At age 23, Suzanne Silantoi Lengewa of Nairobi is a recent Kenyatta University graduate who is working in her first job. She enjoys her work as a communications officer for the Centre for Behaviour Change Communications, but Lengewa has her sights set on her next job: she is hoping to win the seat of the next Nairobi County senator in the upcoming parliamentary elections as Nairobi’s youngest senatorial candidate and also one of the most passionate.
Lengewa studied music at university, but her first job has her listening to the experiences of people. She goes into communities where she listens to people’s struggles. She learns of their challenges and helps them overcome. It was this experience that made her want to do even more to make a difference. “I heard of people who had changed their societies through the courage to step out,” Lengewa said. “And it occurred to me that while I waited for the world to give me opportunities, the world itself waited for me to make a move. I was the change I had been waiting for.”
Her age and inexperience are seen by some as a detriment, but Lengewa sees them as assets. She is particularly aware of and focused on the youth experience, with the lack of jobs, the high cost of living, and the often hostile attitudes towards young people. She believes her unique perspective can help her be an advocate for this group and effect positive change. Many advised Lengewa to wait until she was older before trying to break into politics. But Lengewa believes that there is no time for waiting. Waiting too long will risk missing the opportunity altogether. Her youthful energy is an asset, she insists, and her supporters agree.
Lengewa’s platform is devoted to the high unemployment rate, problematic medical facilities, unhealthy business environments, poor housing, and sanitation in the capital. One of her campaign slogans is “we are the people,” because she is committed to serving all of Nairobi. She says on her campaign website that her more experienced competitors may have been “contaminated with politicking,” derailing them from the mission of actually serving the people while she is committed to serve. On Twitter, she is regularly using the hashtag #MakingItRight. Her many supporters are tweeting with the hashtag #SilantoiWinsNairobiWins. Her campaign is being funded solely by her supporters and it seems to be doing quite well in that regard.
The Nairobi parliamentary elections will be held on August 8. Among others, Lengewa will battle for the seat against Johnson Sakaja of the Jubilee Party and Edwin Sifuna of ODM. Please check out an exclusive interview with Suzanne Lengewa above: