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Who is Wanjiru?

I am currently Director of African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD)

Before that I served as Founder and Executive Director of Akili Dada, a leadership incubator investing in the next generation of African women leaders.  I was also an assistant professor in the Politics department at the University of San Francisco.  Holding a Masters and Ph.D. in Political Science, my academic interests centred around the politics of philanthropy, gender, Africa,  ethnic politics, democratisation, and the role of technology in social activism.

Even as I have crossed sectors, from education to agriculture and with women’s empowerment at the core, I have remained passionate about the synergy between rigorous analysis and committed social activism.  I believe that whether as academics or activists, we should not just describe the world as it is and should be, we should also act to change the world in which we live.

Why this Blog?

In August 2009 I was ranting to my girl friends  about the crazy things I was seeing as I worked on Akili Dada.  I kept running into well-meaning but completely off the mark efforts to ‘save’ Africa.  This  blog is  all my friends’ fault.  They are the ones who egged me on to write something and not just hold my frustrations on the inside.

So one night, after I put the baby to bed, I sat at my computer.

I started off with a page, then two, then five.  More conversations.  Then an invitation to present my ideas at a brown bag at the Global Fund for Women.  I was shocked that the room was packed and thats when I knew I was on to something.   Over lunch after the presentation my friend Natalie convinced me to hurry up and write a book.

The final goal was to be something short, sweet, and to the point.  A quick non-academic read.   Then I’d go back to working on turning my dissertation into a book.  That, after all, is what professors at my stage in their careers are supposed

Problem is, I HATE WRITING.  writing my dissertation was the most lonely, painful, and isolating experience of my life.  And it took forever! (3 years to be exact! (O.k. I spent the first two years dreading the prospect then  wrote most of the dissertation in the last year))

Still, I couldn’t imagine putting myself through the same misery again.  Hence this blog.

This blog was envisioned as just a crutch to get me through the book writing process. As an extrovert, writing needs to be an interactive process.  I get and refine my ideas through conversation with others.  So, instead of emailing my busy friends with random questions, opinions and ideas and asking for their reactions, I thought I’d post them all here and see if anyone reads this thing and what they have to say.  Should be easy enough…… :)

But then Akili Dada continued to grow.  Our impact on the lives of young women grew as public recognition of our work also grew.

We won recognition from President Obama’s White House and I got to write a piece on the White House Blog about our work and give a speech about our work.

I was one of 14 “Champions of Change” recognised for our work within American Diaspora communities.

I found myself with access to fora and platforms that I had never had before.

The World Affairs Council invited me to speak on the importance of Girls’ education.

In 2012 I was named one of 100 Most Influential Africans by New African Magazine and a ‘Champion of Democracy’ by the Ford Foundation.

Turning Point

Eventually my life took a turn.

After 10 years heading up Akili Dada I decided it was time to hand over leadership.  The public glare was becoming uncomfortable and I felt strongly that, at 36 years old, I had ‘aged out’ of legitimately leading a young women’s organisation.

I was also 4 years into my tenure track job at the University of San Francisco and the prospect of returning to suffer over writing a book to secure tenure filled me with dread.

Besides, 2 years of living back in Kenya full-time had convinced me that there was work still to do on the continent.

So I quit both my jobs on the same day, and started my role at AWARD the next week.

And the journey continues…

(oh, and I had another baby)

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. March 17, 2010 9:23 PM

    Inspiring Ms Wanjiru! Holler if you are ever interested in adding some illustration to that book…
    -Rob

  2. April 5, 2010 8:24 PM

    I am so glad I stumbled on here via a link provided by another who I follow on twitter. Today.

    This is fantastic.

    You might be interested in something in re: women and Africa that I wrote. It is very off the usual tone when it comes to such topics.

    the reconstruction of male-female relations in developing nations and its implications for nation building

    Moreover, last night in a stream of tears, I wrote a prose piece (not really a poem–I am not a poet) titled: “I don’t write ABOUT Africa. I write TO Africa” inspired by this pan-African metablog which has asked me if I would like to contribute to them given what they have seen of my stuff on Africa on another pan-Africa website based in South Africa where I write frequently.

    I will post my response to your latest post regarding “saving” Africa after I am done with the final version tonight.

    Much gratitude for your efforts. I will be stopping by often.

    peace & light,

    ~a.

