Meet Kate Kiama, the Director of Programs at “She’s the First”, an organization that finds, funds, and supports solutions to educate and empower women.
A born feminist who is passionate about law and social justice, Kate Kiama is an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and holds a Bachelor of Law Degree from the University of London. She currently serves on the Board of ‘Make Every Woman Count’ and has previously served in other organizations including ‘Akili Dada’ and the Nike Foundation supporting the Girl Effect Movement.
Kate grew up in a loving and sheltered environment in Nairobi. She was surrounded by strong, fierce women right from her childhood, and didn’t know about gendered roles and norms of the society because of a healthy environment at home. It was only when she went to a boarding school for her high-school education, that she realized she had been living a lie all her life. She says, “In my boarding school, I came face to face with the privileges I had taken for granted. We were never limited because of our gender in my family, and I knew I had to do something to make my story the norm rather than the exception!”
For Kate, arguing, debating, and persuading others to see her world view came naturally. She believes that going to law school was just a natural step in her adulting. After her stints in court and practice, she knew that she wanted to use her legal background for the good of girls and young women who are often left without any intellectual or legal support, instead of joining some large law firm that would rain her money. Even with her strong resolution to weave her passion into supporting women empowerment and gender equality and equity, it was a scary thing to do. She elaborates, “I had a lot of doubts and naysayers, but I am glad I followed my heart. I have a mantra – feel the fear, but do it anyway – and this is what helped me make my decision.”
Her organization, ‘She’s the First’, is a global organization with an impact in 21 countries in 5 regions, that believes in fighting for a world where every girl chooses her own future. Talking about her establishment, Kate elaborates, “We find, fund, and support solutions that not only educate and empower girls, but also strengthen communities where those girls can flourish. Our trainings for mentors and educators have directly impacted 75 local organizations that work for more than 11,000 girls. We work to ensure that every girl is educated, respected, and heard. We try to push the needle further each day for them by working with local experts and ensuring more flexible funding for all their needs”.
Kate faced innumerable challenges in her endeavor to help women. The most difficult one was to find her purpose and calling. Being a trained lawyer, it was not easy for her to defy the norm of working with big establishments and be called ‘successful’, but at the end of the day, she knew what she had to work for. When she rose the ranks in the movement for social equality, her age became an obstacle. Sadly, she would get hints and rude remarks from older people about her age, but she decided to prove that age is nothing but a number. Even managing people at such a young age was a struggle, but with patience, her zest to work and learn, and the support of some commendable coaches and mentors, she was able to cope-up and find her leadership style.
Kate is guided by Maya Angelou’s words, “People may forget what you said or did, but people will never forget how you made them feel”, and she strives to live by those words. When she tries to help people and make them feel heard in all the ways she can, her world becomes more exciting. Helping people is one of the reasons that make her want to learn, stay motivated, and grow. In her words, “I am excited to show up to work every day because I am doing something I love and am deeply passionate about! There is nothing as gratifying as bringing other girls and young women along with you and that feeling is immeasurable and continues to change my life!”
Kate has won many accolades along her journey and she is constantly sought by non-profits and other organizations for her guidance and support. She leaves a message for all the women out there – “You are worthy. You can be anything you set your mind to. You deserve good things, and even if you are scared about the outcome, try. Listen to your heart and follow your dreams. You are brilliant – you have got this!”