Nerima Wako is the Executive Director of Siasa Place.
Who is Nerima Wako?
One of the founding members of Siasa Place
Tell us more about Siasa Place?
It is a youth led organisation established in 2015. We are a space (online and offline) that loves to engage young people. We tell our own stories, talk about serious matters but using mediums that are relatable with communication that is engaging. We felt that we wanted space to be able to have these sort of conversations and also a space for young people interested in governance and that will allow them to grow. We understand that politics affects us every single day and we wanted to alter the narrative that young people are not interested. So our focus is on those youth who are disinterested to teach them meaningful engagement.
What does your job entail?
My description is to identify strategic partnerships for the organisation and basically lead the overall function of it, connecting our board members to the secretariat. We are a small team, so if the need arises, I also facilitate trainings, sometimes when our social media team is not available for a function, I will do it. Or dealing with finance – if help is needed I step in.
What is your ideal day like?
My day starts at 6 am by responding to e-mails and ends a bit late. I try to sleep by 11 pm (if I can sleep before then it is even better). I tend to be very organised, so planners, sticky notes, reminders and alarms have helped me a great deal.
You speak passionately about about politics on TV....
I am passionate about what I do. I have always had an interest in governance from a young age. So for me it now came naturally. Not just Kenyan affairs but world affairs as well.
Why did you choose this?
I did not choose it, it chose me. I studied journalism and sociology for my undergraduate degree but for my Masters I focused on Public Administration. After graduating, my job was in the NGO sector, dealing with peace and conflict. However, our work saw us working closely with civil society and government officials and there was a bit of a gap when it came to engaging youth. So we created a platform just for that.
How long have you been a political analysts?
Because I have always been interested in governance, it has always been in the back of my mind. I decided to become intentional about analysing politics three years ago.
What are your weaknesses and strengths?
My strength is organising. I tend to follow order and put structures in place and I enjoy doing that. My weaknesses is in taking time off to relax. I tend to push limits and sometimes you just need to take it easy, so I am still in the process of learning that. I also can be impatient, I am honestly working on that.
Any accomplishments so far?
We have managed to host up to 20 community dialogues and online up to 100 tweet chats. This is a success for us because when we began people told us that what we are trying to do is impossible and cannot exist in a country like Kenya, but here we are.
Who’s your role model?
My role models all happened to have lived years ago, the likes of Patrice Lumumba, Benazir Bhutto and Martin Luther King Jnr. I follow a lot of their old footage and works, love going through their biographies. They inspire me.
Political processes in the country seem not to be youth friendly, what’s your take?
Entering the political terrain as a young person is difficult in Kenya. However, I am constantly reminded by our history that several of our leaders today entered leadership in their youth. Leading political parties before the age of 30 was not unheard of. But what happened? Currently, there are plenty of examples of many young people who are doing well, but there can be more. So day by day, we work to engage young people on the importance of leadership but not just in government but also in responsibility as a citizen in holding leaders accountable.
What do you do in your free time?
I love watching movies. If I am not doing that, I am probably reading a book.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Believing in something and gathering up the courage to follow through with even if no one else seems to see your vision at first. Then being young can also pose a challenge because people are not certain whether to invest you. So you find yourself working twice as hard to show you mean business. It is a challenge to start anything. However, beginning something that people have never seen is something else.
What's your take on Kenya’s politics?
I find the politics in our country very interesting. We have political parties that are fluid. People change and hop, making it so unpredictable. We have seen political alliances we would have never imagined. It can be worrying as well, because it makes you wonder if these entities have foundational grips and what is the future for them.
What drives you?
My family and also being able to give to my community. At the end of the day I believe we want the best for ourselves and that includes living in a good country but we all have to play a part in making that a reality.
Are you married?
No, I am engaged. Interestingly, we met in a governance conference. We did not click immediately and we didn’t get to talk on that day. We bumped on each other later and the rest is history.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The amazing people that I get to meet. In our initial meetings you will have people who are put off by “siasa” but by the end of our dialogues they are almost new people in the room. They want to participate and engage.
Tell us about your family
My grandfather was a Cabinet minister and I also have relatives in government now. So you could say that politics is in my blood. However, I have two brothers and one sister, we are all completely different from each other. Our personalities are so diverse. My younger brother and I are very close, so much so that I donated my kidney to him.
How do you balance between your job and family?
Good time management is very important. When I do not put things into proper plans, I find myself wasting a lot of time. However, I can be extremely busy and get so much done and it is because I have committed myself to following a schedule.
What’s your favourite meal?
What do you spend most of your money on?
Interestingly it is not clothes. In the past I have spent a lot of my money in different ventures. Most of my money is going into savings at the moment.
What are your future plans?
To expand Siasa Place so that there are more spaces such as it for young people to engage on governance.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter – Martin Luther King Jr.