ELF Incubated My Vision, Catalysed My Dream

Serah Thiga,

From time immemorial, every generation has always looked upto the one before it not only for guidance but also for the right amount of inspiration to go forth and do more.  Where this inspiration is lacking, it creates room for the emerging generation to either sit back and slack in comfort with the bare minimum or the strongly rise to fill the void, provide the lacking leadership, and reshape narratives.

Such is the case and story of Sera Thiga, and ELFer who was among the first twelve ladies to sign up for the first ELF-Africa program.

Popularly known as Wanjiku Thiga, ten years later Sera is now running for elective office with the goal of redeeming her community from the yoke of dishonest, exclusive, and non-promising leadership that does not seem to share in the vision of the community. “My commitment to my people once elected to office is to provide inclusive, consultative, and people-centric leadership as an avenue of reversing decades of socio-economic impoverishment.” Sera says.

But she has not always been this laser focused on societal needs and the solutions thereof. Before joining ELF-Africa, Sera was a student leader at The University of Nairobi. She heard about ELF-Africa and the leadership programs through a friend and fellow youth leader. Serah fondly recalls her initial encounter with Caren Wakoli – the Founder and CEO of ELF-Africa as the ignition she so desired the get her started.

“She (Caren Wakoli) was the answer to my lifelong desire. She was very articulate about the dream she had for young African leaders, and it was always inspiring listening to this grand vision she intended to build. At the time, I was in dire need of mentorship if I was going to be the astute leader that I hoped to be – a consummate young leader from Kenya to the world. And Caren, looked, sounded, and stood out as the right mentor for me. If not for anything else, her compelling vision indeed compelled me to join the pioneer program”

This step made Sera and eleven other ladies the inaugural cohort of ELF-Africa. Echoing the words of Chimamanda Adichie on the danger of a single story, Serah says that there is value in the diversity of voices, for in this she adds that the conversation is enriched by leveraging on the different expertise, experiences, and worldviews.

In her nascent years, Serah was uncertain of what she wanted to pursue in leadership. ELF-AFRICA gave her an opportunity to clearly define what kind of leader she wanted to become. “I found my calling while at ELF-AFRICA. In conformity to popular narrative, I always thought that one needed an old guard or some sort of godfather to succeed in political leadership in Kenya… ELF-Africa showed me how wrong I was. I have grown through the ladder of leadership into a recognized integral youth leader in my community and country, and in the process constantly being reminded that all I needed was a catalyst, someone to fire up my vision for Africa and a platform to activate my innate capacity. ELF-Africa gave me this platform and has continued to expand the same opportunities to thousands of young women and men in Kenya over the last ten years.”

Effective networking, individual responsibility, and integrity are some of the useful tenets of transformative leadership that Serah lives by and whose development she credits to her acceptance of the invitation to become an ELFer. She adds that, “As a transformative leader, one must focus on effecting change that will better the lives of the populace. Yet, change on many occasions is slow to come, as such young leaders need to be patient, resilient, and focused on the prize”

Since her graduation from the ELF-Africa pioneer cohort, Serah has not relented in making her presence felt and her voice heard. Sometimes taking the bull by the horns, Serah has made bold contributions that embody the spirit of ELF-Africa. “I have grown into being a fierce advocate of women and youth rights, a badge I wear with honor and through which I have taken part in successful campaigns such as Sex Consent Age that ensured the consent age remained at 18 years. I also had the privilege of taking part in the Women Holding The Line campaign that led to the push towards the realization of the two-thirds gender principle. As a creative partner, I have also participated in designing the Form Ni Gani report that got Kenyans thinking, talking, and planning about contraceptives. ELF-Africa taught me the importance of defending what you believe in without fear of intimidation.” she says.

Professionally, Serah has over the years grown into a full time Development Communications working in the human rights environment, a career she says was inspired and nurtured at ELF- Africa after her mentors and facilitators noticed that communications was a skill inherently etched in her.

