When we hear the quote “The sky is your limit,” we probably just dismiss it as another cliche motivational quote, but Vicky Aridi has proven that indeed limits only exist within the mind. At 22 years years of age and before even graduating from university, her C.V is probably one of the most impressive ones you will see. If I were to write down all of her accomplishments then we would probably need a scroll.
Vicky Aridi has worked with the United Nations in different capacities. She currently holds the position of Youth Focal Point for United Nations Joint SDG Fund, Youth Liaison, and Advocacy Officer for HCDExchange. On top of this, she is a fourth-year law student at Strathmore University. She has previously served as a project officer at the global level and an Advisor for Africa for United Nations SDSN Youth where she led and coordinated projects in 150 countries across the globe geared towards gender equality, youth empowerment, and SDGs being led by youth. She has also served as a Sustainable Development Goals Coordinator for Kenya for United Nations SDSN Youth.
As a menstrual hygiene advocate, Vicky has ensured that 500 young girls and women in informal settlements have access to sanitary towels during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is currently leading a team of seven youth advocates in Sub Saharan Africa and
South Asia to champion for Sexual Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) in their respective countries.
Vicky has co-founded the Tim Aridi Foundation in memory of her late brother. She is also co-founder of the Policy Act Initiative, a UNICEF Kenya Youth Advocate, and an advisory board member of the Rebirth of a Queen Organization. She has been named by Amref Health Africa, Y-Act, and Siasa Place as one of the champions kwa ground. She is a Millennium Fellow of 2019, Kectil fellow, and a youth and women empowerment activist at heart.
Vicky loves road trips and is always down to travel. She has been to several countries all over the world. Her love for diversity and involvement with helping the less privileged bred a desire for her to make the world a better place.
We caught up with Vicky to give us more perspective about what she does, as well as to draw some inspiration from her.
- How and when did you get involved with the U.N?
In March 2018 I applied and was selected to be the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Coordinator for Kenya for United Nations SDSN Youth, an initiative started to ensure that youth across the globe are not left behind and are at the forefront of championing for the SDGs. A year later, I was promoted to be a project officer for operations at the global level and an advisor for Africa for UN SDSN Youth where I led and coordinated youth-led projects on the SDGs, gender equality and youth empowerment in 150 countries across the globe.
Later on, I attended a Young Diplomats of Kenya Conference at the United Nations Office in Nairobi. I interacted with some of the representatives, and the simple conversation played a key role in marking the commencement of my journey as a UNICEF Kenya youth advocate. This year, I was further honoured to become the Global Youth Focal Point for the United Nations Joint SDG Fund.
- Was it always a dream of yours?
Growing up, I always knew that I wanted to be in the development space and make an impact. However, my dream to be involved with the United Nations begun after attending a Kenya Model United Nations (KMUN) club meeting at Strathmore University where the chairs of the meeting gave us a brief overview of the United Nations.
- What SDG are you most passionate about and why?
I am most passionate about SDG 4 on quality education because I believe education is a powerful tool that is essential for the world we live in today. Education enables us to know how to think critically and come up with innovative and transformative solutions to make a positive impact on the societies we live in. To add on to that, education is the key to enabling us to discover and unlock our potential as individuals to be key agents and drivers of sustainable development in the world we live in.
- What was your childhood like?
This question takes me way back. I was born in Nairobi. My childhood was very interesting. I was always out playing with my friends in the estate where I lived and riding bicycles. I also remember that there was an old red car that used to be in the field of our estate where my childhood friends and I would sit on top of and play board games and cards. My childhood was filled with games and fun. It was never a dull moment. I was even part of a dance crew at some point and it is interesting to see how now all the dance crew members have flourished and are making strides in their respective fields.
- How do you sustain your drive to follow through with all these projects that you do?
I begin with the end in mind. I think of the people who I am going to directly impact through the success of these projects and the positive impact the projects will have on society. I also always try to plan my time meticulously to ensure that I am giving myself adequate time to run the projects to fruition.
Again, when I do a project in collaboration with others we are able to motivate each other and maintain the drive to follow through with all these projects despite challenges that may come up on the way. As a wise man once said if you want to walk the journey of life far, don’t go alone, walk it with others.
- Tell us a little bit about the Tim Aridi foundation?
The Tim Aridi Foundation was started in 2019 in memory of my beloved brother Timothy Aridi who passed away after a brave battle of Lupus, an autoimmune illness. The foundation has a number of key goals. The first goal is the mentorship of the next generation leaders through sports. We hold sports mentorship camps with high school students in counties in Kenya over the school holidays. We mentor these students on a range of issues and invite key professionals and seasoned youth leaders to mentor them. Through the first two mentorship camps, we have so far mentored and impacted over 200 high school students in the counties.
The second goal is the petals program for young women. We empower young women leaders in the counties to embrace their womanhood and to be agents of change. We also empowered them with the tools, education, and resources to champion access to menstrual hygiene, sanitary towels, and to end the stigma surrounding menstruation in Kenya in their counties.
The third goal is environmental conservation. At Tim Aridi Foundation we educate the next generation leaders in the counties on the importance of conserving the environment and playing their part to mitigate the effects of climate change. We further plant trees at the end of every mentorship camp with the youth in the counties to ensure that we are playing our part to conserve the environment.
- You are a Kotex Kenya 2020 honoree. How does that feel?