  3. OLIVE WANJIKU permalink
    April 16, 2010 10:43 PM

    Save Africa? i don’t know how to say this, but how can u save people who don’t know that they need saving, they think they are ok, they are so content with what they have they don’t see any reason to work for more. but if someone can convince them that there is more out there, and they can have it if they only tried. then we are saved.

  4. June 7, 2010 11:26 PM

    Hello Wanjiru!

    I have just listed your blog in our free online directory for Africa, http://www.infoafricanow.com. Here is the link with your listing:

    http://www.infoafricanow.com/directory.php?do=SubCategory&CountryID=23&CatID=424

    All the best!

  5. Jenny permalink
    June 28, 2010 12:23 AM

    Hello, I like your blog a lot and in light of the clitoris surgery controversy, I was wondering if you’ve heard of this:

    http://www.swans.com/library/art15/barker24.html#016

    I don’t really by the essay’s thesis(it seems to use a guilt by association argument), but I’d like to hear what you think.

    • Wanjiru N Kamau-Rutenberg permalink
      July 5, 2010 12:31 AM

      oh wow, I had not seen the article. fascinating! Thanks for sharing.

  6. November 14, 2010 7:58 AM

    Dear Ms Wanjiru!

    I would like your help in achieving a personal project I have started. This entails connecting 20 011 African Social Entrepreneurs from around the world to join group on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook called Social Media for African Social Entrepreneurs.

    The aim with your help is to:
    (a) Connect 20 011 African Social Entrepreneurs to the group working on social projects around the African Continent 31 December 2010.
    (b) bridge the digital divide between African Social Entrepreneurs and their counterparts around the rest of the world
    (b) Find out if the Social Media Network is as powerful as the “experts” claim;
    (c) Find out how many African Social Entrepreneurs are utilizing any of the tools, if not, how can this be improved?
    (d) Finally to have a minimum of 20 011 African Social Entrepreneurs connected to each other by 01 January 2011.

    As Donald Trump said “As long as your going to be thinking anyway, think BIG”

    Can you help me achieve this goal by forwarding this email invitation within your network, and your network passing it on within their network and so on?

    “There is no reason why we Africans cannot stand on our own feet” Mr. Kagame_Rwandan President

    Please feel free to forward this message onto as many African Social Entrepreneurs, you know.

    Let Ubuntu rein!

    Asante Akeva! Dankie! Danke (schön),Grazie, Maraba! mazvita henyu, Obrigado Obrigada Siyabonga Shokrun Thank you! Yewo! Zikomo !

    Namaste – We are One!
    Ursula

  7. October 7, 2011 12:35 PM

    Sign the petition????? I know it’s not much, but it’s what I feel I can do at this point in my life…

    http://www.change.org/petitions/mahindra-foundationnanhi-kali-organization-end-the-girl-store-and-the-selling-of-indian-girls

    “”The Girl Store” is a website in which buyers can “buy a girl…her life back” that is focused on raising money for girls education in India through a Western savior trope. The girls featured on the website are all featured and are priced for you to buy. The rhetoric of the site is pornographic, saying that the girls are “100% genuine” and that buyers can “experience the sensation of buying a girl” while the girls are portrayed in highly sexualized ways. Further, commodifying a child or a girl is not an okay fundraising strategy, especially as it employs the rhetoric of human trafficking to promote girls education. This campaign defeats the purpose and perpetuates a relationship of immense power and authority between the West and India. Finally, this campaign further commodifies, sexualizes, and exploits the girls it claims to be saving.”

    University of Wisconsin – Gender and Women’s Studies…

  8. Kalat permalink
    November 22, 2011 4:15 PM

    Dear Ms Wanjiru!
    I came across your blog while i was surfing, USF website. As a native Ethiopian, I just want to let you know that how much i appreciate your insight on issue that is affect Africa. It is always great to hear a different insight on honest issue that is going on in the continent. I hope i get the chance to meet you in person.
    Sincerely

Trackbacks

  1. Betty Dodson and Audre Lourde: Can I possibly use the master’s tools to demolish her house? « Can? We? Save? Africa?
  2. Thanks, but Actually, My Clitoris is Not for Sale: Watching the Debate Surrounding Clitoraid « Love(me)less

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