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.
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.
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