Kate Kiama is many things and has made peace with that, but regardless of the situation. She is a burst of sunshine, a feminist, a human rights advocate and a social change agent for girls and women. Kate was born in Nairobi in Kenya and had extraordinary women role models growing up from her grandmothers to her mother, aunts, and sisters! She is grateful to stand on their shoulders.
She is an Advocate of the High court of Kenya having pursued the Advocate Training Program from the Kenya School of Law after completing her bachelor’s degree in Law from the University of London. Kate is also excited at the prospects to be going back to school to pursue a Master of Arts in Leadership and Governance when the COVID pandemic is manageable. She is an avid reader and believes we should all purpose to keep learning and unlearning, to keep growing and knowing by reading, traveling (through books too) and studying in both the traditional and no- traditional sense.
She is passionate about girls and young women empowerment globally. For years girls and women, the world over have been considered second class citizens and have not fully contributed towards development and leadership. Girls and women have incredible strength, talent, untapped reserves of resources and are a force to reckon with. Kate would like to see an equal world in her lifetime and feels called upon to make her contribution to making this a reality.
Kate shared with us why adolescent girls need assisting and investing in globally. Adolescent girls are a marginalized group and face a plethora of challenges that often sees them to have the lowest opportunity to access education, health services and economic opportunities. The cycles of both poverty and gender-based violence coupled with their social economic status further exacerbates the situation. We not only have an ethical and moral obligation to help them confront these barriers, however, are also called upon to do so by our humanity to make this right. Not only because they are the magic bullet to development but because they deserve a chance to be their best version period!
Adolescents girls make up approximately 880 Million of the world’s population. 600 Million of whom live in developing countries and approximately 130 Million globally are out of school (pre-covid). They are no longer considered children and are too young to be considered adults, they fall in this transition that often means they are left out of critical conversations or are spoken for instead of being invited in. Adolescent girls who live in poverty are especially disproportionally affected due to their additional vulnerability. They are more likely to face very real risks of family violence, child labor, forced marriage, teenage pregnancy, trafficking, food insecurity, sexual exploitation and often bear the burden of new HIV infections.
Every minute 23 girls somewhere on this planet are being married off, that’s nearly 1 girl in every 3 seconds!!Some harmful cultural practices and social norms further limit adolescent girls and perpetually deny them the opportunity to be their best and brilliant selves. Even in this pandemic, adolescents’ girls are being hard hit which is evident from the increased rates of gender-based violence and alarming increase in the reported teenage pregnancies rate. It is estimated that a further 20 million girls will not return to school after the COVID-19 pandemic and this is unacceptable in the year 2020.
Kate placed emphasis on why we need women in leadership roles in Africa. African women are integral to the continents growth as members of the informal and formal sector, as entrepreneurs, social-entrepreneurs, and consumers alike. We cannot advance as a society and a continent if more than half of the population is constantly and systemically being left behind. The benefits of women leadership are trite, and we know that there is a ripple effect when more women are in more leadership and decision-making spaces. It translates to better outcomes for the most vulnerable of society but also for a better and more peaceful Africa.
Life changing moment
Kate shared that one moment that changed her life completely. That U-TURN moment that changed her life completely for the better?
“Hmm, two come to mind. One was in High School; I was 16-17 years and had an episode with my physics teacher and the second one was when I was 24-25 years and took a gap year in between law school. My physics teacher was very condescending and always found ways of putting me down since I was not his star student. Teachers in high school were often incentivized when their students got good grades, so I guess he saw me a liability and the weak link between him and his next paycheck. My U-turn moment came when I decided to tune him out and not take to heart his opinions of me or my capabilities. I read, practiced, revised did practical’s and before I graduated high school, I had an offer to study aeronautical engineering at a local university. (the irony that I went ahead to be a student of the law thereafter!)I often refer to this as my physics conquest and it’s a constant reminder that people will always have opinions of me but the opinions and the voices, I repeat to myself are the ones that truly matter…My second U-turn moment was when I realized that life is not a straight line and when I meet myself at a cross road between my legal career and my passion. As a structured person going off the ‘plan’ did not come easy and I remember consulting, praying, and trusting the process that I wasn’t making the biggest mistake of my very young career.
I took a gap year from school and went on to take up a post at the Nike Foundation supporting the Girl Effect movement for 13 months. That year gave me absolute clarity on what I wanted to do with my legal background- supporting girls and young women self-actualize and so elated I get to do this full time to date at She’s the first in my new role. She’s the First is a global organization that has presence in 21 countries in 5 regions. We fight for a world where every girl chooses her own future. We find, fund, and support solutions that not only educate and empower girls but also strengthen communities where those girls are able to flourish”.
Kate’s words of wisdom on why African women should continue taking up spaces.
“We are at the precipice of change. African Women have made significant strides in the legal, political, social, and economic frontiers but the journey is not yet complete. Equality has not been realized and many spaces are still closed for us. We must not wait to be invited in; the days of waiting are long gone. Shirley Chisholm articulated it beautifully when she said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” We must continue to take up space because we are deserving, we are brilliant, and we are the change we want to see in our communities. We owe it to ourselves and to the next generations”.