empowerment team; a name drawn from the training that they all attended. Under the team, they have positively engaged with their county youth department and raised concerns on various issues, this has further led to the start of the Migori County Youth Technical Working group (TWG); a stakeholders coordination team whose mandate is to champion for youth development agenda within the county sectors and departments through action plans. The team has also been able to develop a Migori County Integrated Action Plan (CIAP) which has contributed a lot in the budgetary processes of the county.

Vincent is also actively engaged in civic education on Constitution of Kenya (2010) with his key priority areas being around devolution and public participation. Through this, he is targeting young people in all sub-counties in Migori to ensure they engage and participate in key development agendas in the county.

Together with his Tunaweza team, they have launched a Covid-19 response campaign dubbed ‘Tunaweza Girl Empowerment-keep girls safe at home’ that targets to reach out to four thousand adolescent girls and one thousand adolescent boys (1000boys) led by team members. “We train them on menstrual hygiene, donate sanitary towels, give them trainings on sexuality and encourage them to abstain from sex as we highlight effects of sex at tender age and negative effects of female genital mutilation. We also provide mentorship to them.”

He also engages in making local door mats, selling, and buying of materials for making re-usable cloth sanitary towels as a social enterprise venture that aims to provide sustainable, accessible and affordable sanitation for young women and girls. “We get little income and in return use some of them in solving the menstrual problems amongst the rural needy girls. So far, the project has reached out to over five thousand (5000) young women and girls since 2019 with the re-usable cloth sanitary towels as we make.”

We celebrate Vincent and his efforts in fighting GBV, FGM and championing for good governance in his county.

 

Rodgers Omollo: ELF gave me power

Growing up as an orphan is not only a challenge but an opportunity to understand and have a different view of life.  Life presented me with the opportunity to be stronger and a go-getter. My father died before I was born while my mother passed on when I was in class two. My grandmother took me in and instilled in me Christian values and how to be contented with the little.

ELF has given me the power to influence and serve my community

I always knew that in me there was passion for leadership and service, but I doubted myself based on the kind of work that life presented me including being a fishmonger and hawker. I latter landed on an NGO job which led to a poor state of mental health and depression. I wanted to quit but I was afraid of surviving without employment. ‘Dying in the line of duty is heroic but dying while unemployed is just stupid.’

Being a young person, I was always looking for networks and opportunities to grow and transform lives, to be a better version of myself.  I came to across ELF on Facebook through their call for mentees. I doubted it and thought it might be a scum having been a victim before. But then I thought, ‘Why not give it a shot, there is nothing to lose.’

Once I was done with my application, I completely forgot about it and continued with my job-search as I needed to work at a place where my mind could be at peace. Moreover, I just made the application with no expectation of feedback. Later in the month, I got a phone call for an interview in Nairobi which I could not manage to physically avail myself to. I requested for a job interview, which I got and went through it. A few days after the interview, I got an email for informing me of admission to cohort 7.

This is when my journey into being a better and a transformative leader begun. A dream fulfilled. That is how the realization to my dreams and unearthing my potentials began. That admission changed my life, entirely. I have learnt a lot; the power of networking, mentorship, and presenting myself. ELF gave me an opportunity to discover my passion and realize my path in life. ELF gave me power!

After the mentorship, I was bold enough to quit my job and start my own initiative.  I founded a youth-led organization in Homabay town by the name Activate Action (https://activateaction.org/), where am currently serving as the director and youth program officer.  The organization works with young people living with HIV, disability, and gender minority to overcome day to day challenges including g; unemployment, crime, HIV/AIDS, unhealthy relationships, mental health, and gambling. We seek to ensure that there is meaningful engagement of young people through life skills training and mentorship on Sexual reproductive health, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Currently, we are running the following programs and services:

  1. Mentorship on Sexual Reproductive Health, Mental Health, Relationships, Online Child Protection
  2. Feeding Program for Orphaned Children and Child-Headed Families
  3. Environmental conversations
  4. Online sessions on leadership, HIV management, and leadership
  5. Car wash
  6. Small scale agribusiness for the youth living with disabilities

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give, ELF has given me the power to influence and serve my community. Through ELF Staff members, trainers and fellow leaders, I learnt a lot on brotherhood and my network has really grown due to exposure and openings presented by ELF through events and forums.  One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone, that is what ELF taught me. I plan to plant the same seed that ELF planted in me to other young people in my community through activate action.

