#ImpactandCommunitySeries: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.” Jecinta Wanjiru Kagai, Gender and Development Expert, Gender Activist and Youth Advocate.

Jecinta Wanjiru Kagai

Leading Ladies Africa: Who is Jecinta Wanjiru Kagai

Jecinta Wanjiru Kagai: Jecinta Wanjiru Kagai is a Gender and Development Expert, a Gender Activist and Youth Advocate with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Gender and Development Studies from Kenyatta University in Kenya where she also served in the student’s council as a student leader during her studies. She has a vast experience of working with grassroot communities in the prevention of Gender Based Violence and Meaningful Youth Engagement for Gender Equality. She has Initiated and Coordinated a network of youth leaders and youth led organisations in 4 Counties in Kenya to prevent and address GBV through GBV awareness activities and innovative initiatives such as art and digital advocacy during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

She is a passionate Gender Equality Advocate and is interested in advancing the rights of marginalized groups especially women, girls, children and intersex persons.  As an intersex ally, she has also worked with intersex persons and intersex parents/ caregivers. It is this experience that led her to co-found the Association of Intersex Parenthood (AIP)Kenya that is working to end the marginalization of intersex persons and their families by recognizing the important role of parents as their first and constant contact.

Jecinta grew in a disadvantaged background and spent her early childhood years in poverty which saw her grow in a childrens home for orphans and needy children; Huruma Children`s Home in Ngong, Kajiado County Kenya. She therefore considers herself a product of Giving and is passionate about giving back to the needy in the community. Her passion for giving drives her active involvement in charity initiatives such as Weka Wide Smiles Foundation where she is a founding member. Jecinta also enjoys using her knowledge and skills to educate teenagers and young people about Leadership, Gender Equality, Sexual and Reproductive Health and Menstrual Health Management.

As a Youth and Gender advocate, she is currently active in the promotion of youth and women leadership in the current electioneering period in Kenya. She has been on the forefront advancing this course through active party engagement. Jecinta is keen to advocate against any form of Election Related Violence especially the potential risk of Gender Based Violence towards women and girls during the electioneering period.

Jecinta is also launching Usawa Space, a podcast and platform in Anchor, Spotify and other social media spaces that will amplify voices about Gender Equality, Social Justice and Mental Health. She hopes to use this platform to lead conversations that will transform individuals and their communities.  She considers herself a bold world changer.

Leading Ladies Africa: Can you share some of the memorable moments and highlights in the course of your work?

Jecinta Wanjiru Kagai: My memorable moments are when working with and at the grassroots communities. I have witnessed the drive and passion of young people and women in transforming their communities. Despite the challenges they face in communities trying to address Gender issues and the limited skills or support, they are committing their efforts and lending a voice to address these issues such as GBV. Through various initiatives, I saw their voices anchored and recognized in the communities, that marks as a great highlight for me.

Other memorable moments include witnessing survivors rebuild their livelihoods after very traumatic experiences and also vulnerable groups of people overcoming their fear and stigma in the community such as the community of intersex persons; intersex children and their parents/caregivers that I have been privileged to work with.

 

Leading Ladies Africa: With how far you`ve come and your success, what achievements do you hope for in the next five years

Jecinta Wanjiru Kagai: I am so grateful to God, the gift of family, friends and great mentors for my achievements so far. I believe there is still so much out there for me to conquer and many spaces for me to grab as a young woman as I create spaces for other women and girls coming behind me. I am hoping to grow my initiatives such as AIP to be able to support and transform the lives of many intersex persons and their families. I am also hoping to grow Usawa Space Podcast and Platform to lead conversations on Gender Equality, Social Justice and Mental Health. I am also hoping to advance my knowledge and skills in Gender and Development as well as pursue decision making tables that will enable me to contribute valuable solutions for the most vulnerable persons, groups and communities in Kenya.

 

Leading Ladies Africa: Can you briefly describe some women you consider mentors?

Jecinta Wanjiru Kagai: I am honored to be surrounded by many powerful women who have mentored and guided me. My mother is my first motivation and mentor in life. She is one strong, industrious and beautiful woman having mothered 8 amazing children (my 7 brothers and I) and conquering a lot in her life. I have seen her live through and conquer mental health issues everyday and she reminds me to chase my dreams every day. She inspires me to make lives better and safer for women and girls through her experiences.  I always feel like I am walking in her shadow through my achievements.

Another great mentor is Dr. Helen Gichohi, an Ecologist, Former President of the African Wildlife Foundation and Former Managing Director Equity Group Foundation. I met Dr. Helen as high school student and scholar at the Wings to Fly Program by Equity Bank and Equity Group Foundation. She has been instrumental in helping me develop a strong character, she always insisted on the need for Tenacity and Delayed Gratification. I have lived by these and more good virtues inspired by her. Over the years, Helen has remained a good friend and mentor who has always been keen to see my progress and success.

I also met some great mentors during my undergraduate studies at Kenyatta University. My lecturers inspired me to be the passionate Gender Advocate that I am today. Dr. Sheila Mutuma, Lecturer at the Department of Sociology, Gender and Development Studies nurtured my leadership skills in Campus and was keen to see my academic excellence. She is greatly poised, her soft-spoken nature and brilliance in gender matters is one to envy. I learnt a lot from her and she remains a great mentor to date.

I am also inspired greatly by Dr. Regina Mwatha, Senior Lecturer and Project Leader Kenyatta University Women`s Economic Empowerment Hub who has also served as the Vice Chairperson, Commission on Administrative Justice and the National Gender and Equality Commission. Her self-drive, passion and energy in addressing gender and public issues is admirable. She is a great mentor and leader and I am hoping to walk in her footsteps.

I have also been mentored by my friends and peers such as Ms. Wawira Nyaga, currently working at the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. As a young and new graduate/professional, Wawira was keen to guide me and allowed me to grow. She has held her burning candle high and made sure that my fire is burning always.

These and much more amazing women in my life have taught me that we are truly stronger together. I look forward to learning more from great women in Africa and the world as I grow.

Leading Ladies Africa: Do you have a life philosophy, personal mantra perhaps that keeps you steady when the going gets tough?

Jecinta Wanjiru Kagai: I love inspiration, I move by inspiration through good books, good music and podcasts.  I have quite a number of life philosophies but I can share a few. I am inspired daily to dream and dream big through the quote The Future Belongs to those who Believe in the Beauty of their Dreams by Eleanor Roosevelt.

When the going gets tough and I start feeling afraid, I remember that Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” By Marianne Williamson

As I go throughout my daily life, I also live by the mantra that My smile is my logo, my personality is my business card and how I leave others feeling after an experience with me is my trademark inspired by Jay Danzie.

 

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