GERALDINE MUIRURI 24, is Kiambu County's youth senator. She spoke to JAMES WANZALA about what her role entails.
GN: Who is Geraldine Muiruri?
GM: Geraldine is the youth senator for Kiambu County in Youth Senate Kenya, which is an NGO that seeks to unite young people from the 47 counties, empower them and give them a voice in current affairs. I am also the democracy youth ambassador for Kiambu County, which is a Jukumu Letu initiative, and a champion for mothers’ and daughter’s mentorship training.
GN: Tell us a bit about your background.
GM: I am the first born in a family of three girls, born and raised in Kamangu Village, Kikuyu, in Kiambu County. I attended Gathiru Primary School, Brookhill School and St Anne’s Lioki Secondary School before graduating from Egerton University last year with a degree in Economics and Sociology.
GN: How did you land this job?
GM: There was an online application, then vetting by the Youth Senate Executive. About 5,000 entries were submitted, and 1,000 shortlisted. It is from this group that I emerged the winner. The selection committee was seeking a candidate committed to community service and youth issues with a background to prove this.
Having grown up in a typical rural setting, I had initiated life skills training initiatives for girls and boys. The girls’ project involved enhancing a conducive learning environment through giving them sanitary pads, undergarments and hygiene kits. I did this in partnership with a company known as Descent Products.
GN: What does your job entail on a typical day?
GM: I wake up at 4.30am, read the Bible, have morning devotion and go to the office at about 8am. I later meet young people with project ideas in the office and we deliberate on how to turn them into reality. I mentor the youth on the importance of public participation, civil engagements, and democracy.
I ensure that the young people in the 12 sub-counties are represented and aware of the current affairs in the county. I am also charged with raising a youthful volunteer workforce to give back to the community in their different capacities.
I also visit different areas where there are problems related to youth matters and see how we can solve them. I work closely with my mentor, Gladys Chania, who is a psychologist and owns a rehabilitation centre in Thika, and Sports and Youths Affairs Executive Machel Waikenda, to achieve my objectives. My day ends at about 7pm.
GN: What have been your achievements since you got this position?
GM: I have sensitised the youth on tree planting and have also been able to acquire a water tank with the help of the senator for a car washing business run by youth. I am privileged to have been able to provide at least 500 girls with sanitary pads in various county schools. I have also carried out a Trainer of Trainees (TOT) programme for 100 young people in the county on civic education.
GN: What are the challenges that the youth in Kiambu County are facing and how are you dealing with them?
GM: There is a gap between the youth and elected leaders so many feel misrepresented and neglected. We are teaching the importance of public participation and civic engagement in current affairs and issues affecting young people. To address drug abuse, we have come up with the Kataa Ulevi Initiative with other partners to educate young people on the negative effects of alcohol.
GN: What benefits come with being a youth senator?
GM: You become an opinion leader and policy maker for young people in your county. It opens doors for other opportunities; you get recognition by organisations, and you learn to improve personal skills such as presentation. The title sounds grandiose, but it is voluntary, meaning it is not accompanied by benefits such as a salary, car, security and house. You are in essence a servant leader.
GN: What challenges do you encounter in your quest?
GM: Getting funds for various projects remains a big challenge. Moving around the 12 sub-counties with more than 60 wards is also a challenge. Male chauvinism is another hurdle that I constantly endure because there are youths who think I am not a worthy leader because I am a woman.
GN: What is your message to Kenya’s youth?
GM: Let’s embrace public participation and be the change we want to see in society. Register as voters so that we can vote in good leadership.
GN: What don’t people know about you?
GM: I am a single, teetotalling Christian, who does not smoke. I am not a politician since my job is not political.
GN: What is your agenda for Kiambu youth?
GM: I want to make sure the youth have resource centre hubs in every sub-county and book clubs in primary and secondary schools, nurture talent and infuse it with art for advocacy.
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