 

By Rodgers Omollo, LDP Cohort 7

Winfred Mukosi: From noise to voice to impact

Winnie is a Moi University graduate with a Bachelor of Business Management. She is the founder of Linda Watoto, a Community Based Organisation (CBO) that runs its operations in Makueni county. The CBO advocates for children rights, mentors’ kids to grow and be part of a promising generation that will run the nation in later days. She is also an advocate for gender equality and equity. An enthusiast of politics and governance, Winnie is the current county lead of Tunaweza in Makueni county where she leads advocacy for good governance and youth engagement.

I am a living testimony, of transformation; from being a noise maker, to a voice of the voiceless.

Besides being the Tunaweza county lead and founder of Linda Watoto, she is also a member of the Regional Women Forum of International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, an appointment she recently got to serve in the Kenyan chapter of ICGLR RWF as the person  in-charge of Humanitarian and Social issues pillar at national level. In the line of children and gender rights, she is a member of Makueni county gender-based violence (GBV) committee and a trained anti-GBV champion by the gender violence recovery centre of Nairobi women. Currently she is working on having a POLICARE centre – a one-stop centre for handling GBV cases- in Makueni county.

She credits much of her current confidence and abilities to her ELF training. Through this, she got to understand herself and started unlocking her potential and activating them.

“My first interaction with ELF Africa was in June 2018 during the youth devolution conference. I learnt so much about devolution and the NOISE to VOICE became my assignment. Seven months after the devolution conference, I heard that ELF was coming to our county, I expressed my interest to be part of the team that was trained. That was the greatest eye opener to my advocacy and governance work: the budgeting process, the county government documents, the devolution structure, roles of every leader, how to get information and the petition process. By the end of the training I became a VOICE.”

She has also been able to grow on her digital advocacy skills, personal branding, and fact-finding courtesy of her Husika training, that she got at ELF.

As the Tunaweza county lead, she is leading a team of 22 young vibrant members who together, they train and share their advocacy knowledge with other people in the county and lead. They also train people on social accountability and the budgeting making process.

“This country is full of energetic youth, if ELF and other stakeholders can reach out to each and everyone one of them and make them unearth their potentials, I am sure it will leave most of them transformed. We should not be united when tearing each other down but when building ourselves and the nation,” Winnie.

“I am a living testimony, of transformation; from being a noise maker, to a voice of the voiceless and I can see the great impact. From noise to voice and impact”

 

 

Ephantus Mburu: Enlightening young people on opportunities that exist at the county level level

Ephantus Mburu is our alumnus of the day. He is currently serving as the Tunaweza county lead, Muranga county. Ephantus is a trained medical laboratory officer who is practicing the profession besides leading from the  front on matters advocacy. He has a strong passion for good leadership and governance which he believes are vital for the society and country to grow politically and economically. He seeks to progress in terms of his career and continue with advocacy of public interests.

Ephantus credits much of his current knowledge on governance matters to his ELF training. “The training was an eye opener for me. I didn’t know much about budget making process and how I can participate, issues of public participation were also well taught to me and I have actively participated in various public forums and aired my views.”

In his capacity as the Tunaweza county lead, Ephantus leads his team into creating sensitization to youth on matters around governance and campaigning against early pregnancies. “After training, we identified a gap in civic education in our county and we endeavored to enlighten youths in our county on matters of good governance and their rights.”

Through this, they are enlightening more young people on opportunities that exist for them at the county and national level and how they can leverage on opportunities available for them at the county and national level.

“ELF came in handy for us as we got prior training and were advised and directed on a number of issues. Our members have ambitions and in future I hope some will become leaders at corporate and political level and use the knowledge that we are gaining,” Ephantus adds.

His favourite quote, ‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.’

We celebrate Ephantus and his advocacy works.

