Inspiring tomorrow's leaders in Kenya
Course: Masters of Public Policy (Honours), 2015
Institution: Australian National University
Location: Canberra, ACT
In 2020, Angella Ndaka was awarded Alumna of the Year by the Australian National University for her work empowering young women and girls.
As a young woman herself, Angella had stood across from a Kenyan tribunal panel and heard a ruling that would change the direction of her life. When the panel of commissioners declared they could not lay charges against/prosecute (?) her alleged sexual assault offender, Angella vowed to become a policy expert herself, in order to strengthen the laws in her home country that protect women and girls.
Angella had spent her youth looking up to Kenyan heroines, including environmental activist (the late) Wangari Maathai, lawyer and politician Martha Karua and Lady Justice Njoki Ndung’u, who had backed Kenya’s historic Sexual Offence Bill. Inspired by them, Angella vowed not to let the tribunal ruling disparage her dreams or her ethics. Instead, this moment fuelled a determination to follow in their footsteps.
Sometime after the ruling, while working as a graduate teacher in schools with students from low-income areas, Angella happened to see an advertisement for the Australia Awards scholarships program and decided to apply.
“I told myself, this is what I have been looking for,” she says.
“I also promised myself I must enrol in the best University in Australia, [which is] why I chose to study Public Policy at the Australian National University.
When I applied, I had this great faith that finally I am going to be an expert to inform gender equality and social inclusion policies in Kenya.
In 2015, Angella graduated from ANU with a distinction. With renewed hope of a better future for women and girls, she returned to Kenya and began to work on small steps to break down barriers that were preventing girls from pursuing their education.
Enter the Pan-Pads project for women’s hygiene. When vulnerable girls can’t go to school, they’re disadvantaged for life. They’re robbed of their right to imagine, learn and be empowered. “One major barrier to attending and completing school for these girls is poverty. Parents cannot afford to buy their daughters sanitary pads so they can attend school during their menstrual periods,” Angella says. Through the Pan-pads project vulnerable girls are supplied with with four sets of underwear, and a year’s supply of reusable sanitary pads.
“With the support of the Australian High Commission and Australia Awards small grants, we were able to reach more than 2,000 girls since 2017,” Angella says.
Around the same time, Angella took a role as a research tutorial fellow in the Department of Public Policy at Kenyatta University, and also supported two civil societies with their policy dialogues on inclusive County planning, public finance and budgeting processes.
In 2020, Angella was appointed as a senior policy expert by Kenya’s Technical and Vocational Education and Training system, and their Education Access, Participation and Equity specialist.
Angella also helped construct Kenya’s Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) and National TVET Workforce Blueprints.
“I got an opportunity to bring my policy expertise in this policy development process, with special interest in increasing the space and removing barriers of TVET participation for women and girls, people with disabilities and youth from marginalized groups and communities.”
Angella’s current role involves analysing literacy and numeracy policies for 30 African nations in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Angella says her many successes to date can all be tracked back to that one moment when she discovered the Australia Awards program, a moment she remains extremely grateful for.
Every person I meet who has studied in Australia just stands out, they make an impact everywhere they go. My Australian education taught me how to touch communities and offer solutions to complex problems.
“Despite the hardships, every challenge, is an opportunity to make a difference. I prefer not to give up, I prefer living a day at a time, and using my networks to find solutions,” she says.
And while she is now making a difference back home in Africa, it’s clear that Angella has also relished her global education journey.