“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.

 

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.

Is it the best or the worst of times? Make the choice.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way. . . .”  

This opening statement from “A Tale of 2 Cities” by Charles John Huffam Dickens hints at the novel’s central tension between love and family, on one hand, oppression and hatred on the other. It paints an almost similar picture of what is happening now. 

In this trying season, your actions will help define your strength as a young leader.

The world changed in March 2020. We transformed from the best of times to the worst of times without warning. The #Covid19 pandemic is entirely incomprehensible despite expectations of such happening from earlier predictions. We will be able to tell the coming generations of this season. We will speak of the pain and the harm. We will talk of the wisdom and honour that this season has taught us 

Tim Leberecht, the author of Business Romantic, says ‘Everybody is weighing in, has smart things to say, agendas to push, products to market, good deeds to promote, feelings to share, videos to post that add to the cacophony (discord) of a species that simply cannot shut up, even when it’s told to do so. It is much easier to express our humanity than to be human these days.” This reminds me of the ‘Paradox of our Age’ where it talks abouthaving more conveniences but less time; more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgement; more experts, yet more problemsmore medicinal products, but less wellness.  

I have never seen so much volatility in my life. And—yet—I have never witnessed such an opportunity for heroism, leadership, and exceptionalism, especially for young leaders. These truly are the worst of times and the best of times. If we are open enough, this will be the season to shine. We are all in this together and we must work to finding a solution together – each person contributing their skill and expertise in a different way to get through this. 

As a young leader, how do you navigate this transition period with courage, grace, and unusual optimism? This is a question where there are no answers but only choices and you must choose where you lie. For example, you have to choose between despair and hope; between self-reliance and working together with the community; between arrogance and humility in responding to directives; whether to hoard or to share; whether to focus on lack or find gratitude for what we have; whether to focus on problems or solutions. 

I suggest 5 key things 

  1. As a young leader, you should become a Hope Merchant – If you are not lifting people, you are pulling them down. The finest leaders are extreme optimists and heroic enthusiasts. When things fall apart, they maintain their grace, concentrate on the upside, and continue to radiate the energy that causes their followers to perform at their absolute best. (A job of a wartime leader is to protect the hope of their followers.) 
  2. Remember it’s ok to not feel ok – We are humans, fear and anxiety in messy periods are normal. Honour the emotions and they will pass through you. Sometimes it feels like society says you should be always happy, and that showing your sadness is a sign of weakness. We all have good and bad days. It would be inhuman if you didn’t feel the stress of the deep volatility, in some way or another.  
  3. Practice “deliberate kindness” – Whether it’s sewing masks for healthcare workers, tutoring students who are learning from home, or buying groceries for your elderly neighbours, identify the ways you feel comfortable and can help out to improve the situation in your area. This will help people around you while also helping you with any feelings of hopelessness. 
  4. Use the news as a tool versus a drug – Find out the latest facts on this very fluid situation and pivot, as necessary. The constant exposure to coverage of this situation can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety.  
  5. Don’t suffer from Normalcy Bias  Instead, stand strong and prepared to thrive through this. 

In this trying season, your actions will help define your strength as a young leader. I believe that what will see you through is having the right tools – information, courage, cooperation, faith – and using them to the fullest. While we exercise social distancing protocols, our people still need to hear from us, and we still need to hear from them. 

No matter what channels we use, young leaders have the most power to engage, the power to inspire our generations, and the power to create hope. Hope matters, hope is a choice, hope can be learned, hope can be shared with others. 

It might not stop the virus, but it can help stop anxiety, panic, and promote kindness and community-mindedness while displaying the best of our humanity, in some small way perhaps we can play a part in helping turn the worst of times into the best of times. 

As a young leader, is it the best or the worst of times? The choice is yours. 

 

Submitted By:

Edward Kipkalya- Programs Officer, Governance

King Griffins: A Transformational Leader.

At the age of 28, Griffins had been the ELF Tunaweza project Bungoma county coordinator for two years and also served as the president of Bungoma Youth Connect, a leading network for youth entrepreneurs in the county.

Griffins was truly an inspiration to the young people he worked with, he was dedicated to his work, he served diligently and excellently with unmatched passion, zeal and grit. His mobilization and organization skills wowed all who worked with him.

He has set standards for all of us, on what it means to serve your community, country and Africa.

