This Post originally appeared on the International Women’s Day Page on Sunday 2nd March 2014.

Where you are born should not, and does not define the whole person you are, or are yet to become. Unfortunately for others, some experiences, normally harmful cultural practices and their socialization processes, limit their potential greatly and as such they do not have the ‘luxury’ to live a full life which many of us take for granted.


I may be considered a lucky girl having being born and raised up in a city. In many African contexts, this may be the world of difference between being a child bride or having had to undergo female genital mutilation and thereby increasing the risk of being infected with HIV & AIDS amongst a plethora of other issues that most girls in rural cities are twice as likely to go through every day.


We have no control of where we are born, or what continent and culture we most identify with. We do on the other hand have control of what we can do to end all form of violence against women and children and break the circle of silence everywhere and especially in our own back yards. We also have control to change the course of this story through our own small way by building young women’s self-esteem and empowering them to speak up and let their beautiful voices be heard. This is how I inspire change…


My name is Kate Kiama and I am a proud African young woman. I was born and educated in Nairobi, Kenya and run my own unregistered mentorship project called Sisterhood for teenage girls in Nairobi’s informal settlements and within the outskirts of the town. Sisterhood aims to inspire, support and encourage young impressionable teens to be the best they can be through teaching the young ladies vital life skills. Key among these lessons are self-esteem, sex education, career advice as well as goal setting. I am of the considered opinion that if we empower a younger generation of women, they will be at a better bargaining power if they are self-confident, educated and able to articulate their issues. To get to the desired promise land, society has to be willing to unlearn some things and thus begins the genesis of a new socialization process…


Sisterhood may not be as fancy as most renowned mentorship programmes. In fact it is the very basic element of what mentorship is. I knew I had to do something to change the course of the path that most girls’ life face, and what better way to do that when they are young and in safe-spaces. I initially identified a school where my grandmother comes from in Ruchu area of Murang’a in central Kenya. I initially noticed that the girls did not identify with me because I was from a city. Still fired up with my mission, I started hunting for women and young ladies who were originally from the area and have defied all odds to be successful mothers, wives, business women and professionals even if culture necessarily dictated that they could only be family carers and nothing more. I did not have to look far and started with my own family, my grandmother, mother, aunties and their friends have all been focal mentors to the girls in the area to inspire them and help them realize that where you are born does not define all of you and that if they want to be whatever they dream about, they are entitled to it as much as anybody else. It has been an amazing journey having being in the area for four years at the first initial school and it makes me believe that you can do something small that will have a lifetime of impact and you can start today in your own garden or in your own small bedroom…KateKiama-Sisterhood IDG 13


There is a local saying in many African communities that women like children should be seen and not heard. This would be the barometer to measure a ‘good African woman’. I do value my culture and heritage but I do also acknowledge that some of the beliefs and practices are both archaic and morbid and must be done away with for the full realization of young women to flourish to their potential. It is easier to teach a new dog a new trick and never vice versa. It is for that reason of paramount importance to ensure that young ladies are reinforced with positive imagery of the joys of being a woman and never the shame or second class citizenry they are often portrayed as.


Inspiring change begins with me. It begins with me taking action. It begins with the basics of what are my beliefs and values that I hold dear as a young woman. It begins with the gesture that I am willing to hold another young woman’s hand so we can go the mile not necessarily faster but further. Inspiring change means that I am willing to speak up for my sister until she finds her voice because I know she would do the same for me and my sisters-sister! How are you inspiring change I wonder?