Ahmed Ashraf: Using sports to fight social ills

Ashraf Ahmed is our alumnus of the week. He is the current Kilifi County lead for ELF’s Tunaweza program and an alumnus of the Leadership and Development program.  Ahmed has been involved in advocacy issues on good governance and is vocal in pushing for public participation in his county.

As a county lead, Ahmed leads a group of young men and women in his county to advocate for goof governance and fight for youth representation in decision making processes as well as policy making.

Besides, Ahmed runs a sports club that he started in his area to bring  youth together and create a platform where young people can showcase and nurture their talents. Currently, the club has football teams for both men and women, and volleyball teams for both genders. The club aims to address social issues in the area and keep young people engaged. “We want to engage the youth and fill gaps that exist in the area on social issues ranging from early marriages to drug abuse. So far, we have tried our best but there is more that needs to be done.”

Ahmed is not only involved in advocacy work and sports; he has also started an income generating initiative that has created employment for people and he’s trying to venture into more of the same. “I recently started an agricultural project that is currently in its initial stages and I am hopefully that it will provide income to the youth. I also have a business that has created employment for a few youth, majority of whom are part of Kakokeni All stars.”

In his line of work, he has come across challenges and notes that the youth need to be more engaged and commited to leadership & advocacy, and have patience as they seek to address matters around the same.

“Young people lack exposure and are not ready to learn and adapt to new works. The fear to knock on doors and fight for increased participation and representation is worrying as we are always shouting that we have the key to a better tomorrow. We need to be more engaged and step out, we have the ability to be change makers if we face everything head-on,” notes Ahmed.

His favourite phrase: ‘ Attitude is everything. Change your attitude.. change your life’

Diana Favour Chepkorir: Advocating for proper sanitation across all ends.

Three years ago, Diana Favour Chepkorir found herself lucky, as one of the initial members of ELF’s county program, Tunaweza, pulled out of the first training in the with a few hours. This presented her with an opportunity to explore further and put in practice her passion for youth leadership and engagement. Since then, her journey has not been the same. Currently, Diana is one of the most efficient members of Tunaweza, Kericho county.

I started a civic education program to ensure that citizens have the right information.

Her time with the youth-centered program has seen her work with a youth advocacy group that is leading the way in calling out the county government and participating in various governance processes to ensure that issues around the youth are well addressed and worked upon. Recently, she was part of the team that drafted the youth bill in the county.

Besides good governance advocacy, Diana is an advocate of proper sanitation in her county. She is working towards ensuring that there is good sanitation from the family level to public facilities, identification of sanitation gaps and help in addressing them. This include ensuring that homesteads have latrines and are using them, and everyone is constantly keeping hand-hygiene at all critical time.

Her acts do not end at the field of advocacy, she is also involved in civic education in her county to promote social accountability.

“I came together with a few friends and started a civic education program to ensure that citizens have the right information at the right time especially on the budget cycle and public participation. We also created a youth network from my sub-county where youth can share their issues at that level.”

Owing to her ELF training, Diana started a business and has seen her business grow overtime.

“I don’t depend on white collar job to earn a living, the business sustains me comfortably and I enjoy being my own boss.”

We celebrate Diana for her advocacy efforts at the county level.

“Nurturing diversity through humanitarian actions brings richness and vitality to the world,” Jolyne Jelimo

With over 5 years of experience, Jolyne is passionate about children, youth, and women. Her commitment to these special groups reflects the deep-seated sense of humanity which has seen her devout countless hours and years positioning them to be fit for the future through technology, leadership, and economic empowerment. She believes that nurturing diversity through humanitarian actions brings richness and vitality to the world. She is a transformational leader and a social change agent who believes in turning community vision into reality through strategic coalitions and harmonized action.

She is a passionate volunteer and currently serves as the Vice President and Country Chair for Global Goodwill Ambassador (GGA) Foundation in Kenya as well as a facilitator and a mentor at GGA’s Youth mentorship program. In her capacity, she has promoted and strengthened humanitarian leadership while taking lead in documenting the progress and challenges that continue to hamper effective humanitarian actions. While leading the team of humanitarians in Kenya, she has advocated for defending and upholding of humanitarian principles and transparency as a prerequisite for constructive co-existence.

