IFS through the eyes of a student intern
Christine Njane, a student at the Strathmore Law School, has been working as an intern in the Institute for Family Studies (IFS). She speaks of the experiences at IFS which remind her of the words of Wangari Maathai in her book Unbowed, ‘If we really carry the burden, we are driven to action.’ She believes it is up to us all; young and old, women and men, to take up the responsibility of promoting stable families. “The future of the family and the society at large lies in our hands. We all have a role to play!”
What motivated you to join IFS?
I learnt about IFS through a poster inviting the Strathmore Community to register and attend a series of discussions on family matters in September 2019.The series was titled, Keeping my Family Together. Out of curiosity, I decided to attend the three sessions to broaden my understanding about the institution of family. However, I also admit that being a student, the promise of a cocktail after the sessions was very motivating, and it was often the catchphrase I used to invite my friends for the sessions. It was after the first session titled Starting my Family: Understanding our Sexuality that I took a more active role in the institute as a volunteer. Later, I became an intern, and served between January 2020 and March 2021.
What value did you get during your tenure?
When I first joined the Institute in October 2019, it was very young. The institute’s Director, Dr Jane Wathuta, was assisted by Sheila Kibicho and Patricia Ahawo, both of whom worked at the University. Adrian Nyiha, Dominic Nyaga, and I joined them as volunteers alongside other informal collaborators. As the Institute advanced, more interns joined us. I got the opportunity to work closely with the team in various activities. Unknown to them, I was often surprised at their great confidence in me to deliver in my assigned tasks, despite my inexperience, and for that reason, I always put my best foot forward.
Notable skills gained during my tenure include critical research and writing skills, applying for research grants, drafting proposals, event planning, managing official correspondence, record keeping, networking, teamwork, and report-writing, among others. The nature of the activities required synergy within the team, in addition to agility, adaptability, and clear and transparent communication.
What strides have you seen IFS take?
The Vice Chancellor of Strathmore University, Professor John Odhiambo, during a meeting with the IFS team, emphasized the need for interdisciplinary research as a way of serving the family unit. In order to achieve desirable results, he urged the Institute to integrate both local and international partnerships. This vision has guided the institute to date and is reflected in the initiatives that have been executed. For instance, the institute’s podcast “FACe Forward” was launched in the wake of the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic in Kenya.
Earlier in the year, there had been plans to conduct a family clinic within the University, involving experts in various fields to deal with family matters. However, the plans came to a sudden halt with the lockdown that led to closure of learning institutions. The podcast, was, therefore, the institute’s alternative way of reaching out and serving families, albeit virtually. It involves a series of discussions on various family matters, engaging experienced local and international researchers in the fields. The process requires in-depth research in the topics ahead of the discussions to ensure that the listeners get accurate and up-to-date information. More so, the discussions expose critical gaps in research that can inform further research studies.
What were your most memorable experiences at IFS?
The visit by the Prelate of Opus Dei, and Chancellor of the University, Monsignor Fernando Ocariz, in December 2019 was one notable period for the Institute. During his visit at Strathmore, he spared time to meet the IFS team, and commended the Institute, alongside other family programmes for the great work of moulding families to be strong and stable units of society. He gave his blessings and promised to continue praying for the noble mission.
Also, in the podcast episode on the Noble Mission of Woman in the Family, I was privileged to interview Fiorella Nash, a bioethicist in the UK and author of the book, Abolition of Woman: How Radical Feminism is Betraying Women. Having interacted with her writings, it was humbling to interview and engage in a deep conversation with her.
I would be ungrateful if I put my pen down without noting the outstanding contribution of Dr Wathuta not only in achieving the Institute’s vision, but also in enhancing the lives of all the interns and volunteers. She has served as a great mentor to each of us, encouraging us through every step of the way. She always steps out of her way to help out where she can, despite her busy schedule. Her high spirits and cheerfulness make her approachable and fun to work with. She is a true inspiration to many people.
This article was written by Christine Njane.
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