By: Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg (Founder) and Shea Morrissey, Akili Dada
Akili Dada is an international award-winning leadership incubator nurturing a generation of young African women from underprivileged backgrounds whose commitment to the underserved is transforming their communities. Akili Dada’s development curriculum creates the foundation on which young women ages 13-35 build their skills and earn the essential qualifications they need to access key decision-making roles and leadership positions.
Last month, we lost Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest leaders in history. As individuals and as a global community, we have felt the loss intensely. In the wake of Mandela’s passing, we have been searching for ways to continue his legacy. At Akili Dada, we have distilled three key lessons from his life that we are committed to take and carry forward in our work of nurturing the next generation of African women leaders:
1. Commitment to the long-term vision is essential.
Even in the 26th year of his imprisonment, Mandela kept his eyes on the prize. At Akili Dada we look at a 13-year-old girl and, with her, create a vision of her future long past the 27th year. We are a leadership incubator because we are committed to standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the world’s future leaders who may have been overlooked, and walking the long journey with them. It’s what Mandela taught us.
2. Transnational solidarity is necessary in creating paradigmatic shifts.
By recognizing the important role of international activism (such as the divestment campaigns) and coalition building across national borders, Mandela showed us the value of an inclusive movement that pairs firm assertion with courageous patience. While Akili Dada works in Kenya, we recognize the need to build and nurture transnational support for our mission. Not only do we need to empower young African women as agents of change, we must also fight for the global space in which they will thrive. We need a world that recognizes, appreciates and welcomes young women’s leadership. Regardless of where on our planet you sit as you read this, if you believe that young women from poor communities hold solutions to some of the most pressing problems facing their communities, we need your support.
3. Women are central to achieving social justice.
From the Defiance Campaign to every day acts of courage, women have, and continue to play a critical role in the dismantling of Apartheid. Akili Dada exists because we know that the African continent cannot afford to continue under-investing in, and under-utilizing 50% of its human resources. We are nurturing young women who are equipped and committed to continuing the struggle for social justice, starting in their home communities, and throughout Africa and the world.
As we lose great African leaders like Nelson Mandela and Wangari Maathai, there is a growing urgency to build the capacity of the next generation to lead. Through Akili Dada we are continuing to live and breathe Mandela’s legacy for the African continent and for the world.