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The Young women's forum - stepping forward

Today over 700 energetic young women converged at Ufungamano House in Nairobi with a common clear purpose of setting pace for a purpose of making the much needed difference in Kenya.

I share my message to the young women.

By Sophie Ngugi Executive Director Young Women’s Leadership Institute
During the national women’s forum held on 28th October 2010 at Ufungamano House

Why the forum? Why young women?

The people are learning that you cannot leave decisions only to leaders. Local groups have to create the political will for change, rather than waiting for others to do things for them. That is where positive, and sustainable, change begins. (Wangari Maathai)

Today we gather here in a platform that is rare but crucial, young women who are ready, willing and capable to map out our future and the direction of our nation. The objectives of the forum are:
- To celebrate sisterhood and the gains of women in the New Constitution ;
- To reflect on the constitution journey and her-story in the journey;
- To strategize on way forward in defending the gains in new constitution for young women.

Many times the spaces we have as young women do not allow us to celebrate and strategise at the same time. Many times we are expected to be apolitical, not concern with public matters and take back seat while others make decisions over our lives, our future, our nation. We forget who we are, how special we are and the powers we have to move the world.

YWLI has a vision of a society that enables the full development and self actualisation of young women. We believe in the potential of young women and hence we create safe spaces for them to nurture this. The space today is the open free space for us to engage with one another and at the end of the day come up with resolutions that we can commit to. Young women in Kenya have often been invisible in national processes yet we are contributing immensely to the building of our nation through local processes from the invisible space; behind the scenes. Young women have made immense changes in their communities in different engagements at local level hence impacting the lives of their families and communities in economic and social ways. It is a high time that these efforts are brought to the forefront and more young women engage in shaping the national processes in Kenya. It is a high time that these efforts are brought to a visible space. The participation of younger women in national leadership positions has been inadequate. Young women face myriad of challenges including violence, disempowering socialisation, other social cultural and economic challenges, limits their capacity to exploit their full potential. They have faced discrimination at educational and work institutions that limit their effective participation in making a difference in the spaces they engage in. On the other hand many have shied away from claiming public spaces as the notion of the ‘meek, nice girl’ has perpetuated this. The lack of sizeable numbers of young women in the public space is not due to lack of capacity but due to the many challenges that women and more-so young women face. We realise that the challenges are not going away, neither are we, so we confront them head on and use the stumbling blocks as stepping stones to move forward.

Our very own Prof Wangari Maathai said:
‘African women in general need to know that it is ok for them to be the way they are – to see the way they are as strength, and to be liberated from fear and from silence.’

YWLI believes that young women are the women’s movement often untapped and valuable resource in defending the gains on women’s rights. YWLI existence prides itself of empowering young women by building their leadership capacities, providing a platform for networking, nurturing other different kinds of movements for young women and multigenerational organizing. In the engagements we have had with young women, it is evident that young women have great potential to make a difference in Kenya. Tuko na ‘Uwezo’, the power to bring change and impact on our lives and lives of others.

“The thing women have to learn is nobody gives you power. You just take it.” (Roseanne Barr)

We are calling upon young women to take the available spaces and be active members of political parties in big numbers; taking active role.

We are calling upon affirmative action within affirmative action to ensure that the processes that are taking place incorporate young women while calling upon young women to take the mantle and forge ahead within the affirmative action for women in all the key positions, and in other marginalised groups.

On August 27, 2010, the long awaited constitution of Kenya was promulgated and this marked a turning point in Kenya. We have agitated for a new constitution for many years and the passing of this constitution spells a possible future for Kenya that we have to make a reality. The new constitution offers a fresh start for Kenyans yet we are alert to the fact that that we have to be ready for this transformation and work at making the word and spirit of the constitution work for us.

As young women, ‘Tuko set’

We are ready to do all it takes to ensure that the constitution becomes a living reality. One of the greatest gains in this constitution is for women in political participation access, the human rights among other aspects. We are keen that there is affirmative action within affirmative action to ensure that young women are not left out in the implementation of the constitution. We are therefore gathered with this energy and synergy that comes from diverse backgrounds gathered with common purpose.

We will celebrate womanhood, recognising that women of different generations have contributed in the liberation of our nation yet her-story is often missing out in the ‘hi-story’ of the nation. Today we celebrate all women of all generations who have been in the struggle in different ways whether recognised or not. We celebrate together and uphold Udada, sisterhood of purpose and action, in realising that together we can go far. We appreciate our diversities as strengths not weaknesses.

Today we will seek to once again look at the constitution and what it has for us as Kenyans, as young women and recognise the role we have in ensuring that the gains outlined in the constitution are achieved. We have to claim and occupy the political space more so be active members of political parties. We strive to provide transformative leadership in different spaces and the devolved government gives excellent opportunities for our engagement at local levels. We believe that leadership is not leadership for the sake, and just being young doesn’t necessarily qualify us, but looking at proving alternative leadership and demand for the same from leaders. ‘Uadilifu’, integrity becomes a guiding principle.

We are therefore urging the young women of Kenya to take action in ensuring their presence and participation in political parties.

As young women, we are in no doubt about our equal space in this nation, in the making of decisions in this nation. We believe in ‘Usawa’, equity in access and control of resources both material and non material, non discrimination in access to decision making and in ensuring that

It is time, we have a new Kenya and we are set to take the mantle and move this country. We have done a lot in our different spaces and now we take it to another level.

Women really do rule the world. They just haven't figured it out yet. When they do, and they will, we're all in big, big trouble. ~"Doctor Leon,"

Luckily for us, we have figured that out! The time is now.



lifesong's picture

good piece

i have read through this interesting piece and am all for what you are saying about the need for young women to chart their own way. i am just wondering how do i get to know where you operate and how you can help a project of girls that i have in a primary school here in nairobi.

by the way, what other writing do you do?

I look forward to hearing from you. Life is a song!

James Ouma,

Life's a Song
Sing it, dance it, live it!

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