Investing in youth leadership holds the key to a brighter future for Africa.

Carob Magazine Africa speaks to one of Africa’s most Influential Pan African thought leaders, a true advocate for youth leadership and women empowerment in Africa. A change maker, an author and sought after speaker who is vocal about socioeconomic transformation, financial inclusion, diversity in political and leadership spaces, Nadia Ahmed Abdalla. We talk to her about her transformation campaigns and initiatives in Kenya and across Africa.

Carob Magazine Africa: Growing up in a village as a young girl what /who inspired you to dream big ?

Nadia Abdalla: I grew up on the coastal side of Kenya (so pretty much an island) called Mombasa, it is the second largest city in Kenya. I come from a minority group that has been historically marginalized. I was raised in a low middle income family predominantly made of women who were strong, hardworking and filled with humility. My family and community were driven by the spirit of Ubuntu that is where I garnered my inspiration from. Seeing my late mother, my grandmother and my aunties work hard tirelessly to keep our family going and never giving up despite all the adversities we faced played a huge role for me to dream big and know that I was meant to be and do more than what the society fabric had woven for me.

Carob Magazine Africa: In your book  ‘Of Dreams and whatever’ you talk about dreams being valid only when you relentlessly pursue them… What is your dream for Africa?

My dream for Africa is to have a boarder-less Africa, one where our movements are free of Visas to other African countries. A boarder-less Africa where our trade is free and we don’t need tariffs. An Africa where a fellow African can go to another African country and still integrate with the culture, the stories, their ways and means of living…A boarder-less Africa where young people are the ones who are leading in most spaces, an Africa where women have access to equal opportunities.

Carob Magazine Africa: You ’re an advocate for youth leadership in Africa, what do you think can change if we give the youth the opportunity to lead?

Nadia Abdalla: As an advocate for youth leadership in Africa, I believe empowering young people with leadership opportunities can spark significant change. Firstly, it humanizes leadership, making it more attainable for youth. Secondly, it brings fresh perspectives and innovative problem-solving approaches, as young people are tech-savvy and adaptable. Thirdly, it influences governance policies to better reflect the needs of the majority youth population. Finally, it fosters belonging, ownership, and motivation among young individuals, inspiring them to actively participate in societal change. Overall, investing in youth leadership holds the key to a brighter future for Africa.

Carob Magazine Africa: Tell us about your project Kenya Ni Mimi and what you have been able to achieve through it?

Nadia Abdalla: Kenya Ni Mimi was a transformative campaign I launched to empower Kenya’s youth. Recognizing the scattered nature of youth programs, we created a unified platform for access and ownership. With support from UNFPA Kenya and H.E Uhuru Kenyatta, the campaign evolved into a movement. We achieved significant milestones:

Restored Hope: Instilled a sense of ownership and purpose among youth.

Empowerment: Provided support and employment opportunities for ambassadors.

Regional Dialogues: Gathered insights and integrated programs across Kenya.

Pan African Influence: Inspired similar movements across Africa.

Ambassador Network: Engaged youth representation on a national scale.

Patriotism: Reignited a sense of belonging and purpose among the youth. Kenya Ni Mimi’s legacy is one of empowerment, unity, and inspiration for youth across Kenya and beyond.

I handed over Kenya Ni Mimi to a young gentleman called Sammuel Mue who is the New Executive Director. I believe he will take Kenya Ni Mimi to greater heights and add onto the achievements we made.

Carob Magazine Africa: You’re also vocal about women empowerment, what policies do you think can be developed in our continent  to advance African women in leadership positions?

Nadia Abdalla: Empowering women in leadership positions in Africa requires a multifaceted approach that addresses various socio-economic, cultural, and political factors. Here are several policy recommendations that could be developed to advance African women in leadership positions:

Legal Reforms: Enact and enforce laws that promote gender equality and prohibit discrimination against women in the workplace and in politics. This includes ensuring equal pay for equal work, implementing quotas for women in leadership roles, and strengthening laws against gender-based violence.

Education and Training: Invest in girls’ education at all levels and provide training programs specifically aimed at developing leadership skills among women. This could include mentorship programs, leadership workshops, and educational campaigns to challenge gender stereotypes.

Access to Finance and Resources: Create financial programs and incentives to support women entrepreneurs and business leaders, including access to credit, grants, and venture capital. Additionally, ensure women have equal access to resources such as land, technology, and markets.

Political Participation: Implement measures to increase women’s participation and representation in politics, including gender quotas in elected bodies and political parties, support for women candidates, and training programs for women interested in running for office.

Work-Life Balance Policies: Develop policies that support work-life balance, such as paid maternity leave, affordable childcare facilities, flexible working arrangements, and policies to combat workplace harassment and discrimination.

Promoting Women in STEM and Traditionally Male-Dominated Fields: Encourage girls and young women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and other fields where women are underrepresented. This can be achieved through targeted educational programs, scholarships, and initiatives to challenge gender biases in these fields.

Mental Health and Physical Well-Being: Emphasizing mental health alongside physical well-being is essential for the holistic empowerment of African women. Policies should prioritize access to mental health services and support systems tailored to women’s unique needs. Addressing mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety, and trauma not only improves individual resilience but also enhances women’s capacity to engage effectively in leadership positions and contribute meaningfully to their communities. By recognizing and addressing mental health concerns, we reinforce the foundation for women’s empowerment and create more inclusive and supportive environments conducive to their leadership development.

Community Engagement and Awareness: Foster dialogue and collaboration with communities, religious leaders, and traditional authorities to challenge harmful gender norms and promote women’s rights and empowerment.

