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“I Wanted to be Great, I just Didn’t Know How”

I was a student leader at Maasai Mara University, leading various societies and clubs and later got involved in students’ politics. Since childhood, I had a great desire to be an agent of change and serve people just like the Renowned icons I looked up to like Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.

Their stories compelled me to be at service to humankind. Before that life at the University, there was a long journey. My fire was dimmed at a point in my life when in 2009 I had to drop out of school for 3 years. I had to go to a construction site to be trained welding by a cousin who thought it would be helpful now that school had failed.

It was a dark time, but I found solace in the struggle. In between, I met people with lost hope. Ordinary Kenyans that grappled with a lot of fear, inferiority, poverty and assault and exploitation by Indian employers. I had a diary, and each day I wrote my experience. I was writing poetry then, and I could get home and pen down a poem about these people, and myself too. I loved reading and so would visit KPLC Training Institute Library, through the help of another cousin who worked there.

I was a wounded man, a lost child who was battling with identity. In the library, I met great books. I read a lot of autobiographies because I wanted to relate with great men. I read from Barack Obama’s ‘Dreams From My Father’ to Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk To Freedom’. From Duncan Nderitu Ndegwa’s ‘Walking In Kenyatta Struggles’ to Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s ‘Sowing The Mustard Seed’. There were many great books and they kept the desire in me alive.

I wanted to be great, I just didn’t know how. I resolved that it was only education that would take me closer to the achievements of my icons. I worked at the construction site with a dream to go back to school. In 2011, God was gracious to me and I went back to school. I took two years from form 3 to 4 and made it to the University, where I had great expectations.

I was quite old, but I really wanted to be there and do all I could. I wanted to be a leader and change something in the society. It was easy to get to the clubs and be elected as the chairperson, or a secretary. I had a desire to serve. Eventually, I tried campus politics, and failed. But the people around me treated me like a leader. They did not lose hope in me. Even the administration worked so closely with me, and I was proud that I still could serve.

Then came ELF. When we began the training, it began with us telling our stories. For the first time, I told my story in public, and it changed everything. It healed me. My friends came to me and told me to be strong, that I was the best. The fire in me was lit. I was ready to move forward. When one Dr. Olu Funso Somorin talked about Servanthood Leadership, I realized where I belonged. I wanted to be in the community, to work with youth and young people. I later founded a resource center, Pasha Resource Center, where we are creating a safe space for young boys and girls and nurturing talent and literacy among young people.

I realized football was attractive to young boys, and so I came up with a club and signed 26 boys. They are currently our ambassadors as we try to push Pasha Resource Centre to the next level. We have had donation of books, and computers are coming soon from friends from the USA. We are also laying foundation for the building of the centre in July, through donation from a church in the USA. Through this centre, I feel at the centre of service. I feel like my dreams are carried by those boys who play in the club, come for the books, and just stick around when I visit the centre. I thank ELF for the training. I discovered my real purpose, they gave me enough information that I need and helped me link up with many like-minded fellows who have helped me grow.

Asante sana ELF.

Andrew Otieno was one of our Changamka Fellows.

Interact with him on Facebook

 

PAZA SAUTI

“Can we link up online?” and “What’s your handle?” are questions we get one too many times.

The advent of social media not only revolutionized access to information, but also created platforms for self-expression by users. In today’s world, half a day off social media means missing out on real-time updates, and having to play catch up. Twitter is always ablaze and WhatsApp has become a staple for households especially in Kenya. The Visual Capitalist recently shared analytics on an internet minute: 481,000 tweets sent, 38M messages on WhatsApp, 3.7M queries searches on Google, and $862,823 spent online, not to mention Netflixing fans and Instagram scrolls. What’s more, the future is predicted to have higher projections. No doubt, social media remains a fundamental tool for product outreach in every sector and community.

Kenya, a developing and young nation with a median age of 19 grapples with a myriad of governance challenges. Top on the list of them all are mismanagement of public funds and poor leadership that have robbed a majority of young people, opportunities to make true their dreams. In identifying possible solutions to these challenges, citizen responsibility is key in reclaiming the country’s resources and opportunities. The youth, who form over 60% of the population have a key role in ensuring effective management of public resources, through the available avenues. Digital advocacy is one of the tools with the potential to not only put public officers to account but also enhance citizen participation in governance processes.

So how can we leverage on these platforms to build impact around good governance? At ELF, we firmly believe that young people have all it takes to harness the power of social media and transform their communities. We can drive social campaigns to empower others, eradicate drug abuse, call out ineffective leaders, share and teach best practices, market youth skills, put an end to impunity and inspire action. The impact of digital advocacy efforts as proved by previous campaigns such as #FeesMustFall, #MyDressMyChoice, #SomeoneTellCNN cannot be ignored. The revolutionary Arab Spring in 2010-2012 in which Middle East countries successfully opposed oppressive government regimes, largely owes its success to social media.

The ‘axeleretaz’ initiative is a game changer; an enabler of progress. 10 youth drawn from Makueni, Nairobi, Kakamega, Mombasa, and Nakuru are part of the first phase to be inducted through digital advocacy. They are community advocates in the areas of budget processes, reproductive health, active youth participation in political processes, mobile journalism and civic engagement.

The team is on a mission to not only highlight governance gaps as experienced in their communities, but also contribute to their solutions. Through research and consultations with stakeholders, the axeleretaz will share community stories of best practices on citizen responsibility; policy processes and governance.

We trust that you are taking note of the governance gaps in your community, and while at it, you and your peers are working on ways of solving the challenges to achieve the change you desire. Join the Axeleretaz Movement (@axeleretaz) in highlighting the same online and together, let us be the voice and accelerators of the change we so much need.
#AxelerateKE @axeleretaz

 

By Stella Nderitu,

Programmes Officer, Governance