ELF helped me to seek intellectual excitement, and I was able to learn exhilarating truths about the how and why of leadership in an international and national setting.

Jolyne honed her leadership, capacity building and youth development skills at ELF’s ABLI program and she credits the program for her current intellectual development in form of deeper knowledge in critical thinking, problem solving capabilities and abilities to understand complexities and ambiguity. The program also helped her achieve great personal and social growth through enhanced moral reasoning, personal efficacy, interpersonal skills, intercultural competencies, and commitment to social service to her country at large. This has enabled her to affirm and explore her passion in serving humanity.

“ELF helped me seek intellectual excitement, and I was able to learn exhilarating truths about the how and why of leadership in an international and national setting as well as answering my curiosity on whether there are other ways of leading multicultural teams while understanding cultural context without being unduly constrained by it. This has aided me to stretch my mind beyond its previous conceptual boundaries hence expanding my knowledge on leadership which is exactly the context within which I learnt the most during Elf program,”Jolyne adds.

Owing to her ELF lessons, she has been instrumental in the designing and implementing courses and projects that encourage youths to indulge in noble deeds of humanitarian activities that will make their life more meaningful. So far, the project has reached over 1000 youths and their target for the next 5 years is to impact 5000 more youths who will be nurtured, coached, and stretched beyond their comfort zone to maximize personal and professional excellence.

 

She is also aiming to increase the participation of youths and women in leadership and decision-making processes in their community, society, and the country at large. “I believe that by advancing and addressing women and youth’s differentiated needs and aspirations, a generation will be saved and with it, community’s hope, prosperity, peace and security.”

“I want to be part of several learning experiences such as professional behaviour, communication skills and occupational interest patterns that will form the foundation for sound career decision making and opening up new opportunities to develop new skills and have new experiences which will be used in impacting and making a difference in the society we live in,” Jolyne Jelimo.

Susan Wavinya: Bringing Back Hope in her society

Being a mother at 17 was the turning point for Susan Wavinya Wairimu. She didn’t let her dreams and visions to be daunted. Susan, who is currently her cohort’s president decided to try a hand at ELF to see feed her curiosity on everything that goes on in the organization and understand herself in a better way.

“I remember applying for ELF in 2017, half-way though I gave up but found myself applying for the same 2 years later. My passion for leadership, mentorship and governance just couldn’t let me surrender on this chance.”

Susan decided to forward her name as a presidential candidate for her cohort, where she was the only lady contesting. “I didn’t think of myself winning, let me be honest. During the elections I was very impatient and pessimistic. Some of my fellows were raising my hopes of winning; I had to keep calm and wait for the moment.” The elections provided valuable lessons to Susan but one of the greatest lessons was strategy; coming up with good strategies is important not only when seeking votes but in life.

No one is answerable for your failure, if you have faith and purpose then God will surely see you through in what you desire to achieve.

Currently, Susan is a Human Resource Management student at Ngong Technical and vocational College and serves as the charter president of the student’s council at the same institution. Besides this, she formed an organization – House of Hope- that mentors, motivates and advocates for the rights of young mothers in Ngong Mathare slum, where she grew up. In November last year, Susan had her first mentorship session for young mothers in the area and she was able to reach 77 young mothers in the area, did a menstrual talk and distributed sanitary towels. She looks forward to hosting another session this month to celebrate women and gift them with clothing to appreciate their beauty and the efforts they put to raise their kids and sustain themselves.

“I believe that no woman should be discriminated or criticized for making the choice of being a mum at a tender age, what we have to do is give them a shoulder to lean on and allow them pursue their dreams. I am looking forward to having several activities that will help young women earn a living and get into leadership and have soft skills,” Susan

Further, she also leads in the mentorship of young girls who are in school.

“The training that I got at ELF and the sessions that we had also boosted my knowledge and helped improve how I carried out my duties.”

Despite all challenges encountered along the way, she desires to be an ambassador for the youths and young women at the UN or any other organization that will believe her dreams and welcome her to be part.

Susan is not ready to give up on her dreams, she believes that one must fight through all challenges that come along. “Many are the times when we give up on our dreams by complaining about lack of resources but my encouragement is keep pushing for it, if I am able to achieve and impact lives despite all that I go through, then pursue your purpose passionately and the resource and rewards will follow.”