I feel honoured and excited to be a Kotex Kenya 2020 honoree. This is because the SheCan campaign is all about celebrating the milestones that women are making and that despite any challenges you may face along your life’s journey always remembering that you can and that you are destined for greatness.
- Aside from all these projects, you’re also a law student at Strathmore University. How do you balance all this? Do you ever feel like you’re compromising on any aspect of your life?
Time management is an essential skill that we all need. I balance my time by having very clear defined schedules and carrying out weekly planning to ensure that I have set aside adequate time for school, work, family, friends, social engagements, and personal time. I also ensure that I review my weekly planning at the end of every week to see how I can always make my planning for the subsequent week better.
I have never felt like I am compromising any aspect of my life because I always make an active effort to ensure that I do not neglect any aspect of my life as every aspect is equally important to me.
- What makes you so passionate about menstruation, and providing hygienic products to the less privileged?
I believe that first and foremost every young girl and woman has the right to access menstrual products. Every girl and young woman deserves to experience menstruation in a dignified manner. I am also passionate about this because I believe that as a young woman I can be able to encourage and empower other young women to embrace their womanhood and champion for access to menstrual products in the communities they live in through the menstruation projects I am involved in.
- Tell us a little bit about the Policy Act initiative which you initiated as a UNICEF Kenya advocate?
The Policy Act Initiative was started last year by me and my co-founder Ezra Yego. The idea was birthed after my co-founder had attended a training with UNICEF Africa that led to the birth of a UNICEF Africa youth policy guide. We had a conversation a few weeks after this training and decided we would take action and set up this initiative. This initiative is geared at empowering youth to take action in supporting their governments with SDGs implementation by participating in the creation, reviewing, and implementation of policies. We began running workshops where we would empower university students across Kenya with the skills, tools, and resources to become active drivers of change in policymaking and implementation. We are planning to scale up the workshops to a continental level later this year.
- Would you say that you always had “it” in you, or is it something that built up along the way?
I would say that it was something I built up along the way. When I was younger I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I would be holding some of the positions that I am holding today.
- An incident that made you know for sure that you’re on the right track?
I knew that I was on the right track when on 26th June 2019 when I was invited by UNICEF Kenya and UNICEF Belgium to be among 5 young leaders in Kenya to meet Her Majesty Queen Mathilde and Her Royal Highness Princess Elisabeth of Belgium for a roundtable discussion on youth empowerment, children’s rights, and the sustainable development goals. For me this incident made me realize that I should keep making an impact and always remember that the sky is but the limit.
- What would you say is your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement is to have been able to impact youth in 150 countries across the globe and to be able to lead and co-ordinate them to run projects geared towards youth empowerment, gender equality, and sustainable development goals.
- What has been your biggest setback?
I would not term this as a setback but I think for me the most trying time was when I lost my only brother on 27th March 2018 after he had bravely fought Lupus.
- Take us through a typical day or you?
A typical day for me begins in the morning. I wake up at around 7:00 a.m. and get ready for the day. I then usually work from 8:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. for an international NGO called HCDExchange where I am the Youth Liason and Advocacy Officer.
During my workday, I am engaged in a lot of meetings with different stakeholders across the globe. I have meetings with my team who comprise of stellar youth advocates making transformative change in Africa and Asia where we plan for global youth-centered events around groundbreaking issues such as SGBV. I then have meetings later on after 5 with my team for the youth projects for the UN Joint SDG Fund.
Lastly, I take time to spend with my family where we either watch a movie together or play games together. I also spend time in the evening to have video calls with my friends and play online games given the unprecedented times we are living in.
- What do you do in your free time?
In my free time, I love travelling and going on road trips. I also really enjoy listening to music and dancing. I practice my Spanish, and whenever I get the chance to, I love acting.
- So you are involved in a Gender-Based Violence mentorship program and one on menstrual hygiene as well. Where do you trace your passion for womanhood and woman empowerment?
I think my passion stems from first and foremost being a woman. Secondly, I aspire to see a society where every young girl and woman is proud of being a woman and is given the space to make a positive and catalytic change to the societies they live in. I believe that by virtue of being a woman you are already a force to be reckoned with and there is nothing we can’t do if we set our mind to it.
- Were you involved in any community work in primary or high school?
Yes, I have been involved actively in community work from primary where I would always spend some of my time on holidays giving back to the community. In High school I volunteered as a camp mentor for high school students, I also volunteered as a nurse and receptionist in the Nairobi Spinal Injury Hospital and as a volunteer teacher in various primary schools in various counties in Kenya.
I was also involved in a community service project that my high school, Kianda, ran in Kitui where we would run holiday tuition camps in schools in Kitui and we would also mentor the young students. After attending one of these camps as a volunteer in 2013 I was inspired to start the sponsor a child project which encouraged fellow student volunteers who would go for these camps to pledge to support one student through their primary education.
- What are your dreams and goals for the future?
I would like to continue to champion for sustainable development and the use of the Human-Centered Design (HCD) approach for Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). I would also like to be a Country Representative for one of the United Nations Agencies in the future and to also work with the African Union. I would also love to have mentored over 3,000 youth in Kenya through the Tim Aridi Foundation and to have empowered over 5,000 young African leaders to be policy agents of change and champions for SRHR. Lastly, I would like to help other youth drive their initiatives and play a part in sustainable development.
Click here to find out more about the Tim Aridi Foundation.