By Helen Lang’at

Disruption perfectly embodies the Akili Dada Spirit – they really didn’t like how things were panning out for young women that wanted to lead. For Purity Kagwiria (the current Executive Director of Akili Dada) the odds had been set.The challenge of having to head an ‘all-women’ organization, coupled with the fact the founding director had passed the baton directly to her, leaving a huge name to live up to, was daunting.

Once a founder passes on the leadership torch, chances are the organization may not do as well as it did when the founder was at the helm. Akili Dada has actually done some growing under Purity’s leadership, with her carrying the organizations fighting spirit into her own leadership mantra.

Purity hasn’t just grown the program reach, expanding Akili Dada into Uganda, Tanzania, and Rwanda, but has gone through her own professional transition from being a worker to being a leader that carries the vision. Acquiring people skills, and striking a balance between getting results and creating a conducive working environment for the staff is something Purity had to learn on the job – fitting, for a would be mentor to younger women leaders.

One expectation that was flouted is that an ‘all-women” organization would be like a women’s locker room, and that the women in question will be at each other’s throats, engaging in unnecessary and petty cat fights. At Akili Dada, work is done well and in collaboration with each other with nothing close to the angry-women stereotype featuring anywhere. More ways that Akili Dada is doing things differently is internally is the monthly staff days set aside for the team to bond and giving staff room to grow. There is money set aside for professional development for every staff working at Akili Dada. Currently, two of the staff have taken up the New Managers training at Strathmore.

The numbers in 2016:

10 years in existence

100 girls seen through high school under the scholarship program – now in different universities in Kenya and around the world.

15 female social entrepreneurs taken into a yearly fellowship programme for a year’s training to build capacity for the success of their projects

45 fellows have been under the Akili Dada’s wing and sedd grant is awarded to deserving projects

35 is the maximum age of women in political training program- those that are excluded from the political equation.

55 is the total number of women registered for political program

2 years, intensive political training

Their mission to empower the next generation of African women leaders touches heavily on civil leadership. Many women lead at the grassroots level through community participation, but do not take it to the next level of politics. The capacity building program for female political aspirants specifically targets the next elections (to train and give them the necessary skills) so that come the next election, they are ready to take on the campaign with the sole aim of them being elected. Akili Dada has also taken up the challenge to offer and create internship opportunities for its scholars to gain gainful knowledge and experience that further prepares them for their personal and professional life.

Success Story- Mercy’s ABILITY Magazine

Mercy has launched a magazine to help bring to light the issues affecting people with disabilities called ABILITY Magazine. and also hosts a TV show on KBC on disability. They both have focus on casting aside stereotypes of people with disabilities. She learned how to turn an idea into a fully fledged project, and has also changed the single planed way she looks at competitors – now she views them as potential collaborators and channels with which she can build her networks.

This article was first published in UP Nairobi