Gakii Biriri, the founder and Executive Director of An Honest Intention was one of the Kenyan delegates chosen for the One Young World Summit that took place in South Africa from the 2-5th of October. We caught up with her to tell us about her experience.
How did you become a delegate for OYW?
You need to have interests you are working on and have a grasp of world issues. You open a profile on One Young World and apply. When they pick your name they send it to sponsors and you become a delegate.
Who was your sponsor?
Kenya power, they have an active CSR department. This year they sponsored eighteen delegates.
What advice would you give anyone who wants to become a delegate?
Package yourself in a nice way. State clearly what you are doing, why you are doing it and who you are targeting and the tangible results.
What forum did you learnt most from?
Honestly I learnt from all of them. I learnt that none is independent from the other. Just because you work in human rights, at some point you will end up working for woman empowerment or education. You have to collaborate with so many people on so many levels and have to stretch yourself beyond just what you are focusing on. For me the biggest lesson was collaboration.
What about education?
(Laughs) There is a lot about education first of all. There are a lot people sponsoring those in the slums, doing civic education- people were mostly telling their stories of how they are impacting the world in education. But at the end of the day the counsellors said you have to collaborate. You end up having to partner with people just to get your education goal achieved. Think on a global level even though you are acting on a local level.
How will AHI be impacted?
As you can see I am big on collaboration and partnerships (cheers then laughs). I have come back with different perspectives. And it happens; you don’t have to go to a big conference to get that. Sometimes you just have to talk to someone outside your team and you realize ‘Oh I didn’t think of that’. I am willing to stretch our boundaries a bit more, work harder and smarter and take AHI to the next level. I also learnt there is no limit to what you can do.
What networks did you form while there?
First of all there is the Young One World Kenya, we are all very willing to learn from each other and help each other’s projects grow. The Kenya group are an amazing group of people. Also there are a few contacts I made; most relevant were Feed Projects and Emmanuel Jal who wants to do something with us.
Did you get a chance to meet any of the keynote speakers?
Yes, I met Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, Lauren Bush, president and founder of Feed Projects, Muhammad Yunus, the father of social entrepreneurship, Emmanuel Jal- a musician and peace activist… There are several others I exchanged cards with.
Where did you stay?
At the Holiday Inn.
Had you been to South Africa before?
Did you get to tour the area?
They tried as much as possible to take us out to see South Africa while still participating in the summit. The opening ceremony was at Soccer City, the breakout sessions were at Carlton Centre which is the tallest office building in Africa and they also took us to Lion Park zoo. They tried as much as possible to have us interact with the new environment while still participating in the summit. On the day after the conference they had organized trips to Soweto, museums and other sites.
What perspective did you gain about yourself?
I think everyone was really challenged. I learnt about getting a clear vision of what you want to do, having a roadmap of how to get there and sticking to it. The plan can change depending on circumstances and events but you should stick to the end goal. Just find different ways to get there. That was the greatest thing… and collaborative efforts. I had this thing where I liked to do things my way and if tasks were not done my way it became a problem. Over time I have come to appreciate other people’s strengths, work them to my benefit and delegate. Those are the two greatest things I learnt.
First and foremost you need to believe in yourself because when I started AHI, or even started thinking about AHI, there were people already shooting my ideas down and telling me NGOs are not trusted. For me the idea was not of an NGO, it was an idea that I want to make a difference. Obviously you need to have a realistic plan, smart goals. And also pray. Ask God to help you because it is not easy. Like now with the NGO world, the reward is the smile in the child’s face, knowing that you made a difference. It is personally rewarding. Sometimes you do not want to do it anymore, sometimes you are tired and want to give up, sometimes you are frustrated and you don’t understand why you are still fighting for this. But if you have the right support system around you- your friends and family- and you pray about it you will be fine. And work hard.