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The doors my anthropology degree has opened

By Lucy Mitei | Published Thu, April 20th 2017 at 09:08, Updated April 20th 2017 at 09:13 GMT +3

Growing up in Mogotio, Baringo County, was tough for me as a young girl. The community still upholds outdated traditional and cultural practices such as early marriages, domestic violence, teenage pregnancy, boy child preference, and dropping out of school.

Being a remote area, it lacked basic infrastructure and social amenities such as roads, health facilities and water. Of course, after the 2010 Constitution was passed, devolution has brought progress.

The number of schools and dispensaries has increased. Also, Mogotio is home to Kenya’s first donkey slaughter house.

I went to a rural primary school and despite the many challenges, I got admitted to Moi High School Kabarak. This put me at par with privileged pupils from well-heeled families.

After high school, I joined the University of Nairobi for a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology. After graduating, I wanted to immediately start pursuing a master’s in a gender-related course, but I had no money.

I started subscribing to online resources on scholarship opportunities. In November 2016, I was awarded a scholarship to pursue blended (online and block) Master’s Programme in LLM/MPhil Sexual and Reproduction Rights in Africa at the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (UP), South Africa.

I am writing this article while at UP where I am more encouraged meeting and interacting with young people from all over Africa. The fact that there are other youthful African people who want to see change in their countries, particularly regarding human rights, is encouraging.

This is because upholding human rights is essential in achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

I have an opportunity to be mentored by renowned professors with accomplishments both in academic, research and applied work in the human rights field, specifically the sexual and reproduction rights.

I am one of the four Kenyan youths to participate in this programme. My passion for women empowerment was influenced by my industrial practicum at a humanitarian organisation.

After industrial attachment, I got a job with a women-based organisation that deals with prevention and response to Gender Based Violence (GBV) in Nairobi. I got to interact with many experts, feminists and researchers in the field of “women issues”. I got to help many survivors of GBV.

Meanwhile, I was struggling with discovering myself fully and such questions related to the long-term career goals started coming in.

I had a strong urge to work with my community and I ended up forming a grassroots organisation where I currently work. The Gender Empowerment and Wellness Centre seeks to empower young women and children through community-based initiatives such mentorship, life skills education, sexuality and reproduction education, and research.

My appreciation of various aspects of human behaviour informed by my anthropological background has helped me see the need of working with young women and children from rural settings and in many cases among underserved populations.

So far, I have mentored over 500 young girls, distributed more than 1,000 sanitary towels to girls at reproductive age and currently implementing a research agenda on Female Genital Mutilation.

I have faced several challenges that I believe can be addressed through legislation. The best avenue to address this is through the county assembly.

I have declared my candidature for the position of the Member of County Assembly, Mogotio Ward, in order to increase women representation in leadership and participation in decision-making.