“No one is answerable for your failure, if you have faith and purpose then God will surely see you through in what you desire to achieve.”

We celebrate Susan and her efforts in creating impact in her society.

Oliver Barasa,”Embrace any small opportunity that comes your way.”

A Christian of strong faith, a liberal thinker, a biomedical laboratory scientist by profession working with Gertrude’s Children Hospital at Muthaiga. Besides my profession as a medic, I also actively engage in different projects with young people who are like-minded and ready to champion change in their area of influence.  I am passionate about matters leadership and governance, especially political leadership. Currently, I am a member of Young Aspirants Kenya, whose aim is to shape the political path for young people to engage in governance so that they can be able to chat their future through policy making.

Following my training at ELF, I feel renewed and transformed as a person through the informative sessions I undertook. ELF allowed me to define and understand myself. This is a milestone step which has enabled me to step out with confidence and boldness.  I was able to understand the importance of personal branding and effective communication. Before joining ELF, I had failed in interviews due to lack of communication skills but after going through the program and devoting myself to reading books, I am proficient in handling such situations.

One of the biggest reap from ELF was getting a mentor. I got a mentor who is passionate on better healthcare for our people. Currently, through my mentor’s initiative and partnerships with other consultant doctors, we are running an advocacy on health especially on the rampant cases of misdiagnosis and training people especially in rural areas on health matters.

Through ELF, I was able to join a group of young people who are passionate on policy development to address the issues concerning county government leadership. Currently, I partly help Imara Africa run a project on social accountability audits in the health sector in Kericho County. This was a success after redefining my values through ELF training and also having taken a pledge that I will use my passion to help those around me and to serve my society using my voice to speak for the voiceless.

To every young person; when life gives you a lemon, always make a lemonade out of it. Don’t let opportunities go past you, embrace any small opportunity that comes your way.

I have also recently joined Tunaweza programme, Bungoma county, where we are involved in matters of advocacy and empowering youths to participate more in governance.  I have also started a mentorship programme for young people. I resolved to use my free time to meet, chat and guide young men on self-leadership and career guiding.

Business-wise, I’m working on improving a medical clinic that I started in Bungoma. This is down to the entrepreneurial knowledge I got from ELF on how to build a brand and how to strike partnerships. In health care, I am working on setting up a facility to help mothers deliver safely and end maternal deaths.

I live by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

To every young person; when life gives you a lemon, always make a lemonade out of it. Don’t let opportunities go past you, embrace any small opportunity that comes your way.”

 

#Never give up.

 

Daud Warsame, “A challenge can always lead to an opportunity.”

Somalia born Daud Warsame couldn’t allow his refugee status deter him from working towards his dreams. It is for this reason that he joined ELF’s Leadership and Development (LDP) program to sharpen and nurture his knowledge and abilities on impact creation. Currently, Warsame is a part time student at Southern New Hampshire University pursuing his Associate of Arts degree. Warsame is passionate about refugee issues, youth education and advocacy and it is through this that he strives to see the lives of refugees at Kakuma refugee centre, where he grew up.

Upon completion of his ELF training, Warsame was appointed as an assistant executive director of URISE Initiative for Africa, a refugee run community-based organization (CBO) that helps young people find meaning of life through skills, social and economic empowerment. It is at URISE that he uses his skills to develop and train his fellows in the organization and the camp who are not in a position to attend training at ELF.

“Challenges could sometimes be an opportunity to be great”

“At ELF, I learnt the importance of discovering oneself, contributing the betterment of others and standing up for your own rights in a peaceful way and refrain anything that are un-African such as conflict and violence.”

He credits much of his knowledge and know-how to his ELF training.

“My knowledge and skills were bettered. I also got counselling on various issues and learnt more on becoming more productive in my small space.”

Warsame believes that young people from marginalized areas have an opportunity and space in bringing change back to their communities if they are well empowered by giving availing more skill-development trainings that are highly needed in the development of young people and those in leadership.

He lives by the quote ‘Challenges could sometimes be an opportunity to be great.’