At 23 years, Amy Ochiel Ochieng is a lawyer, a founder of a community-based organisation and the outgoing chairperson, Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) Regional Leadership Centre East Africa Alumni Chapter of Kenya
Ambitious and intelligent, are what many people who came across Amy Ochiel Ochieng as she grew up thought of her. As a young girl, she dreamt of pursuing a career in medicine. But all that changed when she started watching news with her late father.
“I started questioning societal injustice. I began to question why boys were treated differently from girls. They were favoured and allowed to take risks. Some comments such as Hiyo siya msichana made me uncomfortable. That was where the passion to pursue law began in order to defend the voiceless and change the stereotypes in the society,” says the 23-year-old lawyer.
She was determined to work hard in school. However, on March 22, 2009, the night before her first visiting day in high school, Amy received the most devastating news of her life. Her father, who had been her rock and shoulder to lean on, was murdered.
“This was the most painful ordeal I have ever gone through. My father was happy and proud of me as I had passed my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education the previous year. I was on the top 100 list in Nairobi and had just been admitted to Pangani Girls High School,” she recalls.
Losing her father was her greatest fear ever since her mother passed on when she was only three years old. Now he was no more. Her grades dropped and she suffered from low self-esteem. Luckily, her uncle promised to provide for her and pay her school fees.
With the help of supportive friends and teachers who encouraged her to work hard and never lose hope in life, she rebuilt her confidence. Again being a firstborn, she had to do well in her exams to set the pace for her two siblings.
After high school she got a job as a tutor in Solve It Tuition Centre where she taught international school students Mathematics, Biology and Chemistry. When the Joint Admissions Board list came out, she had been offered to study Food and Nutrition at the University of Nairobi.
She missed her law option by one point. But through her uncle who continued to pay her fees, she pursued Law at the University of Nairobi as a self-sponsored student.
One day, as Amy was watching news she was touched by the story of vulnerable girls who were not able to go to school due to lack of sanitary towel. “I felt obliged to do something since most of the girls were orphans just like me,” she says.
That was when, with the help of her friends, she started an organisation dubbed, Wings of Hope Organisation in 2014. Wings of Hope Organisation’s objective is to donate sanitary towels, offer mentorship programmes and also support children’s homes.
“At the beginning, it was challenging since many people doubted my abilities to run an organisation because of my age (I was 19 years). Also lack of funds was a big challenge at that time because all members were campus students,” she recalls. With time, based on their consistency, they earned people’s trust and confidence, hence got some support.
In 2015, while in second year, she made a bold step and applied for the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). YALI is an initiative by the former US President Barack Obama to train young African leaders on leadership skills and how to create sustainable impact in their countries.
She got into the programme. “Among others, we had a class called ‘This is Africa’ where we shared positive stories from Africa, which should be spread to the rest of the world to change the paradigm of people about Africa,” she says.
She graduated from the programme on February 6, 2016 where she now joined YALI Regional Leadership Centre East Africa Alumni Chapter of Kenya. Later in the year 2016, she joined Kenya College of Accountancy (KCA University) to pursue Certified Secretaries (CS) professional course. So she was juggling study, Law, YALI activities and Wings of Hope Organisation. However, the fact that her law classes were in the evening made it easy for her to juggle.
In 2017, she got an internship at Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Kenya and was part of the team that made the Treaty Kenyan website, which was launched last year. Later in the year, she decided to vie for Chairperson Position of YALI RLC EA Alumni Chapter of Kenya.
It was her first time to campaign. She won by 83 per cent votes. Despite her tight schedule, she graduated from Law School last year. And as an outgoing chair of YALI, she prides herself in having implemented projects within YALI county chapter.