About Sitawa

Pic from 2016 - I type out most of my posts (and ideas) on my Blackberry
(and only pause to make faces on the mirror and capture them )
Hi Sunshine,

Thank you for dropping by, here is a little (or a whole lot of) info about me;



The short version:
I am a blogger and mental health advocate using my personal journey as a rape survivor with a dual diagnosis of epilepsy and bipolar to provide people in Africa with the necessary information and support to not only handle mental health conditions but also deal with everyday life. 

I run My Mind, My Funk, a mental health info and support hub that ran Kenya's first free mental health and epilepsy support line, serving over 11,000 Kenyans in the first year. As a writer, I contribute regularly to Kenya's Daily Nation Newspaper and most recently became a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post and as a speaker I have graced a TED Talk, 2 Moth Stories, The Aspen Ideas Festival (I am an Aspen Institute fellow - 2016) and many other amazing platforms across the globe which you can read about here

All these (and much more you will read in the long version below) have gotten me recognition among them being top 50 Global Social Impactors, 7 Women Trailblazers who took a stand in 2016 by NPR, 42 African Innovators to watch 2016 - Ventures Africa, Top 40 under 40 women Kenya 2015. 

My major interest is in the social, political and preventative aspects of mental health in Africa (so things ranging from culture - including role of women and spirituality, African history, policy implementation, community organizing are all up in my lane). 

I dream of an Africa where there is access to mental health information and appropriate support for everyone.

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The really long version (go grab a cup of something for this one)
My drive is born from the fact that when I got raped and got my dual diagnosis, when i had to drop out of Actuarial School, I wished there was a safe space where people had shared their narratives that I could tap into and get the strength to move forward and that the societal systems and structures were conducive for me to live a ‘normal life’



2011 - I was a full time poet a few light years ago
My work began around 2010 (i think, or slightly before - y'all there are years in my life i have no idea about, thats how bad things were at some point...BUT GOD!!! can I get an AMEN!!!) Ok so my work began around 2010 with this blog and a poetry night (Poetry at Discovery later Sitawa Ignited - which was the first non sponsored poetry night in Nairobi after Kwani Open Mic and the one that used to be at The Junction plus mine was the first one to branch out, had sessions in Nakuru - those were the days). 
Performing at a Poetry Night at Alliance Francaise 


These were both avenues of expression for myself and others and led to my being approached by an International NGO to be part of their youth program. Through it, i learnt a lot about the different aspects of mental health and shared this information via this blog and used it to help them create a mental health youth fellowship as i built my own organization My Mind, My Funk (MMMF) which does linkages with various service providers (psychiatrists and counsellors) and awareness drives in different spaces including a tweetchat #mymindmyfunk to educate the masses about mental health and self care. Other programs MMMF has run, include the one with youth from Kibera immediately after the post election violence and a similar program with girls from Korogocho Slums. 




Looking over the hills - Pic from 2013 on the Ngong Hills

My vision is an Africa where there is access to proper information and appropriate support for people living with mental health conditions and their families (sounds like an NGO tag line) So far, my major achievement in the sector is bringing to the forefront conversations on mental health, which many in Africa see as taboo, and providing spaces to learn and share. My 5 best moments;
1. a youth awareness program in Kibera Slums where I used collaborative art events and blogging lessons to teach them about mental health and self-care, 
2. when this blog (which many people use as a source of inspiration and information) won a Google Award and I used the cash to set up and run Kenya’s first free mental SMS support line for one year, providing information and support to over 11,000 Kenyans. 
3. I also loooooved the time at the UN in Addis Ababa when i got mental health on 4/11 areas on the position paper by African CSOs to African Governments on Beijing+20
4. oooh and there is this time i got a local newspaper to change its title 'mad doctor appointed to health committee' when they want to say a doctor with a mental health condition got appointed to a health committee... 
5. and that time in Aspen, Colorado when i asked Caitlyn Jenner how she takes care of her mental health
6. (bonus one) when i cut short President Uhuru Kenyatta's closing speech to pass a point across


