Young Minds

Nanjira Sambuli Interview

Nanjira-SambuliPlease tell us about yourself?

I’m a girl who wears many hats. Most notably, I am a musician (you can check out my debut single at I am also a mathematician by academic training( actuarial science graduate), and all round polymath, dabbling in a whole bunch of nascent sectors.


What is the name of the community outreach project you involved in? And what is it all about?

In true polymath spirit, I am involved in a couple. I’m currently working on setting up a network of girls/women empowerment initiatives in Nairobi, with plans to expand across the continent. The idea is to link up as many institutions purporting to support the girl child and women at large, and positioning them to offer identified skills/knowledge/tools to these girls/women in various groupings. All in a hope to minimize duplication of effort, and ensuring that needs are met at all levels  and in the fastest time frame possible.

This project/network is called Girl Afrika, and you can keep up with it soon at

 When did it start? What motivated you to start this project?

Girl Afrika has been a thought process with a close friend, Muthoni Maingi, for the past year. We took time to analyze what already exists, and what remains to be realized in empowering girls and women, across various industries, technology and the arts in particular. With that in mind, we’ve been able to identify the gaps, and are now out to ensure that these don’t entrench further and renege on the vision to achieve gender equality and empower girls and women in this lifetime.

What is the purpose this project?

Having had the good fortune of growing up in at a time when the fight for girls and women rights is now bearing fruit, I feel obliged to further the cause and establish mechanisms that ensure that it not only becomes a reality, but remains that way, to posterity.

What do you want to achieve with project?

Fewer obstacles between young girls (especially in Africa) and the realization of their dreams. A world, a continent where girls and women are not apologetic or don’t have anyone but themselves to fault for not achieving just about anything they put their mind to.

How one can get involved in the project?

We’ll soon be making calls to anyone interested in getting involved/lending insight/contributing in any way. We plan to tap into the ‘wisdom of the crowd’, powered by the internet. Stay tuned and be part of the solution.

What were some of the challenges you faced as a young person starting your own project?

Interestingly, most of my challenges have been personal. Convincing myself that I can get it done, pushing myself to commit to a vision that’s greater than I can ever offer. I am of the solid conviction that while external challenges and/or obstacles exist, for a young person, a young woman, the greatest one is almost always commitment to the dream or vision, no matter what, something that at the end of the day, begins with self.


How has the journey been like so far?

I’ve had many false starts, trying to prematurely get the project going. I strongly believe in doing things and doing them well. Exercising patience in a fast-paced world hasn’t been easy, but it sure has been worthwhile. I am now more confident and can articulate the project’s vision better.

How has the community benefited from the project?

That remains to be seen, but I’m sure communities will reap its benefits soon enough. So far, in linking up various initiatives towards multiplicity and amplification of empowering girls, there are great benefits emerging.

What has been some of your biggest achievements yet?

Being recognized among some very exceptional women doing some amazing things on the continent was a great achievement. To continue being acknowledged as one among the “cheetah generation” on the continent is an achievement I continue to realize. I am guided by the conviction that “Africa is not poor, just mismanaged.” Anytime someone echoes this, or contributes to making this a reality, I consider that a great achievement.

What do you think are some of the challenges facing African youth today?

First of all, I must say, this is a great time to be alive, young and African , challenges notwithstanding. I believe that this generation will propel Africa to a whole other level of greatness as per the continent’s potential. That being said, I think we are fast getting desensitized to the complexities that make up the ‘reality’ we face today. Many of us have grown up with the message ‘Africa is poor’ preached to us so much that we almost don’t see past that, or find the good in what we have. Of course this is not an opinion that represents every young person, but I think it to be quite reflective of a number of us who have information at our disposal, but haven’t quite made it work for us. To quote a popular 90s pop song, “Free your mind, and the rest will follow.”

Navigating the different ‘identities’ we possess is also a huge challenge. Not only are we African, we are of certain nationalities, certain ethnic groupings and also global citizens, or Afropolitans. Each of these identities is rather demanding, and I must applaud every young African making their way through life against this backdrop.

 Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?

Doing what I love, whatever it might be at the time. I’ll be learning, growing, moving forward and making the same possible for as many people as I can, in whatever way I can. I operate on the ideal that my time here on earth isn’t particularly meant for achieving just one thing, or sticking to one course per se. I’ve committed myself to the openness of the above, and let life surprise me with new challenges as I go along.

What would you like to change about Africa today?

Wow. Our sense of pride and belonging. Emancipation of our understanding and outlook of who we are, what has made us ( the good, the bad, the ugly) and have all that launch us onto a platform from which we imagine a prosperous, progressive continent. Broad, I know, but I think it most fundamental.

What advice do you have for young people who want to start their own project?

Think it. Dream it. Research. Research some more. Plan. Do. Keep doing even if you fail the first gazillion times. There’s a place in this world for your ideas, for your talent. Find it and plug into it.

How can other youth connect with you?

There’s no getting me off social network sites. You can catch up and not only connect, but also interact with me on Twitter, Facebook, G+, and of course on the Girl Afrika website.

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