Pamela was a 2019 YESS participant. Here she tells us all about the Tujikuze Initiative, a youth-led initiative that aims to empower young people in her community towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
Have you ever had big dreams but were afraid they would never be realised because you’re a woman?
This is still the situation for many girls and young women in the world today. I’m from the Eastern part of Kenya, where a girls worth is associated with her bride price and the number of children she produces. We’re seen as caretakers, responsible for the up-bringing of children.
In primary school, a friend dropped out to get married – her brothers continued their education. I don’t know if her parents supported the marriage, but it went ahead because the husband had the money to finance the family. I was fortunate as my parents supported my education, but I cannot say the same for other girls and young women in my community.
The story changed when I joined Kenya Girls Guides Association eight years ago. Guiding became a pillar; it gave me a voice to speak out on the issues affecting girls and young women. It gave me a chance to make a difference in my community with my role as a Youth Engagement unit leader and trainer.
I could see the hope in their faces after taking them through training such as Free Being Me. Not only were they confident enough to speak out, but were emboldened to approach decision makers on key policy issues. The Stop the Violence campaign empowered them to speak out on any form of gender-based violence they experienced.
My journey in advocacy had begun by challenging gender stereotypes and championing for an inclusive and gender equal future. I participated in the 2019 YESS exchange programme, it was a journey of a lifetime with mentors who helped shape it. The exchange imparted me with skills and knowledge as well as the dynamics of diversity and inclusion. Coming back to my country, I knew I had to do more for my community.
I founded the Tujikuze Initiative; “Tujikuze” is Swahili for “Let’s develop”. It’s a youth-led initiative that aims to empower young people towards the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. We champion for reduced inequalities and gender equality. We involve boys and young men with an endeavor to raise a gender sensitive generation. Girls and young women are now aware of their rights and they stand up for their right to education. Now, we have tasted freedom, the wings that were clipped have grown and ready to fly. I will rest when I say we are there, because we are not there yet but at least, we are not silent. The key lessons I have learned so far are:
- You can become whoever you want to be, you're not limited to circumstances.
- Life is how you make of it, do not despair
- Extend a hand to your friend or neighbour because they need it and because, we are stronger together
- Set time for self development because, growth starts from within
I will continue to speak out because I want my children and grandchildren to live in an inclusive world, a world where they are free to dream and become. A gender equal future!