Marley Dias, tired of being given books highlighting white boys and their dogs went to her mother and expressed her frustration. Her mother after keenly listening asked, ‘So what are you going to do about it?” I believe that question is what sparked 12-year-old Marley Dias to launch her #1000blackgirlbooks drive, a campaign to collect books with characters she could relate to. For her efforts, she was able to collect $3000 in donations, was given a laptop and a $10000 cheque for her education. In Marley’s eyes, she wanted to help other young black girls to see themselves in fictional characters. In our eyes, she wanted to make sure an entire race is well represented in children’s literature.
John Mangiro Wangari toyed with the idea that of using his brother’s bicycle’s dynamo to produce energy. He pondered over how the dynamo worked to produce light while riding the bicycle. Tired of using Kerosene lamps to study and operate during the night, he decided to find a way to produce electricity.” I decided to combine the dynamo with an alternator from a car and took it to a waterfall. When the water spins the turbine, the turbine in turns spins the alternator, which then produces energy.” Explains John. Thanks to his efforts, today 250 homes have him to thank for electricity in their homes supplied through micro hydro plants in Murang’a county. In 2015, Wangari was crowned the best innovator in energy by the Netfund Green Innovation. The Kenyan government took note of his accomplishments and gave him two transformers to grow his business and sell affordable electricity to the villagers. John Mangiro failed physics and got a D- in KCSE.
I think the question of ‘What do you want to be when you grow up” should be thrown in the garbage. As the two examples above have shown, stepping into a role of influence and impact is not age restricted. A common WhatsApp joke goes like this: In Japan, a 17 year old is a doctor, In Brazil a 17 year old is a footballer, In India a 17 year old is a shop owner, in Iraq a soldier, In USA they are celebrities, In Israel they are priests and in Africa a 35 year old is a WhatsApp group admin.” Kenya and Africa at large is waiting for her leaders, innovators, thinkers, entrepreneurs to ‘grow up’. Youth is an opportunity to showcase the latest dance moves and advertise the new flavourful chewing gum while in developed economies, youth are given a seat on round tables that change the future of communities and economies.
I wonder what would have happened to John Mangiro’s community had he believed that he was failure and doomed himself like the rest of the villagers to kerosene lamps waiting for when the rural electrification program would come knocking his way. It is time to shift our minds from thinking that youth can only be leaders of tomorrow. After all, tomorrow never comes. It’s time to channel their creative abilities to enterprises, shape their mind to changing the problems around them. Not to bicker at government and throw the blame on political leaders. But rather look within themselves for the solution they were born with to effect.
Leadership is not born in rosy environments. It is borne out of a need to find a solution and change a narrative that corrupts the greater good. Leaders are who they are because of the problems they solve. Looking around, Kenya and Africa at large are filled with problems. Problems that Western and Asian corporations are flocking to solve for their own often economic benefit. The saviours we are looking for are standing right in front of the mirror. There is no one coming to give you a stamp of approval to ‘go ye forth and rule’. No! Fight the fear and be the change you want to see.
Pollution? Corruption? No water? Hunger? Poverty? Illiteracy? In the wise words of Janice Dias, mother to Marley Dias, what will You and I do about it?