Thoughts from Purity Kagwiria, Akili Dada’s Incoming Executive Director!

By February 3, 2014 No Comments


I am passionate about Akili Dada because the organization so deeply reflects my own personal journey. When I first joined Akili Dada three years ago I found home in the smiles and struggles of young women we work with because they are living so much of my life story. These young women are a constant source of inspiration and hope. They remind me how, at the age of 14, I was at a pivotal moment and had to dig deep into myself for the courage to own my life. And that was everything. Working at Akili Dada, I now have the vocabulary to recognize the investments people made in me, which shifted the trajectory of my life. These are the same investments that Akili Dada makes in young women’s lives today. In important ways, I was drawn to and have remained at Akili Dada because the Akili Dada story is my story..

In my visits to the homes of scholars and fellows across Kenya, I have gained a deeper appreciation for the odds stacked against Akili Dada girls and indeed girls across the continent. I am in awe of the sheer determination it takes to find their way to high school. Spending time with them, I’ve seen what it is for them to look beyond their own struggles, and turn their focus outward, asking, “What can I do for the people around me?”. I have a keen appreciation for how, when we invest in them as a global community of advocates, they are able to put their energy toward their education, social change projects and self-discovery. It is because I know both their potential to change the status quo, and the importance of investing in them in ways that are relevant and innovative that I am most proud to call Akili Dada home.

I step into the Akili Dada Executive Director role at a pivotal time. Wanjiru’s transition has been more than two years in the making and the entire staff and Board have been involved in strategizing and planning the process. I am stepping into the Akili Dada leadership at a time when momentum is strong, the organization is healthy and the future is even brighter. Under Wanjiru’s leadership, we have scaled great heights while establishing solid systems that will continue to serve us well into the future.

The institutional culture of leadership development at Akili Dada has prepared me to take on the role of Executive Director. Developing young women as individuals and leaders is not just what we do with Akili Dada’s young scholars, it’s core to Akili Dada’s own organizational culture. As my supervisor and mentor, Wanjiru has done an incredible job of introducing me to every part of this organization. We have walked together for the last three years, and in that time I have learned what it takes to run and sustain this organization. As my own personal leadership training has intensified over the last few months, my confidence has grown. Still, I welcome the collective wisdom, strength and energy of the entire Akili Dada community as we navigate this transition together.

As the next Executive Director, I plan to continue consolidating the impressive gains of the last decade while growing the scale and deepening the impact of our work. My plan is not to undo the Akili Dada we all fell in love with, but rather to grow that work and introduce Akili Dada to new audiences. Under my leadership we will engage on a more global platform, we will strategically diversify and increase our partnerships, and we will engage with the women’s movement in deeper ways.

I believe that one of Akili Dada’s most distinguishing characteristics is how we hold the young women we work with at the center of our identity. Under my leadership, the centrality of these young women’s leadership will remain as the guiding compass of our work.

I am honored to step into the leadership of such a vibrant organization and to be part of this dedicated community that has been built around our shared dedication to African women’s leadership. As a member of the larger Akili Dada community, you are vital to this work and I could not be more excited to step into this new era with you.