Serah Thiga and her team at a campaign event

At ELF-Africa we approach leadership as service, a value we engrave in all our Fellows by having them practically design, fundraise for, implement, and report on a community service of choice as a cohort. Over the last ten years, tens of thousands of US dollars have been raised by our Fellows – now Alumni – and directly invested in community impact initiatives across the eight counties we have worked in. To our pride, many of our alumni have gone ahead to start enterprises, projects and initiatives that address different societal challenges in their communities. And Serah is no different.

“I have grown into a proud Pan Africanist keen on leaving a positive mark in community. This is how I founded Gears for Changea CBO in my home area of Juja Sub-County, that works at the fore of development of my community, focusing on youth development, gender, climate action, and good governance and economic development.”

In recognition of her efforts, Serah was appointed the Deputy Director- Kenya Youth Volunteers at the Caucus of The Parliament of Kenya – World Scouts Parliamentary Union where she also sits on the board.

This bold, articulate, and visionary leader is currently running for a political office in the upcoming general elections in Kenya, as a Member of County Assembly for Theta Ward, Kiambu. She is grateful for the leadership capacity and values instilled by the ELF-Africa. In further acknowledgement of her capacity and potential as a present and deserving leader, ELF-Africa linked to the National Democracy Institute, Africa where she was equipped on how to run effective campaigns.

Serah signs out with a crisp message for the youth of Africa…

“We have to step into our culture boldly, for it is in our culture that we understand our true strength and belonging.”

Serah Wanjiku Thiga is an ELE-Africa Fellow, Pioneer Cohort

ELF-Africa, Makueni County Agree to Establish a County Youth Caucus

Emerging Leaders Foundation-Africa and Makueni County have agreed to form a County Youth Caucus as an avenue for structured and more inclusive youth engagement in the economic and governance issues of their county. This caucus will also be a timely platform for the young people from County 017 to network amongst themselves and form mutual interest partnerships that will steer social-economic growth, community development and enhance accountability in the County.

As part of the nascent efforts of ELF-Africa’s Husika team in Makueni, they paid a courtesy call to select County officials. The Thursday 12th August 2021 meeting saw the Husika team hold talks with the Acting County Youth Director, and the Clerk of the County Assembly of Makueni. In the meeting, the parties extensively discussed the recently passed Makueni County Youth Policy as well as other areas of future engagement between ELF-Africa and the County. The Acting Youth Director, Mr. Charles Muthoka and the Clerk of the County Assembly, Mr. Kevin Mutuku noted that on account of the good working relationship between the executive and the County Assembly, a total of 17 critical policies were passed in July, bringing the total number of policies passed by the County to 26.

ELF-Africa’s Husika team in deliberations with Makueni County officials

Makueni County is one of the most progressive of the 47 devolved units, leading the way in an array of fields; from public participation to youth mainstreaming, and gender parity to local industrialisation. Just a month ago, the Kivutha Kibwana led government passed the County Youth Policy, only the second in the country after Vihiga County.

ELF-Africa’s Husika team in the county has consistently led advocacy drives in the county, a central role that partly contributed to the expedited passing of the County Youth Policy. As such this County Youth Caucus is viewed as a necessary initiative and ELF-Africa is happy to be on board and lend its expertise in establishing, structuring, mentoring, and guiding the caucus into a meaningful tool for the youth to be at the centre of decision making and key players in implementation of the different policies and development projects.

Representing ELF-Africa’s Husika team were Wavinya Nzioka, Winnie Mukosi, Sebastian Kilonzo and Oliver Ndolo, who committed to follow through and ensure the Youth Policy is adequately funded and fully implemented.

ELF-Africa remains committed to continuously equip young women and men in Makueni and other counties with relevant tools, knowledge, and linkages to enable them to become active citizens championing the interests of country and advance the tenets of pan-Africanism.

“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



“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