By Jade Candice Wambui
In life, we all go through different seasons that lead us down different paths filled with all kinds of adventures along the way. I was in a season of Exploration and Questioning when I found Akili Dada.
My interest in Akili Dada was centered on wanting to learn, have a deeper understanding of the great work being done for young African girls and women who have so much to give to their communities and continent but have little to no opportunities to express that, and the desire to learn. In retrospect, I now realize how much I was also searching for where I personally fit in the puzzle of empowering young girls and women; to give all that I can give with the little that I have. Sending in my resume for an internship position was a shot in the dark, but thankfully, it paid off. Something that I was, am and will always be grateful for.
My first day at Akili Dada, I hit the ground running. That first day was the dawn of my understanding and appreciation for every little role that keeps a well-oiled machine (in this case, organization) going. My initial roles, like I would imagine for most interns in various organizations and companies, were “basic” and pretty “small”. Some filing over here, some printing over there. Yes, they didn’t require an extraordinary amount of brainpower, but they mattered beyond face-value. In my experience, they were what allowed me to really practice being consistent in the work I did, and helped me understand how the small tasks feed into Akili Dada’s short and long-term work.
Overtime, my tasks grew bigger and required more of me, which initially was hard to deal with, but they are what stretched and grew me the most. Tasks that were a pain in the neck now became part of the growth of fundamental skills that I know will serve me for a lifetime. Filing turned into analysis and report-writing for the Monitoring and Evaluation, and printing turned into doing research on scholarships and international conferences for the Gap Year Program. It was in these moments where I was entrusted with more even as intern, beyond the need to get the work done, my supervisors and the women I worked with genuinely cared about my growth. It was a growth that remained consistent through my 8 months at Akili Dada. An invaluable experience.
By women, for women
Being an intern in a space created by women for women is a beautiful thing. It can push you to really challenge the socialization you experience and learn as a young girl of who a woman can and should be. Spaces like this blow up these narrow-minded and sometimes misconstrued ideas of what womanhood should look like, and replace them with the understanding that the opportunities of womanhood are not only unique to each individual, but are limitless to the imagination. I saw this lived out through their beneficiaries in all their programs, and it challenged me to question my own “female-perception”, and do better in making it more wholesome and accommodating.
Another great thing I witnessed and appreciated, especially with being a newbie in the professional workspace, was the leniency and understanding policies that do their best to allow mothers to be as present in their children’s lives as much as possible, and also allow staff members to tend to their numerous responsibilities outside of the office. There is a clear understanding of the reality that sometimes life happens and it is necessary for people to have the wiggle room necessary to deal with it all. I hope I get to work and thrive in similar environments in the future.
As an intern, more often than not the work seems to stay within the office and so I had no real expectations of ever travelling for work purposes. Well, was I very wrong about that! And I’m glad I was. I’m not talking about the office errands that send you up and down and around downtown Nairobi. I’m thinking a lot bigger. I got to travel to Naivasha, Ngong, Nakuru, and Lukenya to do work that not only stretched me as a person, but also allowed me to see how all the (sometimes) mundane and intense work done in the office come to life in ways I couldn’t imagine. It was a sight to behold, truly. Again, it takes me back to the fact that they believed in me enough to let me into those spaces. Something I will always be grateful for.
As the Gap Year Support intern from January to May of this year, I experienced some of my greatest challenges and triumphs, and really got to share my experiences as a college student to the Gap interns, and also in some ways got to relive my post high-school gap year through them. They are an incredible group of young women that I was honored to work and serve with.
Finally, if there is one life-changing lesson and challenge that I took away from my time at Akili Dada, it’s the need and desire to constantly grow through reading for deeper knowledge and understanding, putting my skills and lessons learning into practice wherever possible, and putting myself in spaces and relationships that challenge me to examine myself and push me to do better. Beneficiaries and staff likewise are always encouraged to read more, learn more, try more, and push themselves to grow more.
After this, comes the cheers along the way and the celebration of accomplishments both great and small, along with each other.
Akili Dada in many ways will be a landmark of my journey; in providing direction, lessons, relationships and growth. For all these things and more, I am grateful.