Growing up in rural Kenya, Nafula was one of the few girls from her community with minimal basic needs that completed her formal education, and went on to university. Her passion for social justice is deeply grounded in lived, personal experience. Having been brought up in a highly patriarchal society in rural Kenya and witnessing heightened poverty levels. Poverty renders people vulnerable to social injustices. This inspired her to work towards expanding opportunities for marginalized young people to achieve their potential.
These lived experiences exposed her to human suffering and social challenges from a young age and heightened her awareness of systemic barriers for the poor and specifically youths and women. These barriers, led to her work in community development and social justice advocacy, with a specific focus on girls, women and youth.
Her leadership and volunteering journey began immediately after high-school. While waiting to join University as a prerequisite for government sponsored students, she offered to teach a local high-school as untrained teacher which didn’t have resources to employ trained teachers. This platform gave her an opportunity to mentor the students. Majority of the students hail from struggling homes and needed guidance to focus on their studies and build up resilience to pull through their aspirations.
While at the University of Nairobi where she was pursuing Bachelor of Commerce- Finance, she was a ubiquitous leader who was active in many movements that amplified opportunities for young people and issues affecting them. As the Chairperson of the International Movement of Catholic Students (University of Nairobi Chapter), she was bold in advocating for justice and equitable social order at all levels. The Chapter under her chair-ship emerged the best in Kenya because of the impact they created in the society through outstanding initiatives such as fundraising to: support needy students, buying wheelchairs for people with disabilities in slum areas, donating food and clothing to street families, exchange programs to brainstorm solutions, hospital visits and donations etc. She also served as the Finance secretary in Peace Unit Program, Executive member and Bible Study coordinator in the school of business catholic community in the University of Nairobi. Her passion in leadership made her undertook training in conflict resolution, community development and mentorship.
After successfully graduating in December 2014, Nafula joined the corporate world working in Finance roles. Her passion on social justice led her to be a volunteer over the weekend in TEEN Action Program, Africa (TAP) with sole purpose of equipping teenagers with 21st century life-skills and mentoring them into young change-makers so that they can take a lead in solving the challenges affecting them and their societies.
In 2015 she was nominated to East Africa Youth Parliament- Kenyan chapter. She served as the Finance Secretary after a successful delegate’s endorsement. EAYP lobbies for issues involving youth in the context of development and also in the context of the common identity of the Eastern Africa Community.
The corporate world model didn’t give her the satisfaction she desired as it was focusing on profits that benefit shareholders. She wanted an environment where she works to create an impact and directly change lives. Working just to pay her bills left her very empty. Development world model was more relevant. Using her knowledge in Finance, she came up with a more favorable model of enterprise development and financial literacy. Assisting women and youths to tap available opportunities, manage their Finances and run sustainable business. Reporting to job weekdays, attending to EAYP and volunteering to impact teenage lives over the weekend was overwhelming. In mid-2016, she made a bold and a very tough decision to resign from the corporate world and fully follow her passion. Despite the numerous challenges she remained focused in her course. Resigning meant no stable income and introduced new struggles.
The decision to resign was not received well by her family and friends. In a society where we are socialized to go to school, get employed and settle down, it was hard explaining the cause of her resignation. It was hard making her loved ones to understand her passion especially because some expected financial support from her employment. It was hard for people to understand why one would excel highly in high- School, join the best University in the country graduate undertake professional course (CPA) and choose volunteering to develop community over wearing a suit, carrying laptop to a paying white collar job. Interesting, some thought she is bewitched not to prosper. She didn’t get the support she expected. She felt nobody understood her with discouragements everywhere including from the people she looked up to. This introduced a feeling of loneliness, and a series of betrayal that made her develop a very new world. She went through multiple depressions as a result.
Nafula started looking for like minded people in similar situations for encouragement. To feel that she is not alone. There is need to neutralize career stereotypes and begin viewing development work differently. Every career needs brilliance to design solution and when it is aligned to passion is more effective. Her challenges introduced her to phenomenal writers like Sheryl Sandberg, Malcom Gladwell, Chimamanda, Maya Angelou, Mark Manson etc and some inspiring biographies of other outliers on how they overcame their huddles e.g Wangari Maathai, Joe Bidens. She had to run to books for inspiration to fuel her and that is how she nurtured a reading culture.