Here are some of the tributes from his colleagues at the county:

Abdulkarim TarajaI first knew and met Griffin’s during ELF-Tunaweza Bungoma Chapter training on Youth Participation on Devolution. The level of interactions and engagement made us look like twins. I learnt a lot from him and he equally learnt a lot from myself. We kept our conversation and discussions on ELF alive.

His inspiration came when the County was embarking on Budget Making process where he mobilized all of us, with a single document to appear in the public participation whether invited or not and ensure we stand firm and present our issues to be captured in Budget.  It was my first meeting I ever ‘gatecrashed’ in my ward and utilized the space to air and contribute to the budget making process. With Griffins, we made several inroads to County Offices – Gender and Youth-  as well as engaging County Assembly of Bungoma on Youth Policy and Youth Affairs. In him, I saw a guy who is informed, courageous, firm and gentle despite health challenges he was facing. Last week on 24th January, we had planned an ELF Meeting but he asked me to lead the meeting as he was engaged elsewhere. As ELF-Bungoma Chapter, a king has fallen. A brother who understood what leadership is all about is gone. He paid for us (7 persons) bus fare to Nairobi to attend 2nd National Youth Symposium on Devolution while in a hospital bed and gave me blessings to take charge and represent the team in the symposium. That’s the man we have lost as a team. 

I am sad but I accept his demise and thank God for the time he gave us him.

May he go well.

With Griffins, we made several inroads to County Offices – Gender and Youth- as well as engaging County Assembly of Bungoma on Youth Policy and Youth Affairs. In him, I saw a guy who is informed, courageous, firm and gentle despite health challenges he was facing. 

Joyce NabalayoIt’s utter shocking and unbelievable about the death of Griffin’s. I did call his number when I received the bad news! A staff at the Hospital confirmed that the Young and energetic King had departed. Griffins has been like a brother. Since the ELF Tunaweza programme, he has always inspired me to do more and act especially on Youth affairs and Leadership. We were planning bigger things together for this year but so unfortunate he has left. His legacy will live through us. Rest in peace Griffins.

Brian SeliI personally received the shocking news with heavy heart and disbelief. He is one guy full of inspiration, soft speaking and with passion for youth empowerment. His connections and network in the corridors of County power gave us opportunity to meet the County Chiefs, CECMs, Chief Officers and even Directors especial on the Youth Affairs in the County and engaging County Assembly Youth Committee.

Last week we had planned an ELF meeting though he was engaged somewhere, he never failed to delegate the responsibility to someone else.

Our activeness in Budget making and devolution is alive and to keep his legacy, we are going to carry on the good work. He has gone, we are sad that we shall never get to hear from him again. His resolve to fight for Youth affairs and Children suffering from Anaemia lives on with all of us.

Rest in power Griffins.

Marian MohammedWe have lived and worked with Griffin’s on Youth Activities, health and leadership for a very long time. He was a brother I cherished a lot. Whenever I wanted to consult or seek help he was always the go to person. On ELF, his work and coordination was exemplary. He constantly kept us active and running. He motivated us, from an informed point of view, to always keep the struggle and be a voice to the youth in the County, something which pushed us to start Bungoma Youth Connect, where he has been serving as President.

I am still confused, not knowing what to do but his legacy lives in us. As young as we are, with God’s favor, we will continue his dream, Peace and united team.

Rest in perfect power Brother.

 At ELF, we stand together with his family and his associates in this tough period. Griffins will forever be in our hearts and mind.

 Fare thee Well King Walubokho!

International Youth Day Feature

Anselmn Ochieng, an alumnus of our Tunaweza Programme, spearheading G-SETi.org, has been informed by an inherent desire to nurture emerging school children so that they are inspired to tackle challenges with unrivaled confidence.

Read more

Don’t Agonize, Organize.

The title of this article is a widely used slogan and is credited to the Afro-American woman civil rights activist Florence Rae Kennedy, its popularity stems from two realities; on the one had we cringe at the pain, suffering and indignities afflicted on us, while on the other hand we are challenged as to what we can do in response.

Agonizing is a much-taken path by the youth since its easy to complain, to talk ourselves into believing that nothing we do can bring about any change, and most times we wait for the “right moment” (whatever that means). Constantly procrastinating action and rationalizing it with the fear of timing – news flash; the right time is NOW, if you choose to make it one.

