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July 24, 2017

Naomi Kamitha: Pursuing women’s equality in Africa

July 26, 2017  

Naomi Kamitha has traveled thousands of miles from home to come to MSU where she is an Honors College student majoring in women’s and gender studies in the College of Arts and Letters in the hopes of one day returning to her home continent to advocate for gender-inclusive policies.

Naomi Kamitha

Naomi Kamitha at Linton Hall

“I wanted to do something that would give me satisfaction, something I would be comfortable doing for a long time,” Kamitha said. “When I saw women’s and gender studies, I thought, ‘hmmm…’ I enjoy talking about girls’ rights, sexuality, women’s health and gender equality and having an opportunity to study and go into depth with that was a big attraction.

“Also, the liberal arts have a way of opening your mind and enables you to see things in a whole new way than you ever thought possible. You become more critical in how you analyze life and society. I’m glad that I made the decision to come to the College of Arts and Letters.”

From a small town called Githunguri in Kiambu County, Kenya about 23 miles away from Nairobi, the country’s capital, the Honors College sophomore graduated from Nakuru Girl’s high school in 2014 and completed the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education in the top 5 percent. When considering the next step in her educational journey, Kamitha looked beyond her country.

Naomi Kamitha with a friend at Beaumont Tower

Naomi with friends outside Beaumont Tower.

“I always wanted to go outside of Kenya, and I was lucky enough to get into MSU and get a good scholarship, the MasterCard scholarship,” she said.

The MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program supports students from Sub-Saharan Africa who are committed to giving back to their communities.

“I want to work with women in developing countries, specifically Africa, in developing policies and being part of making policies that are gender-inclusive and ensuring that women in Africa have a voice,” Kamitha said. “I also want to do research so that the history, and the voices, and the activities of African women are documented and have a part in history.”

Kamitha is a member of the College of Arts & Letters Citizen Scholars program, which is designed to prepare the next generation of diverse, high-achieving, and engaged citizen leaders. As a Citizen Scholar, she has access to a community of peers and faculty mentors in her field and opportunities to grow her research skills.

“Citizen Scholars has helped me find my footing in college,” Kamitha said. “It has given me a community that has been really supportive and that I could not find outside the College of Arts & Letters. There’s way more than I ever would have found on my own without the Citizen Scholars program. I have benefited a lot, and I am really grateful for that.”

Naomi Kamitha presents her work on a poster presentation

Naomi Kamitha presents her work on contextualizing feminism at the Citizen Scholars Showcase.

Kamitha also has found support within her major and other areas on campus.

“I have met some very good professors and advisors in Women’s and Gender Studies. They are very supportive and encourage me to explore my various areas of interest, and I feel like I am getting to design my own major in a way that I would like it to be,” she said. “There also are a lot of supportive systems here on campus and people who are willing to help you navigate the system. It helps with not feeling so lonely when you have so many supportive communities.”

This past semester, Kamitha attended the Africa Business Conference at Harvard Business School, an annual conference that draws people from all over the world who share a vision of advancing the continent and a focus on unlocking the potential of African economies. She was able to do this with support from the Citizen Scholars program and the Equity Leaders Program Kenya.

“It was a great opportunity for me to engage in such discussions and to learn more about the role I could play in contributing to the policy making and how I can best contribute to the continents growth,” Kamitha said. “I got to connect and network – I even left with an offer for an internship.”

Having just finished her freshman year, Kamitha already is making her mark on campus and has made many connections here as well.

“One of the things I like most about Michigan State is its diverse community. I have met people from every part of the world and have made so many friends,” she said. “Since coming here, I have grown so much. I have learned so many new things. I have discovered things about myself that I did not know before. It has just been a great foundation year.”

Reprinted with permission from the College of Arts and Letters Dean’s Report