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Who am I? How Should I live respecting and recognizing me?

From left: Caroline Shisubili Maingi and Esther Muriithi with their awards.

Caroline Shisubili Maingi, a Lecturer at Strathmore University and an Advisory  Board Member of World Youth Alliance Africa (WYA), and Esther Muriithi, the Administration Manager at Strathmore University and Steering Committee member, WYA, received the Kathryn Hoomkwap Award in New York at the WYA 20 Years Celebration Ball. The award recognizes distinguished service in defense of the dignity of the human person among WYA members. Kathryn Hauwa Hoomkwap was a political leader and social scientist who is remembered for her fearlessness and conviction, and who strongly supported WYA’s mission to promote human dignity. She was also key in making headway in getting active on the African Continent, when she served as an Ambassador from Nigeria.

The birth of World Youth Alliance (WYA) in Africa

Prior to joining WYA Caroline worked with an NGO, True Love Waits, where she visited various schools in Nairobi and its environs speaking on matters of love and relationships to young people. In 1999 she was invited for World Congress of Families II in Geneva, Switzerland, where she was introduced to the WYA. In 2000, she was invited for Beijing +5 Conference in New York where she met Anna Halpine, the Founder of the WYA, who over several meetings shared with Caroline how she could be part of this vision. Shortly after her return to Kenya, she was offered an internship in New York and upon completion returned to Kenya. As its first director, she helped establish WYA Africa in 2003 as a legal entity and led its expansion, recruitment and fundraising.

Esther, on the other hand, had just finished college in 2002 and was running errands in town when she met Caroline who offered her a volunteer position at WYA. She worked as an intern for two years, both in Kenya and New York and later became the Director of Operations. She worked with WYA for six years. Currently she serves WYA as a member of the Steering committee.

What is the World Youth Alliance?

WYA is an organization for young people which propels the message of the dignity of the human person and how that can be recognized, promoted and protected at all levels while sensitizing people about it. WYA answers the question “Who am I” and “How should I live respecting and recognizing ME.” WYA believes in putting the human person at the center of all policy discussions and played a significant role during the drafting of The Constitution of Kenya, 2010. While the drafting process was quite long, Caroline recognizes that there still remain grey areas on the issue of life: the bill of rights and on marriage and families which can be interpreted in various ways. WYA continues to be active in policy formulation in Africa and contributed during the discussion on the Maputo Protocol and most recently in the Kenya National Volunteering Policy Documents & the Family Policy Document for Kenya. World Youth Alliance engages young people from ages 10 – 30 years in the programme areas of education, culture and advocacy by providing opportunities for training, internships, fellowship, project management, policy formulation and cultural expressions through art and music. 

As an advisor and board member to WYA

As part of a seven-member team, Caroline’s major role as a board member and advisor is to ensure they steer the ship in the right direction in tandem with what is currently happening in the country, regionally and in the world, while Esther, a member of the steering committee, handles the operations aspect.

She provides advice regarding strategic planning, budgeting and staffing.

The future of WYA in Africa

The vision for WYA in Africa remains clear from the beginning, and that is to be present at all levels of policy discussions in Africa and globally. The team looks forward to activating various chapters in the whole of sub-Saharan Africa and seeing the implementation of their programs; The Human Dignity Curriculum (HDC) our Fertility Education and Medical Management (FEMM) Program. This is a vision that is very close to their hearts, a vision to foster solidarity among young people globally by changing mindsets and creating a culture that respects and protects the dignity of the human person.

The Partnership of WYA with Strathmore Law School

In April 2018. two students from the Strathmore Law School https://strathmore.edu/news/my-new-york-experience-as-narrated-by-natasha-muhoza/were part of WYA Advocacy Fellowship in New York, in which WYA provides for students to grow in their field within the international sphere. The students were afforded many opportunities including and not limited to engagement at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The next cohort of students will join the Advocacy Fellowship Programme this year. The Africa Emerging Leaders Conference (AELC; https://www.wya.net/programs/emerging-leaders-conference/ has also been an area of engagement in education that aims to increase the knowledge base of the youth from across Africa on current issues. WYA has also partnered with several universities in Kenya to train lawyers to ensure they are able to put the people at the centre of their policies.

So who are Caroline and Esther.

“I am a human being with dignity; a sister, a wife, a mother, a friend, a worker. I am a free being able to pick, choose and exercise my being. I am a person with strengths and weaknesses and I love who I am”.  Esther Muriithi

“I am a rational, socio-political being. I think and I choose. I love and I care.  I experience joys and pains. I am tough, at the same time vulnerable.  I laugh, and sing and cry.  I know, I want to be known.  I am human.” Shisubili Maingi

Inspired is an understatement, and as I leave this interview, I am left to think of what my legacy will be. For Caroline and Esther, part of their legacy will be to bring the human person at the fore front of every conversation and policy they are involved in. What will yours be?

This article was written by Anne Njeri

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