The unlikely story of young rural girl who rose to the top

Nadia Abdalla

Nadia Abdalla, the ICT, Innovations and Youth Affairs Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) during the International Day of The girl Child at Rowallan Camp, on October 11, 2021 in Kibra, Nairobi.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Through sheer determination, Nadia Ahmed Abdalla overcame the many challenges thrown her way.
  • In the book, Ms Abdalla details how dreams can be valid only if we are ready to sacrifice and relentlessly pursue them.

At a young age of just 29, Nadia Ahmed Abdalla found herself thrust in national limelight as the youngest Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) in the Ministry of ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs.

The hitherto small-town girl from a remote village called Kuze in Mvita, Mombasa County had just dared to break the glass ceiling.

The once chubby little girl struggling with identity crisis and battling to fit in was now the centre of attention as she lifted the Koran swearing to serve the country.

But how did the young lady find herself sharing the table with notable names in the country’s political scene to a position equivalent to a deputy minister?

In comes Of Dreams and Whatever, the second book by Ms Abdalla. The book provides a sneak peek into the CAS’s life right from her childhood to the national limelight.

Published by Crevit Mulier and Co. Goye publishers in 2021, the book rather than be a mini-autobiography of sort, Ms Abdalla opens up and serves the youth with her story detailing how dreams can be valid only if we are ready to sacrifice and relentlessly pursue them.

Using first-person narrative style, the 31-year-old uses the book to spark a frank conversation with the youth using her story as an inspiration that no human is limited.

Overcame all struggles

Growing up in a blended family following the separation of her parents while still young, the ICT CAS struggled to fit as she always saw herself as the black sheep of the family.

She begins the book by recounting her struggles to fit and be accepted growing up with a strict mother, the late Salma Homar and grandmother Zeinab, who always shielded her from the society. This made her turn into a rebel and feel like she was born in a wrong society.

As a chubby teenager, she wanted to be skinny, pretty and have a boyfriend as all teenagers would. Is this not what most teenagers go through?

However, she overcame all the struggles paving her own path through advocacy work fueled by her desire to show young girls from her community that they can be part of something bigger than what society has given to them.

Of Dreams and Whatever

The cover of the book ‘Of Dreams and Whatever’ by Nadia Abdalla.

Photo credit: Lucy Wanjiru | Nation Media Group

Looking up to Oprah Winfrey, Tyra Banks and Koffi Annan in her formative years, the writer never let her childhood pains block her from realising her dreams.

But it was not that smooth sailing as she had to go through a whirlpool of experiences to be where she is today. From being bullied as a child, to fighting for acceptance and likeability, to constantly being battling to prove herself: it was not easy.

In chapter five, she narrates how she narrowly escaped abuse from a person she trusted while in a faraway land in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for her university education.

She was never strong enough to open up until in the book, shining light on tribulations most survivors of sexual and gender-based violence go through as they fear speaking up due to stigmatisation.

Nonetheless, she did not let the abuse define her as it is at the university where she found her footing and purpose in life.

Important life lessons

Passionate about communication and networking, the author would come back to Kenya and dip into her passion and gained knowledge to start a network to address societal issues and champion issues often deemed taboo.

She immediately got engaged in community work focusing on empowering and tackling issues facing young women and youth, gender-based violence and mental health campaigns to create awareness.

During this time, she published her first book, The Feminist in Us, in April 2017, started a communication network, trained and mentored the youth, amplified her voice and just owned her space.

It is through such initiatives that President Uhuru Kenyatta got to know of her, with her participation in the Madam President competition also playing a part, leading to being singled out from the rest in January, 2020.

“So dear girl child and youth, understand that I did not wake up one morning and sit at the table with other key decision makers to influence change. I worked towards the change I needed to see. I gave my 201 percent to everything because I always had this strong belief that you just never know who is watching,” she avers.

But even after her appointment, she says, she has to battle perceptions of her being light-skinned and beautiful being what made her get appointed.

She avers that we should not let education always be a definite path to getting a job though it is a vital tool in life, but make oneself relevant.

This is exemplified in her scenario where even after studying abroad, she had no guarantee of getting a job and had to try everything including advocacy and other ventures.

The 105 pages book challenges the youth not to fear taking chances for fear of failing, rejection or the unknown as part of four important life lessons including having a vision and being patient.

“You shouldn’t be too hard on yourself when you are stuck at a point of no growth. It is very normal for our parents not to understand our career and education choices.”