Experiencing these challenges made her grow and gave her a different outlook of the world. That’s when she realized the path she had chosen required dedication and resilience. She persisted.
Her voluntary work in Stride was impressive that she was later on promoted to Gender and Programs director in the Kenyan chapter. Stride is an international organization that focuses on developing people of African origin and ending inequalities. Through their education programs, girls from vulnerable backgrounds have been able to access secondary education via high-school scholarships. The girls are also taken through leadership and life-skills training so that they can influence change in their communities. Partnering with Strathmore University among other organizations, we successfully hosted the National Youth Leadership Forum that focused on increasing youth capacity to effectively engage in entrepreneurship, politics and civic leadership among many other programs.
She has also served as the Kenyan Youth Liaison officer for The Association of Kenyans in the Diaspora (AKD), an international charity that fights social injustice and inequalities wherever Kenyans live.
In 2016 December, she was nominated as a global champion of change 2016/2017 by Empower Women organization, a function of UN Women. Through it, she learnt more on skill development, monitoring and evaluation among other capacity building trainings to enhance impact from UN women.
After demonstrating her passion through consistency and knowledge on development issues affecting youths and children in 2017, Nafula was IMCS nominee for the position of Secretary General United Nations Envoy on Youths. The role entailed spearheading children and youth agenda in United Nations. She is currently a member of IMCS United Nations Task Team who are partners in United Nations Major Group of Children and Youth.
In 2017 June, she was successfully admitted to Young Africans Leaders Initiative (YALI) after a competitive process. She underwent a training in civic leadership along other Young African leaders from different countries which was very helpful in her leadership journey and especially in understanding challenges facing leadership in Africa and how to design right solutions. Former American President Obama launched YALI in 2010 as a signature initiative that supports young African leaders as they work to spur development in Africa.
Her passion for social justice led her into local politics. This is because politicians make policies and legislate laws. Good policies and laws are the easiest way to break the ceilings. Imagine a single policy can resettle street families and give them more dignified lives like in Rwanda. She prioritizes policies that focus on fostering human dignity and bridging inequality gaps. Politicians too influence allocation of resources which is very key in development priorities. Through her participation in political activities, she gets to interact with policy makers and share her developments priorities. It is also an opportunity to network, understand dynamics and position herself for political appointments. Through this appointments one get a significant platform to demonstrate their passion, influence and implement development agenda.
She started engaging actively in politics in 2015 by volunteering in political activities. During 2017 elections, she played an active role in campaigning for female candidates in Amani National Congress. The ratio of men to women in our parliament is wanting despite the affirmative action. The patriarchy levels are very high due to deep cultures, thus a lot of energy is needed to hack in elected women leaders and promote inclusive leadership which accelerates development. This is what inspired her to focus on campaigning for women.
Through her being vocal about what she stands for, she earned trust of phenomenal experienced personalities who offered to mentor her majority women. Contrary to the cliché women are their own enemies, she has proved that women are their greatest friends as they have continuously held her hands, supported her. She however acknowledges that most women and men are victims of patriarchy and this does not imply enmity. It only requires a paradigm shift through intense civic education to change mentality and have women viewed differently. She encourages young people, to live purposeful lives and seek to empower themselves. Young people must step up above their challenges and backgrounds. Nobody chooses where to be born but everybody has the power to shape their destinies and tell a different story. She encourages them to refuse to be silenced and use their voice and significant numbers to propel development agendas. This way they will enhance their welfare.
She served as the Secretary in Amani National Congress Youth League. Her main focus was to foster youth effective participation in the political party and inspire young women to boldly step up in politics. To attain Sustainable Development Goals, we need inclusion at all levels. Youths should not just be stepping stones but rather significant development partners who participate in decision making.
Her campaign experience introduced her to the real challenges faced by women in clinching political positions: Identity crisis, gender based violence, cultural stereotypes, financial setbacks etc. This challenges inspired her to participate in breaking this tough ceilings through political activism on national television, radio and social media platforms. The platforms help her influence decisions through her opinions that are backed by her passion, knowledge and experience. She aspires to join political leadership in the near future. Girls and women need more women to look up to, many women must be daring enough and step out to occupy this spaces to give them hope.
She continues to serve actively in boards of development oriented organizations and in advocating for sustainable development goals.