Pauline Wanja, young and determined


PAULINE WANJA IS CO FOUNDER AND EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT L.I.S.T (LIVING IN A SHANTY TOWN). This is a community based organization whose main aim is to unite youth in slums to work together to break the poverty cycle. Pauline has had the privilege of working with; World youth alliance, Kibera community development agenda, KHHCR. She has worked as youth empowerment program assistant and also as an activist coordinator at Action Aid. She holds a law degree from Moi University, and has studied accounts at Strathmore University. Guess what, she is only 26 ladies and gentlemen, and what’s more?? You may ask, well, she was recently awarded a bursary to attend the 2012 CIVICUS youth assembly, she represented Kenya, amazing! We get to sit down with this intellectual mind and understand the passion behind the lady…

Pauline, people need to understand, you have many caps to your head, achieving greatness yet so young, what motivates this passion and drive for seeing different?

I am motivated by a great desire to see that young people in slums don’t allow their potential to be limited by the environment they find themselves in, seeing to it that they aspire for a life of more than a life of mere survival.

 You represented Kenya and the Kenyan youth in the CIVICUS world assembly last month, please fill us in what this was all about? In terms of achievement, what was that for you?

THE CIVICUS WORLD ASSEMBLY is a global gathering for civil society, donors, governments and businesses to find common solutions to the challenges facing humanity. The theme of this year Assembly was redefining the Social contract and also post MDG talks. Success to me was young people discussing on how we can be part of building new realities and being part of building a future we want.

I will be traveling to Brazil early next month to attend the 15th International Anti-corruption conference and 3rd Global Youth Against corruption, a global network of young leaders, journalists, artists and ICT experts from civil society who work to improve transparency and social accountability for better governance. The Network provides a platform for its members to share knowledge and experience, so they can learn from each other. .  I was Africa first moderator for the GYAC- Network

 This is amazing for such a young person…wow, well a lot of people who watched your speech at the TED talks (Nairobi chapter-talent search) say you are brilliant and have compelling style, some calling you a knowledgeable speaker on urban poverty issues, can this be linked to your upbringing in slum setting? Or educational background?

TED@ Nairobi was the most six scary moments ever for me and I was quite surprised I could address such a big crowd. I guess all I wanted to say in 6 minutes is there is more to a slum beyond the crowded spaces, open sewers and that a lot of talent goes to drain as very little is done to support aspirations and dreams of those of us born, bred or living there. My up- bringing has bearing to how I interrogate the whole issue of urban poverty; it brings out a passion and urgency in my work. Education definitely helps me to work effectively.

 Let’s talk about LIST; you are co-founder and director of this noble initiative. What is it all about and most importantly how are you addressing poverty and changing societies through it?

LIST is living in a shanty town, seeks to unite youths in slums to come together and work toward breaking the poverty cycle. There is such a great sense of solidarity and brotherhood in slums, we felt using that for a common and good purpose.

LIST addresses the question of poverty by creating a platform where young people in slums can aspire for better and more than a life of a mere survival. And also builds a community that can support this aspiration. Our main action points are on economic growth and education.

Also at the heart of what LIST does is attempt retell the slum story ,growing up in a place where it seems okay to be poor a different narrative is needed, even to ourselves at times very little is expected of us that we don’t have anyone to disappoint.

  how can one be involved in this?

Easy, just be part of a community of which is building to support the aspiration of youths from slums.

Youngvibe loves to recognize young entrepreneurs and social  innovators who are doing something to change community and impact positively on society, If there is one thing you would share with all the  young people who want to go for it, accomplish their lifelong desires, dreams, goals and ambitions, what would you say to them…go!

We live at exciting times that allows us to chart our own path, and to find that one thing that fires us up makes us happy, purposeful and enables us reach out to others.  Young people should find that and have the courage to pursue it, be it their dreams or lifelong desires; after all, that’s what entrepreneurs and innovators do.

6. So what next for you Pauline?

I just started a new job with Future First; A UK based organization that helps schools make the most of their communities; using the enthusiasm, experience, skills and talents of former students. Basically creating Alumni in school and helping former students and corporates engage with formers schools and support these students through mentorships, models, fundraisers and service provider. It is a pilot and I am very excited about it.

And off course help grow LIST to something beautiful.

 7.  Wow this is getting better and better it seems there is no stopping you, you go girl So, finally, on being a lawyer do we see you practicing any timesoon?;-)

No, I don’t see myself practicing any time, I love what I do.


Well, Ladies and gentlemen, that was Pauline Wanja. A talent bright young mind heading for the big time, truly impossible is nothing. This is what we do here at Youngvibe; Exposing young, ordinary Kenyans, doing the extraordinary. We appreciate Pauline for taking time to sit down with us. We wish her all the best as she changes communities and societies.

We shall be keeping tabs and watching your space….

For Youngvibe magazine, am Martin Mwakesi, next week we catch up with another young mind doing extraordinary, he goes by the name Kenneth Chomba, Co founder of Tatua Kenya, a nonprofit organization working with children homes all over Rongai. You can check out their blog


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