Tessy Cherono Maritim is fiercely and fearlessly dedicated to inspiring her generation to realise their potential in life. She is the Founder of The Arena Kenya, an enterprise that through events and digital platforms leads a movement of smart, conscious and empowered young Africans focused on maximising themselves and the communities they live in.
She is also a writer on her own blog where she shares candidly on womanhood, diaspora and other facets of identity. Tessy’s Blog (www.tessymaritim.com) is a personal art practice which she uses to share, encourage, challenge, question, contextualise and learn.
1. How old are you, and why are you so passionate about our generation?
I’m 23! It’s my absolute joy seeing people come together to share and learn from one another. The Arena is rooted in this vision- giving young people a platform to do and be more, whether that’s through growing their networks, eating better, finding mentors, taking care of their mental health or engaging in their communities.
2. How many events has The Arena had?
The Arena has been around since 2013 and we’ve had five events in Nairobi and Eldoret. The Arena is all about creating events to inspire young people to make better decisions for themselves and their communities. We do this through media, events and (soon) education. We don’t prescribe what a ‘better decision’ is or isn’t - it’s about encouraging people to rethink the way they live, work and relate with others. Next Saturday, we’ll be having our event ‘MatchMentor’, which creates a platform for upcoming professionals in the creative economy to meet mentors, learn through workshops and engage in speed mentoring.
3. Who would you love to appear on the panel?
Muthoni Ndonga a.k.a Muthoni the Drummer Queen. I absolutely adore her, she’s brilliant. Her thinking, her vision and her execution. If you’re reading this Muthoni, write me back, please!
4 Why do you think our generation is seemingly apathetic to politics? What do you think can change that?
.I think it depends on how we define politics. I think a lot of young people understand politics to be party-based such as (ODM, Jubilee, among others) We don’t seem to derive politics from our lives yet that’s exactly what it is- how do I get home this evening?
What’s the price of food at the kiosk? If I get sick, who pays for my treatment? What is education teaching me? These are all political issues. It’s not as complicated as it seems.
From a young age, we also have limited (if any) opportunities to engage and learn about politics and citizenship. Two things can change this: firstly, embedding civic education as part of school curriculum and secondly, conversation on politics that go beyond election season - with your friends over dinner, with your family at home.
5.What are your top three favourite books?
Two books that I’ve loved recently- The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison and Democracy in Africa by Nic Cheeseman. I’m now reading Introduction to African Politics, a collection of academic papers.
My reading habits are not where I’d like them to be. It’s not a priority for me to read in the course of a day but I’m making an effort to read at least one book a month this year because I recognise how much of a difference it makes to my quality of thinking and writing. So far I’m on track!