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

International Youth Day Feature

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

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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!


Millennials stand up, this is the hour

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A United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN Desa) analysis report, ‘World Population Prospects 2017’, shows that people born after Year 2000, commonly referred to as Generation Z, will next year constitute 32 per cent of the world’s population, surpassing Millennials, or Generation Y, who will comprise 31.5 per cent.

Millennials are the demographic cohort following Generation X. They were born between the early 1980s and the mid ’90s to early 2000s.

Next year, the first batch of circa one million Kenyans born in 2001 will turn 18, the age of majority. And whereas, the world will wait till next year to experience this phenomenon, Kenya’s Generation Z have already surpassed Millennials as we are a child-rich nation, with slightly over half of the population under 18.

Millennials (Yours Truly included), with their exceptionalism and self-centredness, must contend with the fact that they are not only old but also a minority that ought to give way to Generation Z — a people who have never known a non-digital world, have a more global thinking, are less self-centred, are tech-savvy and entrepreneurial.


Millennials are now the elders of this generation (by the way, you don’t argue with age; no one wins). Already, there’s no room for passing the blame to the generation ahead as Millennials assume watch over the nation and, therefore, take on national responsibility.

With a background of such an epic demographic handover on the homestretch, the nation is also plagued with a host of other challenges threatening its very existence — including massive unemployment, an unbearable national debt, fledgling leadership and an economy in turmoil.


Policymakers, educators and the private sector had just cracked an understanding of the Millennials, and here we are, with the arrival of a different generation in a country now seemingly lost at sea.

The political front is amorphous; you can’t tell head from tail, government and opposition — a larger Jubilee group with three formations: A (Kitaeleweka), B (Tangatanga) and C (Tingatinga). In addition, we have a weakened civil society, a rogue Parliament and an apathetic electorate.

Millennials now have the singular task of leading the charge in shouldering the largest national debt any generation of Kenyans has ever serviced, defend civil liberties and revive the economy before Generation Z takes the baton of the republic.


But as this is happening, the rest of the world is preparing for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Industry 4.0); a technological revolution riding on Big Data, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) that will fundamentally alter the way we live in a scope, scale and complexity never experienced by Mankind before.

No one knows how that will unfold as yet but the response to this must be integrated and comprehensive involving polity, public, academia, private sector and civil society.

And with Kenya at a crossroads, grappling with a present too complex, the future is bleak — unless Millennials show up for duty with diligence, determination and discipline. For this is their hour!

Mr Maliba is a programme manager at Emerging Leaders Foundation (ELF). Twitter: @ArnoldMaliba

Courtesy of:–this-is-the-hour/440808-4764584-lyknnez/index.html

Youth at the Center of Social Change in Kenya.

You can’t start a fire without a spark! Whenever society is faced with the greatest of threats, it has the tendency to constantly turn to the youth. The energy in pursuit, purity of purpose, clarity of vision and passion in articulation of issues is recipe for successful revolutions.

The last decade has arguably been the worst time for the youth of Kenya, we’ve been leathered from every side, our dreams shattered, the promise of education bleak, the availability of jobs almost nil, the factors of production held in the hands of a few greedy men.

But then I’m reminded that, “the best thing you can learn from the worst times of our life is that it always gets better. It may take a month, a year, a decade, but it will get better if you leave yourself open to it.”

In the last election something happened that went unnoticed or rather wasn’t properly celebrated. First, we got more youth into the different elective positions, but perhaps most interesting is the fact that we had more youth who ran as independent candidates and even a greater number who ran on alternative political parties apart from the two big coalitions at the time.

Sometimes we need reminding about who we are and what we can become, a little pride,a little determination and a true sense of commitment can spur us to demand better for ourselves and our communities. The youth who vied inspired the rest of us, the fact that they did campaigns focused on their manifestos speaks volumes. these young people knocked on doors, sat under trees, engaged youth and women groups, they challenged the common way of financing campaigns by asking the people to support their campaigns. They walked on foot and freely interacted with the electorate. There were no big rallies, with loud music and “chini kwa chini” dance, no big cars with tinted windows.

Perhaps if we do our politics differently by ensuring that we do not give handouts to voters and that every Kenyan is invested in the campaign process from start to end, then we could have a different story to tell successive generations, a story that is devoid of violence, theft and bribery, but one that is full of hope and progress.

I am glad that this change is being championed by my generation and I invite each of you to join the bandwagon, change inevitable.


Written by Jim India,

Communication Officer at Emerging Leaders Foundation.