Impact Stories & Blogs
Our team share their insights and perspectives on the impact our program is having on youth in East and Central Africa.
Anne Waruguru Kiai, Kenya, Cohort 5
Waruguru Kiai is an advocate and leader for marginalized women and youth. The young leader has already founded a grassroots social enterprise called Africa Rising Solutions as well as served as a Youth Governor in the Nyeri County Government, on the Board member of the national Kenyan youth advocacy NGO Youth Agenda, and even starred in the leadership reality TV show Ms. President, where she placed in the top 5.
Anne’s drive to advocate for marginalized women and youth came from witnessing her mother struggle to inherit her late husband’s property and fight against traditional norms that limited the ability of women to inherit property. A decade-long legal battle drained Anne’s family financially and emotionally, even causing her and her sister to drop out of school at one point. This experience motivated Anne to eventually get a law degree and found Africa Rising Solutions.
Her social enterprise, Africa Rising Solutions, works to bridge information gaps and provide legal and financial literacy trainings for rural women and youth.
“We have a very progressive constitution which was passed in 2010, enshrining lots of rights for women and young people and persons with disabilities, but what becomes a challenge now is the movement of information of what is in the constitution to the actual implementation at the local level.”
“It is not enough to tell women and young people that they have rights in the constitution. You have to work with them every step of the way… when we say that women can have rights to own land, how do we ensure that these women can walk into an office and actually say, ‘This is how we want to go ahead in registering our properties, or fighting for our properties?’ We don’t stop at offering information on what is on paper or what the law says. We go a step ahead and work with these women and practically take them through how they can actualize what is already in the constitution.”
“It is very empowering and liberating for them to be able to say, ‘These are my rights; I know they work to protect me, and you cannot take them away because culture says so.’”
Anne’s organization does more than provide trainings to individuals – they focus on training entire communities and building networks of women who go on to support other women. They have developed a model of identifying community members with leadership potential who can act as champions, provide their own trainings and support even more women and youth. This model cuts costs for Africa Rising Solutions and for the people they help. They also connect women’s and youth groups to local government resources and opportunities that they may not know about.
“Access to information can sometimes be very costly for these women who live in rural areas. We ensure that, even if they are far away from urban areas or towns, because one of them has been trained and they have been able to train others, they are able to be first responders on these issues within their communities.”
YALI RLC EA Inspiration
Anne has held community rights and advocacy trainings since 2013, but YALI RLC EA taught her how to formalize her social enterprise and amplify her impact. Before YALI RLC EA, she estimates that she reached about 20 church congregations with training about the new Kenyan Constitution, but “before I went to YALI RLC EA it was more of a freestyle training, that I did when I could.”
In 2015, after her participation in YALI RLC EA, she legally incorporated her social enterprise. Since then, they have reached 3,000 women and 25 youth groups, and expanded to a team of six core volunteers.
The benefit of YALI RLC EA went beyond the hard skills. Being surrounded by a cohort of young leaders, she says she was challenged to be more innovative and creative. But above all, Anne says her most important takeaway from YALI RLC EA was self-awareness and understanding the power of her voice. She learned how she could use her own story to inspire others, and YALI encouraged her to develop a sense of personal accountability.
“Sometimes, as young people, we feel that we can only be helped. We sometimes place our own accountability into the hands of somebody else – in the government, in the local administration. Accountability is always elsewhere … But when we were in YALI RLC EA, being in the same room with all of these leaders, it served as a moment of admitting to ourselves that we needed to be accountable to ourselves and we needed to be the change that we wanted to see in our communities.”
“Africa Rising Solutions was inspired by our training in YALI RLC EA because YALI RLC EA required us to think on how we can provide our own solutions to our problems instead of waiting on someone to come and save us.”
YALI RLC EA instilled in Anne a sense of self-sufficiency and the knowledge that she can effect change in her community.
“Before going to YALI RLC EA, I never thought I would run an enterprise without donor funding. I assumed that if you have this good idea and you want to empower women, then you must do a proposal and receive donor funding, and then the money would come and you could go ahead and train these women. But we have been able to train women and follow up on their activities, and document success stories, without donor funding! We use local resources – what we have. That for me is the beauty of having gone through the YALI program. I don’t have to write a proposal or ask for help… The power of being self-sufficient – the power of using what you have. That has been the shift with most of the YALI RLC EA leaders who have gone through the program. You will hardly see them say that they are sitting and waiting for someone to come and help them financially or to build their capacities, for them to build others.”
“To everyone who serves on the YALI RLC EA program, from the idea, the design and the implementation – thank you so much. You may not realize it, but you have empowered a whole generation of new leaders who may not have had the chance.”