...hope you have a sense of my work now...simply put I am a nomadic mental health crusader (the girl all over the place, all over people's faces trying to talk about something no one is trying to listen to - mental health and self care)



I have had my share of '15 minutes of fame' been featured in various national (NTVCitizenand international media outlets (BBC,  Al-Jaazera, WNYC Radio, Dutch Newspaper  and an Indian Newspaperand my opinion pieces on various aspects of mental health have been published widely from National Public Radio (NPR) to South Africa’s Mail and Guardian with a world mental health day piece on the need for mental health to be included in the “Africa Rising” narrative getting syndicated in 4 Kenyan newspapers. My public stance has also attracted cyber bullying which i address in one of my many published opinion pieces, AllAfrica.com... i am now a regular contributor to Kenya's Daily Nation and most recently became a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post (See more opinion pieces here)



Hosting (and having conversation) at one of my poetry gigs

My efforts to start conversations on things that are seen as tabooed in Africa and build community around them have accorded me various recognitions; Top 50 Global Social Impactors, Non Communicable Disease Champion by the Ministry of Health - Kenya, top 40 under 40 women in Kenya, 2015, Aspen Institute's New Voices Fellow 2016 by Aspen Institute and top 42 African Innovators to watch in 2016 by Ventures Africa plus a scholarship in 2015 to Social Innovation Management school- this one was exciting for me, going back to school 10 years after i dropped out of Actuarial School due to my diagnosis. 


I have also served as the Assistant Secretary of the National Epilepsy Coordination Council and have been part of the mental health policy review committee from the initial conversations till its launch in 2016.   (Head out to my Press and Praise page for links to the above mentioned articles and list of recognitions/accoladesAs much as I looooove and get humbled by the recognition, my best awards are the moments I get down on my knees and know that I am doing right by my calling aaaand the emails and text messages from those who I have been called to serve confirming that I am doing it right by that calling.‎

I am also an experienced public speaker with recent speaking engagements at TED, The 2nd New Media, Citizens and Government meeting in Abuja, 2 MOTH Events in Washington DC and their Nairobi Evening of StoryTellingAspen Ideas Festival Spotlight HealthMental Health America's Annual Conference and the list goes on and on.



 2013 - My days in running and hosting a fashion business/event - Runway254

Since my work is people centred, I enjoy my alone time...I love the great outdoors and try to make sure i have a walk or run everyday, though i fail at times...i enjoy scripture digging and being soaked in God's AWESOMENESS through meditation and fellowship (For almost one year, ok 9 months, I hosted a girls only monthly Bible Study at my house and led them in weekly prayer calls), I also love love tearing apart books (some people call it reading but mine involves different color marking, using sticky notes and note taking on the pages, that is why you can never borrow a book after i am done), I am also into trying out vegetarian recipes and DIY projects (there was this time i was so into a DIY project i went all out and started a project for upcoming designers - Runway254 that hosted shows and got them interviews...I also run/ran an events company - Events by Sitawa that did a lot of logistics for various social campaigns like Justice for Liz, Kenya ni Kwetu, launch of Africa Cancer Foundation.

I am also a grant advisor for The Pollination Project working on health dockets across the globe and applications from Kenya so if you are looking for seed money of around $1000 to test you idea, apply here  

Part of the logistics team for the Kenya ni Kwetu Love March


If you would like to contact me, use the tab on the side or email info@mymindmyfunk.com...you can also DM me on either FB page,  Instagram or Twitter

Sending love and light
Sitawa

PS: As you have seen most pictures are by Fredrick Leica Photography - get in touch with him here ...and ask for the Sitawa discount :)

3 comments:

  1. Sitwa- I wrote you a comment and a question yesterday and would so appreciate it if you have a response or an answer to my inquiry--would you be so kind as to email it to me. I live in New York City and am trying to help my student in Tanzania at a distance.
    My email is mariannah2000@gmail.com.
    I hope to hear from you. Thank you.
    Marianna Houston

    ReplyDelete
  2. We would like to interview you www.kenyapharmtech.com

    ReplyDelete

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