Nadia Ahmed Abdalla: Shattering glass ceilings for women in politics #novemberspotlight

Nadia Ahmed Abdalla, the youngest deputy minister in Kenya

Tell us about yourself

I am an exceptionally well-organized, focused, dynamic and resourceful Professional with a knack for results and quality outputs. I am a committed change-maker with a distinguished and quite illustrious career in public and entrepreneurial service.

I have had more than two years of experience working with the Government of Kenya as a Deputy Minister ( ChiefAdministrative Secretary ) in the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs in the Republic of Kenya and a solid academic background in Public Relations and Mass Communications as well as International Relations and Cultural Diplomacy.

I am an avid champion of girl-child, youth and young women in Africa. I am an author, public policy communication strategist, lobbyist, Mental health advocate and a Pan-African Diplomat.

 

How did this journey begin?

It began when I was a 13-year-old girl from the coast of Kenya in a city called Mombasa, and I always knew that I was meant to be more than my community told me we should be as a young girl. As a teenager, I always used to speak my mind and do things differently from everyone else.

When I went to university, I found my voice and identity, started writing and blogging and then moved to be a social entrepreneur and social change maker in my community. From there became a public speaker and a coach and one thing led to another. I found myself in the National Government of Kenya at the age of 29 years as a Deputy Minister ( CAS ).

And now, the journey continues, and I am excited to see what life has in store for me and my passion for leading. Nonetheless, I shall continue championing for inclusion of youth and young women in Africa in spaces of policy and areas of impact and mentor teenage girls on their rights as young women.

What is it like being the youngest deputy minister in Kenya?

It has been a learning experience and very empowering. I have learned how the government works, experienced high-level policy implementation and been exposed to global platforms. Being an impact-driven leader, I have managed to relate very well with the youth in Kenya, Africa and Globally and show how possible it is for young people to lead and implement when given a chance.

What are the significant challenges you’ve faced as a woman in politics/Leadership?

The idea of young women being part of the decision-making table and active participants who are visibly seen and heard is still slowly being accepted in Africa. However, significant strides and improvements are being seen. Unfortunately, as a young woman, you must work six times as hard to get into a space and have your ideas accepted and implemented.

The other major challenge is convincing our counterparts of the necessity of being included and actively participating and not just to fill up a quota that portrays young women are being included. However, most times, it’s just to rubber-stamp the demands and not give power and space to be impactful. So to solve this challenge by having more like myself, speaking out about the need to have more of us in spaces and leading by example.

What values and principles have helped you so far?

Integrity, transparency, honesty and relatability

What would you advise younger girls who want to enter politics/leadership?

Have a reason as to why you want to go into politics/leadership roles, don’t just go into it because of the wave that surrounds the whole ideology or because your friends are doing it.

Make sure you are well-versed and well-read on the issues you want to drive around while you go into politics or leadership. Be as relatable and as authentic as possible. That is why you gain the trust of those who follow you and your work.

Lastly, invest highly in your mental health, especially emotional intelligence; this will help you throughout your political and leadership journey. Silence the noise that constantly convinces you that you cannot do it and believe in yourself.

 

What’s your take on women’s inclusion in politics generally in Africa?

I believe we have improved quite sufficiently, which is a good thing; of course, more work still needs to be done to multiply the number of women included. I also believe women generally need to look at young women who want to join in politics or leadership and mentor them accordingly. Young women need more support & mentorship from those women who have made it before them.

 

Interestingly, you run other campaigns for young girls and women; how have they been so far?

Yes, I do. I believe that working through the mandate given to us isn’t sufficient if I want to make an impact and widen the opportunities for others around me. So far, the campaigns have been well and progressive; I have seen many youths and young women/girls I have worked with and done so well for themselves.

This has motivated me to start my Pan-African Mentorship program called; #Dreams4Africa, a mentorship program that focuses on African Youth and Teenage girls across our continent. This is a way for me to share the experiences and expertise I have gained so far with those who are willing and interested in learning.

 

What would you be caught doing if we don’t catch you working?


Oh my, I kind of
 feel like I have become quite boring. I used to be an extreme extrovert now, because of the nature of how my journey has become. I am more of an introvert. I enjoy cooking, watching movies and even hosting people at home. Travelling is also something you would catch me doing and on a good Friday evening dancing.

What would you say to your younger self?

Don’t waste too much time wondering why you are different and don’t fit in. You were never meant to fit in but break barriers and biases that those who felt you were weird because they are also part of the awesomeness you are creating continentally and someday globally.

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