The phrase “Emerging Leader” inspires varied thoughts in people’s minds. In mine, it first causes it to conjure images of youthful ladies and gentlemen fighting against the evils that plague our societies. It brings to mind grand ideals of fostering change on our continent and even on the globe. Yet, the WYA Africa’s 2015 Emerging Leaders Conference was not about finding the master plan to ending all human suffering, or was it? Themed “Economic Development and the Family, the Role Youth Play” this conference was surely centered on the domestic scene. I was skeptical when we arrived and wondered as to what would be the link between economic development and the family. I am proud to say that I walked out with a considerably different and nobler perspective.
It was held at Strathmore University in Nairobi, Kenya, the World Youth Alliance (WYA) selected a conducive venue for this conference. The reception was warm and one of the ushers even went to the trouble of personally greeting us all.
On the conference’s program of activities there was a slot for entertainment. With things slightly behind schedule I assumed that that segment would be cut out to give way to the “serious” things. However, we were all pleasantly surprised when a Mr. Danson Kiundi asked all for a little attention as he sat down at his keyboard and proceeded to awe us with a professional use of the keyboard keys. Most modern music is far less satisfying than it should be. Filled with the superficiality that the modern times have made “cool”, it leaves quite a lot to be desired. But Mr. Kiundi’s melancholic tunes were refreshing to say the least and they cheered everyone up.
Through the next sessions we were all formally introduced to WYA and got a chance to introduce ourselves. The diversity of the group was lovely – there were participants from as far out as Nigeria and Zambia, closer home-Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and a large number from home here in Kenya (which is a good thing as it would be rather disappointing to have this opportunity on home soil yet be underrepresented).
With the first panel session on morality and economic development, we all got a good picture of just how the family was linked to the growth of our continent. Touching on drugs and their abuse, we even had the privilege of having the Chair of the National Authority for the Campaign against Alcohol and Drugs, Hon. John Mututho as one of the panelists. From the passionate way in which he spoke against drug use it was clear to see that the state of the family was something he held dear. Together with Mr. Peterson Mwangi and Mdm. Carol Rarieya, Hon. Mututho argued that the fight for morality was impractical on a national scale if it was not first fought within the families that encompassed the state. I could not agree more.
The next session, taken by Mr. Thomas Mundia- a lecturer, businessman and proud father of five- was my favorite session of the whole conference. Mr. Mundia took a very philosophical and very interesting approach to arguing matters of the family and of the gender imbalance in the family. Effortlessly tossing out quotes from various philosophers and acclaimed thinkers, he brought the need to look into our past and the roots of the current condition to light. Explaining, for instance, the fundamental flaw in society’s expectation of fidelity from married men when while it has constantly been applauding their promiscuity up till the moment they put on the wedding bands, he challenged our very thinking. Having quite a bit of interest in philosophy myself, I found Mr. Mundia’s session fascinating and think that his approach would be the most effective one to addressing matters affecting the family. It certainly got me thinking.
More than just the sessions, I really looked forward to networking with other young people- or should I say “Emerging Leaders”- in my time at the conference. It would be a fresh take on not only the matters that we were discussing but also on a whole wider range of topics. Topics such as how my country Kenya is viewed by people who are not from it and what they think of their own countries. Sitting down with people from Rwanda and hearing what they had to say about the calm and obedient nature of their people- a character trait that made it no big deal for the whole nation to come together every month and clean their country- gave insight into what traits we could borrow from the people of Rwanda. Having lunch with the Nigerians and being surprised at how little they cared for the active practice of agriculture since they came from a section of their country that specialised in oil mining showed a side of Africa that was not as dependent on the soil as Kenya is. All this offered a great opportunity to learn from and definitely make friends with people from regions farther than my backyard. It was an experience just as valuable as what was discussed in the sessions.
All in all, the conference went swell. The speakers were interesting and objective, the people were fun and educative and the experience was worthy of a written piece. I walked in with dreams of changing the world then the family and walked out convinced that changing the family will change the world. I do hope to attend more conferences like it and hope that some day soon I shall be an authority with enough insight of my own to stand on the other side of the podium – as a speaker. I thank the entire WYA team and all sponsors that organized the conference and all participants that came. Thank you for making the conference worthwhile. Special thanks to my mentors Mdm. Corien Herweijer and the CEO of the AKAD Education Group Reverend Dr. Julius Weche for my facilitation.
George Gathiani is a WYA Member residing in Kenya and is working currently with AKAD Education Group Africa.