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.
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)