Who is Elsie Muhonja?
I am youth advocate with a huge passion for democracy and governance especially in regards to youth inclusion, diversity and gender dynamics. This interest is particularly fascinating to me as a young leader because I believe in the potential of youth to bring forth the needed change Africa needs through creativity and innovation.
I also have a keen interest on mentorship and life coaching. My goal is to see young professionals taking up challenging activities to become better versions of themselves while at the same time living their lives with pride and purpose. I enjoy reading, hiking and going out on safaris.
Having interest in youth leadership and democracy what are your insights about Kenyan situation?
The Kenyan situation is not entirely a bad one when it comes to youth participation on democratic processes. However the buck does not only stop at participation, we need more young people in representation too. This can only be achieved if we changed our mindset on how we vote in our leaders. The shift should move from political party voting to agenda based voting. This will demand more action and less talk from the youth. We have the power to change the narrative. We have seen capable and visionary young leaders vying for positions only to be kicked out of the process because they don’t subscribe to certain political parties which are often of tribal nature.
You have been making trips around Africa courtesy of Youngstars Foundation. How did you get there and what is the foundation about?
Youngstars Foundation is one of Africa’s unique, life-changing youth organization started in Jos, Plateau state, but now operates from Gudu, Abuja Nigeria. From a weekly youth club in a local barber shop in 1995, YF is growing to emerge as one of the lead youth non-profit that is building young people and strengthening youth organizations involved in development programs in Africa.
The foundation has a number of programs and one of them is Canvassity Pan-Africa Democracy fellowship which I am a 2018 fellow. The program is designed to improve the capacity of young African people to effectively engage elected representatives and government institutions to become more accountable, efficient and to deliver impactful governance to citizens. The idea is to present a problem facing your local space and solutions to that problem on a canvas and come up with a six months project in offering solutions to the said problem while engaging elected representatives. I got to hear about this noble program through my friend Eunice who is now an alumnus of the fellowship.
Which problem or crisis are you aiming to address with the knowledge you’ve acquired at Youngstars
I aim to increase the knowledge and awareness on the importance of a peaceful country to the youth fraternity because it is us who the politicians use and misuse causing tension especially during the electioneering period. This I have been able to achieve through holding Peace and Security trainings and workshops for the youth, doing media advocacy and holding social hall meeting where different stakeholders are invited to participate and provide their insight. This in the end will help youth understand that peace and stability is a necessary requirement for the political, social and economic growth of any country.
You were among the two ladies at AU learning summit. What impact has that had on you?
The learning visit at the African Union opened up my mind to the workings of the African Union and how member states can leverage on its provisions for their own good. I got to learn about the African Governance Architecture; it is mind blowing what the African Union Commission does to promote good governance and development in Africa and Kenya being a member state, my wish is to see that the national government fully abides to the charters provided by the commission. My personal take away assignment after the learning visit is to start African Union Clubs in learning institutions across the country to popularize the African Union to citizens at an early age. Being one of the only two ladies attending was a wake-up call to challenge more young ladies not to be afraid to take up such opportunities. Seeing that the selection process was highly competitive, I am glad that I made it to the final stage of selection.
What fuels the passion you have for democracy and governance?
I believe in order and impactful leadership. My main motivation is to see that public service delivery is efficient to the core and citizens are served with the dignity they deserve. When I walk into an office, I don’t have to be served well because I know somebody there, I need to be served well because I am a Kenyan citizen and it is my right to access public services. Efficiency in public service delivery and desire to see the democratic processes my country work are what motivate my passions.
Kenyans are complaining about tax burden and corruption. Do you think young people have a role to play in addressing both?
Young people are the bulk of our country’s population, of course they have a role to play. With the rise in use of social media, online advocacy can be done to shake things up. Baby steps are key.. And not just that, young people, by the virtue of being citizens have a role to play in ensuring that our elected leaders fulfil their mandate. Civic responsibility does not end at the ballot and no meaningful economic development can ever go on when people just vote and retract back until when the next general elections are held. This is the reason why the tax issue has been so rampant because we let the leaders make decisions on our behalf thus ending up disdaining the trust we put on them.
As a lady, what do you think makes ladies of our generation date married men?
The tendency to live a lavish life without working hard is mainly what makes ladies do that. We cannot also give a blind eye to harsh economic realities of today that make these ladies take such shortcuts in life. Same case goes to young men dating married women. However as a society we need to put more emphasis on hard work and ingenuity and stop rewarding mediocrity while glorifying laziness.
Recommend a book (s).
Lean In By Sheryl Sandberg
The Confidence Code By Katty Kay and Claire Shipman
What are your words to the Kenyan Youth?
Follow your passion with discipline and determination and don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young.
By Marvin, Email: email@example.com