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BOLD WOMAN: Lawyer Amy Ochiel thrives on multitasking

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By KAREN MBUYA MURIUKI
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Amy Ochiel Ochieng is a lawyer who is passionate about children, women, devolution and international law.

At only 23, she has made a name for herself through her passions. She is the founder of the Wings of Hope Organization and runs an initiative called African Women in Leadership Narratives. She is also the former chair of the Young African Leaders Initiative, YALI, in Kenya. She talked to Nation.co.ke about her journey.

When did you realize you had so many interests?
In 2014, a year after finishing high school. I wanted to add value to my community based on my experiences because I was orphaned at the age of 14. I have been privileged; I was able to even further my studies and have never lacked. I wanted to use my knowledge, skills and finances to give back to the society so that someone in my position was able to get access to basic needs.

How exactly did you start?
One day, as I watched the news, I was touched by a story of some girls who missed school because they lacked sanitary towels. My friends and I were able to raise funds and we donated 250 packets to Cheryl Children’s Home. It was moving seeing how much hope these girls had. They had dreams that they wanted to achieve but could not because of the lack of basic needs. I had planned on doing this donation as a one-off thing but after this first visit, we decided to do it continually. We started the Wings of Hope Organization in 2014, with a team of nine.

Amy Ochiel is also the former chair of the Young African Leaders Initiative, YALI, in Kenya. PHOTO| COURTESY

Amy Ochiel is also the former chair of the Young African Leaders Initiative, YALI, in Kenya. PHOTO| COURTESY

I had joined the School of Law at the University of Nairobi earlier that year in January. Law has always been my passion, but learning made me realise what my interests were. I was more passionate about human rights and international law. I also got to realise that in Kenya, we do more of making laws; which is beautiful and progressive, but with zero implementation. I decided to use my knowledge in projects instead of going to the courthouses.

With Wings of Hope, I was able to implement some laws in terms of ensuring that these girls are in school and getting an education. This was a problem because without these sanitary towels, these girls would miss school when they were on their menses.

Our donations are done annually through the help of other friends and family. Over the years, we have also donated to Star Rays High School, Kayole Stars High School and Kajiado Rehabilitation Centre.

At the beginning, people doubted my abilities because of my age but we have been able to earn their trust and support.

YALI is an initiative founded by former US president Barrack Obama in 2010. It supports young African leaders as they work to spur growth and prosperity, strengthen democratic governance, and enhance peace and security across the continent. While there, I met people doing projects similar to what I was doing; in business and entrepreneurship, public management or civic.

I joined YALI in November of 2015. We were taught on leadership, and ensuring we have our victory first. As leaders, we give out to the society a lot and forget to invest in ourselves. This may lead to us becoming irrelevant because we fail to upgrade our skills, or we get worn out.

We are also taught on how to interact with the community and to get to know what it wants. People often think that only the leaders have solutions to problems, yet the community members do.

I graduated from YALI in February of 2016. Going through its training, I was able to know how to approach people, mobilize resources and run the Wings of Hope Organization.

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I started studying a Certified Secretaries, CS, course at KCA University around the same time.

Wasn’t it hard having all these things on your plate?
(Laughs.) I thrive on doing a lot of things at the same time, so juggling all these responsibilities was not as hard.

YALI fellows join the Alumni Chapter of Kenya after their 12-week training, which is what I did after I graduated. I decided to vie as the YALI chairperson in April of 2016. At this time, we were about 300 alumni. There I was; a 22-year-old trying to convince 30-year-olds that I was fit for the task.

It got a bit political because one needed to campaign and have manifestos to persuade others to vote for them. I stayed away from politics while in the University so this was a new and exciting experience for me.

Luckily, I had built a good rapport with the alumni as an active alumnus and this made it easier to convince them. These people had also seen the kind of work I did so there was that trust. I was able to garner 87 per cent of the total votes.

At YALI, members do not discriminate because of age. They will listen, and even help you achieve what you want to if you have the content.

I was sworn in as the YALI chairperson in May and immediately took a break from my CS course because law school became very demanding at the same time.

What was your job as the Chair?

Mainly, to implement things on the ground. Previously, most activities were done in Nairobi. We, as the YALI alumni, had to devolve and fund the activities. I believe in structures, so we created county structures which made devolvement easier. We would place them in clusters within the counties, where they would be able to brainstorm, plan, implement and fund these activities. I got a lot of support. I was the only woman in the executive committee made up of five. My term ended in June this year.

I then started Africa Women in Leadership Narratives where I showcase news and blogposts on women. I also write stories of what women do, as well as their achievements. We are two members for now; my other colleague being Hellen Mutua, a vibrant and amazing lady who is passionate about women.

What have been your highlights in the past three years?
Being the YALI chair, and part of YALI, of course. I also got to be featured in True Love and People Daily for the work of implementing activities across the country.

In July 2016, I was nominated for the Africa Youth Steering Committee by United Nations Women was also a great moment for me. I also exceled in law school despite having so much on my hands.

I was also honoured to be a co-curator at the TEDx Muthangari. TEDx is an international community that organizes TED-style events anywhere and everywhere — celebrating locally-driven ideas and elevating them to a global stage.

On that note, what challenges have you faced?
It takes more hard work to convince others to do anything when you are a young woman. People still have a patriarchal way of viewing things in our society.

In implementation of policies, higher authorities were sometimes not on the same page with us as the leaders, and yet we were still pressured from down below. Creating that balance was difficult.

What’s next for you in five years?
I will have gotten my Master’s Degree, be part of policy-making boards that deal with women and children and hopefully be in diplomacy.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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