I was raised the eldest girl in my family with three sibling brothers. I grew up believing that men and women were equal, but I later realised it was not the case. I am passionate about women’s empowerment because I know women struggle everywhere, which slows economies and societies. That empowering a woman leads to economic growth is not a cliché; it is a fact.
In Sweden, there’s still a wage gap that needs to be filled because in most instances, women are paid less for similar jobs, are not represented in company boards, and still do most of the household duties.
I recall when I was around eight years old and loved to play football, but the boys never passed the ball to me. I mobilised other football savvy girls who wanted to play and we negotiated with the school administration to get our own ground and a ball.
It is impressive to see that Kenya is taking great strides to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality. All government ministries are now keen on addressing gender — it is part of their performance contracts — and gender policies are being developed in all sectors.
Access to markets
At the World Bank, I work with teams to advise on how equal chances and benefits can be given to both men and women in our lending operations and policy dialogue. We also work with specific initiatives, such as with a Kenyan non-governmental organisation, to improve rural women’s access to markets and trade through strengthening women’s bargaining power, with the support of the government of Japan.
I think women should be empowered in all aspects to increase their participation in society and the economy, and also to provide them with the capacity to undertake projects of their own. This will result in better welfare in households, peaceful societies and greater growth.
Although the situation has improved, women are still yet to realise their full potential. I’ve met women who have economic capabilities and great visions, but face great challenges. In Africa and in Kenya particularly, women are getting a voice, but many rural women are still ‘powerless’.
While in high school, I formed clubs for debate and to support the African National Congress and refugees that resulted from the apartheid in South Africa. After high school, where I graduated in the social science programme, I became a volunteer in Italy. I managed programmes to collect clothes for refugees, cleaned parks, did community work, and organised the exchange of international volunteers.
During the time I was volunteering, I got a chance to visit the Italian International Policy Research Institute, which provides research to inform policy dialogue on international development issues. I realised that is what I wanted to do. I asked if they could take me in, but I was told I needed to have a degree first. “What kind of degree?” I asked, to which I was told a degree related to social or political sciences.
Being what I always had affinity for, I applied to do a degree in International Social Sciences in Sweden. I studied zealously and a year later, I called the institute to inquire if I could join them, but I was told I wasn’t ready yet. Two years lapsed and I called again. This time, I was told I could join them, but for a summer internship, which I completed then went back to complete my education.