Elizabeth Muthoni Nderitu: A Womenful Voice

Elizabeth and her family outside their home

Kisima student 2008-2011

Elizabeth grew up in Nyandarua county in a small village called Ritaya which is about a 20-minute drive from Kisima School. The local economy revolves around farming potatoes, maize, beans, peas, and vegetables. About her hometown, Elizabeth says "Fun fact: Ritaya is derived from the word retire, because that is where all the retired people used to live. So, growing up I always heard people say "Nothing good comes from this village.""

Elizabeth grew up as the middle child of six siblings, four brothers and two sisters, as well as a niece and a nephew. Her dad passed away in 2002 when she was just 10 years old and her family struggled to make ends meet, with her mum doing odd jobs so that they could afford to buy food. By then primary school education was free in Kenya but Elizabeth explains that she was often sent home because their family could not afford to pay for extras like uniforms and supplies. "Having 3 meals a day was a privilege" says Elizabeth "but generally, it was a happy childhood, we stayed together and supported each other by all means."

Elizabeth at Kisima
Elizabeth with her mum at her graduation party back home
Elizabeth with her colleagues at a Mastercard Foundation event

"My experience at Kisima is one of the most AMAZING things in my life" says Elizabeth. "The fact that I just had to study and not worry about being sent home because of school fees was a dream come true. They even provided the uniform." She loved being at Kisima where everyone was treated as equal. She says she felt seen and important which boosted her confidence and gave her hope for a better future. She loved being part of the school family and developed great friendships with other students who are still among her closest friends today.

Elizabeth explained that she worked extra hard at Kisima to maintain good grades and the hardest thing was that she often found herself worrying about her family back home, their daily struggles, and in particular her mum, whose health was deteriorating.

African cultural night at EARTH University
The house Elizabeth had built for her family
On holiday in Jamaica

After finishing her secondary education at Kisima, Elizabeth worked different jobs and volunteered with local schools. She was pleased to be able to earn money to help support her family back home and her mum's health started to improve. She then applied to EARTH University in Costa Rica and was granted a full Mastercard Foundation Scholarship. She moved to Costa Rica, where she learnt Spanish for three months and then began her four-year journey to becoming an Agronomic Engineer which she says was an incredible experience. After graduating from EARTH University with a degree in Agricultural Sciences, Elizabeth moved back to Kenya to undertake a master's degree, MSc. Community Development and Extension, at Egerton University.

Elizabeth now works at EARTH University as the Student Life Coordinator which entails leading on the operational delivery of the university's student life programme and ensuring the effective transition of students into university life at EARTH.

Elizabeth is also the co-founder of Womenful Voice organisation whose mission is to empower women and girls to advocate for themselves and address their own needs through quality education, training programmes, and good health and well-being to achieve long-term positive outcomes. They are currently working in Haiti with hopes of going to other countries in the future.

Since starting work, Elizabeth has been able to support her family with their education and generally improve their quality of life. She says that her biggest achievement to date has been building a permanent house for her family. This was a childhood dream that has now become a reality. It makes her so happy, knowing that her family has a proper home and that all their basic needs are met.

In her leisure time Elizabeth enjoys nature, hiking, bike riding and relaxing in front of Netflix. The beach is her happy place, so being in Costa Rica is perfect for her! She also really enjoys travelling and experiencing different cultures and wants to travel the world to broaden her horizons.

When asked about her future plans, Elizabeth says "Currently I am still figuring out what my future looks like, I have so many dreams and aspirations which are still a work in progress." In the short term she is focusing on getting better at her job by learning new skills and getting more involved in different programmes. She is always working on her personal development as well as giving back to society. "So much has been given to me and I cannot wait to be able to give even more" she says.

Elizabeth says that without Kisima she does not know how her life would have turned out and she does not think she would be where she is now. She says "I am forever grateful for this opportunity that has opened so many doors for me. Thank you so much Kisima for believing and supporting my dreams."