Leading light for the youth
Posted Friday, February 26 2010 at 15:21
It’s February 26, 1999. Results of the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE), released two days earlier, had reached many schools.
As happens during such days, many school leavers cry out in disappointment. Susan Kariuki was no exception. She spent the day in tears. It was pay time for school leavers and for her, it was a bad pay day.
At Loreto High School, Kiambu, she had scored a (C Plain), a whole two grades below the (B Plain) that she had expected. What instantly struck her was that she would not join a public university.
But a reformed education system came to her rescue. The following year, she enrolled for a pre- university course at Daystar University, determined her dream of earning a degree would not be stifled.
In 2001, the young girl was all smiles again, enrolling for a Bachelor of Arts degree in Community Development, an area she says was always close to her heart.
Today, she is satisfied that her daily engagements revolve around working with people, particularly her fellow youth.
She has been the Programme’s Co-ordinator of Youth Agenda, an organisation that seeks to empower young people in various spheres of life, until she was appointed to act as executive director in January this year.
“We have been trying to get space to control our lives. Time for the youth has always been out of our reach because the older generation do not want to move on,” says the youth leader. Like a wounded lioness, she declares, “Young people are now fed up. The space we have been looking for is ours by right. We shall grab it if no one is ready to relinquish it.”
Susan has been a leading light in the transformation of the lobby group from a small outfit to one that gets audience from opinion shapers in the country.
Prior to the 2007 elections, the lobby group motivated and supported young candidates to gun for both civic and parliamentary seats, but they did not do well because they still did not know the ropes. This time, she says the youth will be better equipped come the 2012 elections.
Two months ago, she joined 10 other civil society leaders for a tour of the US where they met members of Organising for America, a youth lobby that was instrumental in campaigning for US President Barrack Obama in 2008.
“We went to learn how to strategise and marshal resources to support a unifying candidate,” she says. “Things will be different this time around,” she adds.
Last week, Youth Agenda formalised a partnership with the 70-member Parliamentary Caucus for Reforms and student unions from 21 campuses.
“We are serious about building networks with young and reform-minded people ahead of the next elections,” she explains.
Youth Agenda was founded in 1996 by seven young and well-educated young men and women, some of whom had played major roles in student politics at their respective universities.
They were among others Kephta Ombati, Cecily Mbarire, Jackson Mwalulu, Dan Irungu, Mercy Nduku, Duncan Okero and Enide Muthoni.
Susan’s rise to the top has been quick. She joined the lobby group in 2004 as a rapporteur. Before a year elapsed, she was made a programme assistant and by the end of 2005, she had become a programme officer in charge of gender and governance. A year later, she rose to be an administrator in charge of five programmes.
Her passion in hitting the target on whatever she lays her hands on has asserted her position at the movement, and just before the 2007 elections, she earned the post she holds today.