My deeply-rooted passion for participating in the process of combating poverty
Frankly, I have always had a deeply-rooted passion for participating in the process of combating poverty, stemming from my experience once being impoverished and living in Eastleigh, a low-income area in East Nairobi. My experience working for the Kenyan government, Kenya Vision 2030 Delivery Secretariat, the Kenyan social and economic development blueprint, further fueled my zeal for human development. From Vision 2030, I learned that the government of Kenya is making efforts in the economic development of the country, and most of its policies are commendable. For example, in the 2010 Constitution, the Kenyan government pioneered devolution in the country that decentralized power and authority from the national government into more localized politics. This devolution process has the potential to address ‘Kenya’s longstanding challenges of poverty, ethnic inequalities, equity, and service delivery. However, despite the presence of “good” policies, benefits are not trickling down to the poor due to delays in implementation and reinforcement of inclusive policies. For many of the 42 % of Kenyans who live under the poverty threshold, poverty is synonymous with death. It means a premature death that may manifest itself from inadequate hygiene, poor quality healthcare, extra-judicial crime, or post-election violence most prevalent in poor communities. It was disheartening walking from my workplace every afternoon, and right next to the Vision 2030 office gate was a disabled child begging for food and money as a last resort. A few minutes earlier, I had just read about welfare funds for the disabled. It was frustrating reviewing reports of “improvements in the hygiene of Nairobi slums, yet the place my family lived in in the ghetto, had not even transformed slightly in the quality of infrastructure in over ten years since my family moved.
The stench from the sewer systems
The same stench from sewer systems and hazardous rubbish dumps was present in the sewage systems running inches away from iron sheet homes. Children unaccompanied by adults roaming naked in the middle of the road; reports of girls who were once my playmates impregnated or rather sexually abused with no affordable means to seek justice for themselves and hearing of childhood friends shot dead by police without undergoing court trial.
The impeded economic and social change is a sign that while good policies are present abstractly, their robustness and practice is greatly hampered by the ‘country’s high corruption due to weak accountability mechanism that relies on top-down approaches and no bottom-up approaches to balance outcomes assuming bureaucrats are perfectly rational knights and never succumb to “knavely” (irrational) behavior. The main problem is not that resources in developing countries are scarce. A project by the world bank that is best fitting to elaborate on why promoting bottom-up approaches and community agency is imperative while striving for human development is World ‘Bank’s squatter upgrading program in Salvador da Bahia. In this project, the world bank subscribed to Amarty ‘Sen’s capability approaches to development by developing the program based on what the people in the community valued, and what they could manage to sustain functionality. The world bank most notably used participatory methods by involving community members and working with the resources and strategies the poor already had. Hence, the program was more successful than previous efforts.
uneven power is distribution
Cumulatively through my global and privileged experiences, I have learned how unevenly power is distributed on different scales, locally to globally, with the least potent people bearing the brunt of injustices such as climate change and poverty. But rather than succumbing to a fatalism attitude that situations are immutable considering present circumstances and the undignifying levels of poverty I have witnessed, every day I choose to see hope and use the injustices as a fuel for my work ethic, and intellectual curiosity catered towards improving the human conditions of the vulnerable in Africa. I see a lot of that hope in education, and not just any education but one that is democratizing. I believe education is the most effective tool to empower people because it nurtures agency. In Paul ‘Freire’s (iconic figure in Latin American education) words, the primary function a critical pedagogue (democratizing education) is to empower the powerless and transform those conditions which perpetuate humane injustice and inequity. Once accessed education has the power to give knowledge that liberates the vulnerable from a false consciousness giving them the tools needed to change their adverse circumstances. Thus I have invested myself into the education sector as my area of expertise not only via abstract passion but also through action.
‘I’ve acquired my education from three different systems: the Kenyan system, the American system, and now my masters in LSE in a British system. I have work experience in the education sector in all three countries as a multicultural representative, research analyst, mentorship coordinator, and now tutor. These experiences give me the advantage of having a global perspective on education. As an economics major, I gained essential tools that help conceptually and quantitively analyze economic conditions. The study of philosophy helped balanced my ethics to focus on the people behind the data rather than the data and more firmly uphold integrity. From my masters in policy, I gained essential tools vital for objectively scrutinizing and fine-tuning policy for maximum effectiveness and desired outcomes internationally. In my dissertation, I explore the question “What are the limits to the accountability mechanisms in the current Kenyan education system? Accountability is an essential component of a democratic society, and the lack of it the key ingredient to a corrupt one. Thus, through my dissertation, applicable to many contexts, and further through my career endeavors, I strive to make education systems and more broadly societies more accountable to all stakeholders who stand to be affected, thus, more democratic and inclusive.
In my highly coveted position in the Oregon Community Foundation as a research intern, I developed writing communication skills by researching and writing literature reviews concerning youth at risk programs and arts education. I researched and analyzed Oregon data involving socioeconomic factors in different state counties, mainly focusing on teens well-being. Through these analyses, I assisted with the annual report for ‘OCF’s Tracking ‘Oregon’s Progress project that was published statewide. Through the project, I grasped the complexity of the policy process, the vitality of people working together, and the strength in diversity. After all, many people have contributed to the successes in my life; hence, my own life is a team effort.
In my most recent internship working with the NGO Missions of Hope International in Kenya, I further nurtured my leadership and communication skills. I developed a flagship mentorship program for over 17,000 vulnerable youth that they serve. I also established an econometric data analysis system that may be used to inform the NGOs future decisions concerning how they can best galvanize the youth they serve to self-actualization. As a mentorship team leader, I gained the experience of addressing conflict professionally, recruiting, supervising, and working with people, often older and more experienced people from different departments within the organization. I cannot wholly expound in detail on how all my experiences contribute to my competency to be an excellent candidate to the World ‘Bank’s YP program due to the limited scope of this essay, but ‘I’ve given you a glimpse.
Having lived, studied and worked in Nairobi, Portland, OR, Oxford, and London, which has exposed to a wide array of knowledge, experiences, and cultures, I would be an invaluable addition to the World ‘Bank’s Young Professional program. The World Bank has a renowned name and reputation because of its excellence in bringing together people who are making a difference in all corners of the world. An opportunity to be part of the highly diverse YP cohort would facilitate for the acquisition of valuable knowledge, work experience, a more extensive network and sphere of influence needed to understand better the socio-economic challenges that societies in the world face. I would leverage this opportunity to develop sustainable and equitable solutions; help fine-tune and implement policies and projects that fit the context and that involve the agency and participation of those in plight, placing the human, not economic growth at the center of development.
It’s easy for a reader to notice a coherent narrative in my resume geared towards impacting lives of vulnerable people in society, mainly through strengthening education and strengthening accountability mechanisms in developing countries. My resume corroborates consistency in passion for empowering people, leadership, and diligence, among other qualities such as value for diversity, equity, and justice.
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