Youth Alive! Kenya: Today, we have the privilege of speaking with Emily, a remarkable young leader and advocate for social justice and inclusion. She is our Person of The Month. Emily, could you tell us a bit about yourself personally and professionally?
Emily: Certainly! Personally, I am an HRD (Human Rights Defender) based in Mombasa. I hold a Higher Diploma in Social Work and Community Development, and I have also obtained certificates in public relations and paralegal studies. Professionally, I am actively involved with Youth Alive! Kenya as a member of the Mombasa Working Group and the National Steering Committee. I am the Founder and Director of the Amazing Group of PWDs (Persons with Disabilities) at the Likoni Social Justice Centre. My work revolves around advocating for the rights of marginalized communities, particularly focusing on SRHR and disability inclusion.
Youth Alive! Kenya: That’s truly inspiring, Emily. Can you tell us more about your organization and the causes you champion?
Emily: Absolutely! Our organization is dedicated to championing SRHR and disability inclusion and accessibility for persons with disabilities. We strongly believe in empowering disability self-help groups with essential skills such as economics, leadership, and the Community Integrated Development Plans (CIDP) and budgeting processes. Additionally, we actively engage in peace-building initiatives with youth to mitigate political differences and restore peace. We also provide much-needed psychosocial support to reformed youths and victims of violent extremism.
Youth Alive! Kenya: As a young leader, what challenges have you faced in your work?
Emily: There have been several challenges along the way. First and foremost,, the community’s expectations of me as a young leader are quite high, which can be daunting at times. Another challenge is the misinterpretation of our advocacy work, especially when it comes to profiling reformed youths. Teamwork is crucial, but it can sometimes be challenging to coordinate efforts effectively. Additionally, managing and keeping volunteers engaged has been a continuous task. The lack of resources poses another significant challenge, limiting our ability to reach more individuals and communities. Lastly, in this line of work, there is a constant need for security when handling sensitive information and following up on delicate cases.
Youth Alive! Kenya: Despite these challenges, what are some of your proudest achievements as a young leader?
Emily: One of my proudest achievements was being the only elections monitor in a wheelchair nationwide. I collaborated with FIDA Kenya, which was an incredible experience. Another proud moment was leading a demonstration advocating for accessibility to disability-unfriendly buildings. We presented a petition to the governor alongside other civil society organizations. Thanks to the support from YAK, because we empowered 50 disability group leaders with crucial leadership skills. Moreover, I had the opportunity to reach out to 300 girls with disabilities in Likoni and Kwale, providing them with SRHR knowledge. Lastly, organizing a gathering of elected and unsuccessful MCAs to emphasize peace-building and teamwork in Likoni was truly fulfilling.
Youth Alive! Kenya: Those are truly remarkable achievements, Emily. What would you say has contributed to your success, and what advice would you give to other young leaders trying to build organizations?
Emily: Firstly, effective teamwork with other organizations has been crucial to our success. We have learned so much by sharing experiences with other leaders in the field. Secondly, maintaining a self-driven attitude has been instrumental in overcoming challenges and staying focused on our mission. Lastly, making the most of the limited resources available to us has been key. My advice to other young leaders would be to remain resilient and not dwell on those who may steal your ideas. Instead, stay focused on your vision and mission.
Youth Alive! Kenya: Thank you for that valuable advice, Emily. Before we wrap up, is there anything else you’d like to share with our audience?
Emily: Absolutely! I would like to leave everyone with a parting thought. It’s important to recognize that the worst disability is not visible because it resides in people’s mindsets. As leaders, we have the power to change attitudes and be the catalysts for positive change. Let’s embrace that responsibility and work towards a more inclusive and compassionate society.
Youth Alive! Kenya: Thank you, Emily, for sharing your inspiring journey and insights with us today. We commend your dedication to social justice and inclusion. Keep up the fantastic work!
Emily: Thank you for having me. It was my pleasure to share my experiences. Together, we can create a more inclusive and equitable society.