Media Representation: Encourage media outlets to portray women in diverse and empowering roles, and to highlight the achievements and contributions of women leaders in various fields.

Monitoring and Evaluation: Establish mechanisms to monitor progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment, including collecting sex-disaggregated data, conducting regular assessments of policies and programs, and involving women’s organizations and civil society in the monitoring process.

By implementing these policies and strategies, African countries can create an environment that enables women to fully participate and contribute to leadership roles in society, thereby advancing gender equality and promoting sustainable development.

Carob Magazine Africa: As someone who is known for championing mental health and has tackled a lot of social issues in Kenya… How important is mental health awareness in helping restore pride and dignity to our communities?

Nadia Abdalla: Mental health awareness plays a crucial role in restoring pride and dignity to communities in Kenya and beyond. When mental health issues are stigmatized or overlooked, individuals may suffer in silence, leading to feelings of shame, isolation, and hopelessness. By promoting mental health awareness, we destigmatize these conditions and create spaces for open dialogue, understanding, and support. This fosters a sense of belonging and acceptance within communities, empowering individuals to seek help without fear of judgment.

Moreover, addressing mental health concerns enables individuals to better cope with the challenges they face, whether they stem from poverty, discrimination, violence, or other social issues prevalent in our communities. By equipping individuals with the tools and resources to manage their mental well-being, we strengthen their resilience and ability to navigate adversity, thus restoring a sense of pride and dignity.

Furthermore, mental health awareness promotes empathy and compassion within communities, fostering a culture of solidarity and support. When individuals feel seen, heard, and valued, they are more likely to actively participate in community initiatives and contribute positively to society.

In essence, prioritizing mental health awareness is not only essential for individual well-being but also for the collective empowerment and revitalization of communities in Kenya and beyond. It allows us to address the underlying factors contributing to social issues and build a more compassionate and resilient society where everyone can thrive with dignity and pride.

Carob Magazine Africa: You have brought about a lot of positive change through your ground breaking campaigns, what advice would you give to anyone who is looking to make a change in their communities  how and where do they start?

Nadia Abdalla: My first advice would be, please be authentic and know what moves you. What I mean by this is, we tend to always idolize those who have achieved more than us and wish to always achieve what they have achieved and even more. We tend to forget that, each person has their own purpose and destiny and for one to fulfil that they need to be extremely authentic and pay attention to what moves you. That way paving your way to progress becomes easier to navigate and success comes naturally.

You can start from anywhere, with whatever you have and whomever you have access to, sometimes we delay achieving or starting things because we overanalyse, overthink, over plan and always want things to work out perfectly. Nothing is perfect, no one is perfect and so pay keen attention to your communities problems and the solutions you want to bring in thereafter just start. Sometimes starting is scary and that’s so normal, the secret is be authentic and start what moves you. Everything will fall into place at the right time.

Carob Magazine Africa: Tell us a bit about what inspired  ‘Musings & Breaking  Biases’ It has been  so refreshing to read  such an inspirational publication/newsletter.

Nadia Abdalla: Writing is something that gives me so much joy and opens up a a whole other world in my life that I like running away to. It’s ironic sometimes because I write best when I am sad and I always tend to question that but I have learnt to just embrace it. But surprisingly Musing & Biases has no mood in terms of my writing. I write every other day, again I didn’t plan to have a such a newsletter with over 19,000 subscribers but it just happened. The inspiration behind it was one day I just wrote an honest article on LinkedIn about growing up as an African Millennial and I was very honest and candid with it. I realized how far my article went and I saw an opportunity to start a newsletter that would have everything… From advice about career, to candid talks to biases around Young Africans and Women to tips I share about navigating life. I am really glad to know it’s a refreshing read.

Carob Magazine Africa: Where do you see Nadia Abdalla five years from now?

Nadia Abdalla: Quite frankly 5 years from now I see Nadia Happy, Health, Financially Blessed and with a Family of my own ( Maybe two children, a loving husband ) and Blessed. But I do know what you really asked hahaha career wise, I see myself being one of the most influential Pan African Thought Leader advocating for youth and women in Africa for socioeconomic transformation, financial inclusion  and diversity in political and leadership spaces. Who knowns maybe I shall be running the biggest Pan African campaign platform that will be the connector of opportunity, growth and placements on the continent. 5 years is a long time and I always believe in dreaming as big as possible that way when you achieve, it wouldn’t be far from your dream.

Carob Magazine Africa: Please share with Carob Magazine Africa words of wisdom that you live by, What keeps you going/motivated?

Nadia Abdalla: “Ubuntu,” which translates to “I am because we are.” This philosophy emphasizes the interconnectedness of humanity and underscores the importance of empathy, cooperation, and community. It reminds me that our individual well-being is intricately linked to the well-being of others and that by lifting each other up, we can all rise together.

Additionally, I draw inspiration from the words of Nelson Mandela, who said, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” This quote serves as a reminder that even in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, perseverance, determination, and a belief in the possibility of change can lead to remarkable achievements. It encourages me to maintain hope and to keep pushing forward, knowing that positive transformation is achievable with dedication and resilience.

Overall, these words of wisdom reflect my belief in the power of unity, compassion, and resilience to drive meaningful progress and create a brighter future for all. They serve as constant reminders of the values I hold dear and the importance of staying true to myself and those around me.

Thank you

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Atlehang Khosa
Atlehang Khosa
3 months ago

WOW!!!What an inspirational woman!!! This is what Africa needs!

L Tshabalala
L Tshabalala
3 months ago

Nadia Ahmed Abdalla for President. You can imagine what a progressive people we can be to have women like this in the presidency.

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