Buyaki "Michelle" Nyatichi '20, an alumna of leadership incubator Akili Dada—founded by Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg '01 to help empower young African women through education—has been featured in a recent video by Women & Girls Lead Global talking about her work with African women and girls.
Buyaki worked with the Dream Sisterhood Foundation, a Kenyan organization which focuses on advocating for girls' rights to education as well as the importance of girls breaking gender stereotypes by pursuing their passions.
"Akili Dada only works in high schools, and I started to think about all those girls who didn't get to go to high school—the girls who had to drop out in primary school," Buyaki said. "When I started my program, I just wanted to pass on the information I had learned through Akili Dada to those who didn't get the same opportunities that I had."
Her focal point was Kibera, a slum in her native Kenya with 2.5 million residents. Working in rehabilitation centers as a volunteer math and science tutor, Buyaki gained an understanding of some of the barriers facing young women.
"The project aimed to empower women in the sense that their life is not defined by men; that they would begin to see themselves as more than just an accessory to a man."
Her research showed a vicious cycle in which girls are born into poverty, never finish school, marry young and are taken advantage of because they are not fully educated or empowered.
Pursuing her own dream of becoming an aeronautical engineer, Buyaki continues to push girls to keep fighting against gender bias.
"When you grow up knowing that you'll go to school at some point and then drop out to help at home, it ingrains [in you] the idea that, as a woman, you belong at home, in the kitchen.
"It limits how you think, forces you to think that ‘I can't do this because I am a woman.' It's the culture that has been ingrained into your mindset that is ultimately holding you back."