Proper and collective organization is the key to the 75% of youth in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa turning their potential power into REAL power that will end historical political and economic marginalization. There is a lot of talk that the political class should hand over power/ include young people in government, but truth be told, power is hardly ever given on a silver plater, leaders have to EMERGE and EVOLVE over the period of organizing, and it is these leaders who then champion for the beginning an era of youth participation.

In Kericho county for example, a group of young people has started the journey of organizing themselves to engage fellow young people better and to participate in the governance processes of the county. What started in 2017 as a group of fifteen youths identified, trained and sent out by Emerging Leaders Foundation to start meaningful engagement with the county government and move from noise to voice, has now grown into a formidable youth working group. As of last month, the group had brought together representatives from 27 of the 30 wards.

The purpose of the newly formed Kericho Youth Leadership Network is to be the umbrella organization for all youth groups/organizations in the county for effective driving of the youth agenda, enhance youth participation in governance processes and foster attitude change through capacity building and opportunity tapping for the youth of Kericho. In other words, the vijana of Kericho want to mobilize around issues, they are tired of being on the periphery and being turned in mere spectators and cheer leaders in their own territory, they have realized something which I hope resonates with young people across the country; that yes, we can! (Tunaweza) That we are the captains of our ships; masters of our destinies and for change to occur we must desire it, we must trigger it and we must sacrifice for it.

Three key lessons from the youth of Kericho;

  1. Collective action is stronger than individual action – mobilization, clarity and strategy.
  2. We need serious organization to get things done – commitment, effectivity and inclusivity.
  3. Alternative to elected leadership is unelected leadership – leaders without titles.

Agonizing never got people anywhere, it only maintained the status quo. Our aspirations will be met depending on how well and fast we ORGANIZE!

 

90% of Life is About Showing Up!

There is an old saying most often attributed to Woody Allen that “90% of life is showing up.” Actually, it turns out that the number is somewhere between 75 and 90, depending on the recollection of the person reciting the quote, but either way, the balance of life is about following up. Allen’s point is a good one. Just get involved, make the call, or introduce yourself. The results will astonish you.

My colleague always reminds us that we are the finest humans to ever walk the face of the earth; our great grandparents were not as smart and did not have as many opportunities as we do today. We have evolved into the ideal humans that our ancestors could not even dream about, in fact, should some of our ancestors rise from the dead today, they would go bonkers over what they would see. What sets us apart from other animals, is that we are story telling animals with the ability to organize ourselves.

In view of the foregoing, young people do not have the luxury of feeling hopeless or powerless today, across the country the chorus is the same “my governor hasn’t done …. Things cannot be done”. There is a feeling of indignation to a point where the youth even seem to think that voting will never change much.

But think about this; what hope or power did our fore fathers have when they were fighting the colonialist, the odds were against them, they did not have the numbers and neither did they have weaponry to face the oppressor. Yet against all odds a few men and women organised themselves and showed up for battle, thanks to them today we are a sovereign nation.

Better still let’s bring it closer and think about the second liberation; when young politicians and members of the civil society were demanding for political inclusion through the repeal of section 2A of the constitution, what power did they have? They were lone voices, strange voices demanding the unthinkable. But they dared to dream of a different society, the looked beyond themselves and reached out to a higher purpose, and look at us today? We have 63 political parties and across the country we can freely assemble to express our political beliefs.

Had these women and men given up or chose to dwell on what was not impossible, I doubt I would have even had the freedom to write this article, but because they dared to think and organise differently, we are where we are.

Fellow young people the onus is on us, things will only get better if we think and act differently, we must organise around issues and build teams in every county and sub-county to engage strategically with duty bearers, we must be willing to sustain the murmur long enough. Nobody understands youth issues like the youth themselves, hence we are best placed to do youth advocacy. Society always turns to young people in its hour of need, can we be counted on; because truth is, things are messed up all around us.

To the youth of Kilifi, who are the inspiration of this post; thank you for showing up for the Tunaweza training, we have built your capacity and we believe that you guys have assembled the best team to start meaningful engagement with your county officials. Don’t tire! And never loose sight of the antelope because of a dashing squirrel. 

 

 

Written by Jim India

Communication Officer

Emerging Leaders Foundation