Even as a young child, I was conscious about how society shaped norms and practices. Being Maasai, my culture provided an excellent case study into this curiosity. On one hand, the Maasai are known the world over for their outstanding traditions – their dress, decorum and customs. On the other hand, the majority of the community remains extremely marginalized and continues to hold on to practices such as Female Genital Cutting and child marriage. The first lesson my community taught me was that we can appreciate beautiful traditions without being afraid of calling out the harmful ones. This was a lesson that I held close to heart throughout my childhood, often questioning parents and community leaders about the way women were treated. It is also around this time that I became curious about what existed outside my hometown – Nakuru – a medium-sized industrial town in Kenya.
A little after I turned 14, I joined Alliance Girls’, a high school that admits students from every region of Kenya. This opportunity to live and study with students from across the country allowed me to learn and appreciate how different communities perceived topics that I was particularly interested in, such as patriarchy, feminism and human rights. Four years later, I got admission into the African Leadership Academy (ALA), a pan-African institution in South Africa that brings together young people from around Africa to live together, grow together and strengthen their passion for the African continent. At ALA, the lessons I had begun learning at Alliance were taken to a new level. I was deeply challenged and inspired by my peers and educators, and came out with renewed passion to not only question societies but also to do something about the things that could be improved. My passion for action would take the form of health advocacy.
When I joined Duke University in 2011, I threw my energies behind learning everything I could about global health and how health systems work (and fail). Beyond the classroom, I engaged in field research in Togo, India and Kenya, and eventually wrote an honors thesis on Alternative Rites of Passage as an intervention to eradicate Female Genital Cutting. As part of the Baldwin community, I also got the unique opportunity to learn from brilliant, driven women and constantly engage in intellectual inquiry into the questions I had asked since I was a child, around women’s empowerment and human rights.
Since graduating from Duke, I have been working with Global Health Strategies (GHS), a health consulting firm that utilizes the mutually reinforcing tools of advocacy and communications to impact health policies, practices and funding. During the last two years I have spent at GHS, I have worked on a number of critical health issues, including maternal and newborn health; reproductive health; and universal health coverage.