About Sitawa

Photo Credit: Thumbi Mwangi, 
taken on Red Bus Tour in Johannesburg, South Africa
Hi Sunshine,

Thank you for dropping by, here is a little info about me;

My name is Sitawa Wafula, a writer and mental health consultant with over 7 years experience in self, national and international mental health advocacy. Over the years, I have used various channels to share different aspects of mental health and self care. I am currently using my writing to bring attention to the need for funding, policy and continuous awareness on matters psycho-social

As a writer, I am a contributing blogger on Huffington Post and my work has been published by Kenya's Daily Nation, Ms Magazine, NPR, Mail & Guardian, AllAfrica.com. I am also a TED SpeakerMOTH Stage Speaker, an Aspen New Voices Fellow and an Amani Institute Fellow

My Backstory
I have been writing since I was my early teens with most of my initial writings being entries in my journals and poems. When I went through an epilepsy diagnosis at 17, sexual assault at 18, dropping out of Actuarial school in my second year, getting fired from a job after having a seizure in the workplace and a bipolar diagnosis, I turned to paper and pen as a release. Initially, I shared in my journal before I started sharing some of my entries on this blog around 2010. Little did I know those entries would make this a Google Award-winning blog in 2013. Instead of starting an artsy restaurant with a library (a dream I have always had), I decided to use my award money to set up and run Kenya's first free mental health and epilepsy support line for one year, serving over 11,000 Kenyans by providing them with linkages to support groups, psychologists, and psychiatrists. Since I was among the first people in my region to openly talk about these taboo topics of mental health, rape and epilepsy, I was quickly absorbed into advocacy, serving in committees, getting involved in policy and being recognized in and out of Africa (see recognition below)

Before getting into full time advocacy, my other entrepreneurial ventures included running the first self-sponsored poetry night in Nairobi, which was a base for most of the poets in Kenya and the first to open a branch outside the city (and at some point I had a platform for designers called Runway254 - don't ask, just watch the YouTube evidence). I hanged those gloves to concentrate on mental health, where my major interest was in the social and preventative aspects of mental health in Africa. My major achievement in the sector has been bringing conversations on mental health, which many in Africa see as taboo, to the forefront and providing spaces to learn and share. My best moments so far have been;

1. Running 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.(See Citizen TV coverage of the project)

2. Using my award money when my blog won a Google Award 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. In advocacy (I couldn't pick); 
  • getting mental health on 4/11 areas on the position paper by African CSOs to African Governments on Beijing+20 at the UN in Addis Ababa, 
  • getting a Kenyan newspaper to change a title that read 'mad doctor appointed to health committee' when they wanted to say a doctor with a mental health condition got appointed to a health committee... 
  • serving as an Assistant Secretary for the National Epilepsy Coordinating Committee, Kenya as well as sitting in the Mental Health Policy Review committee, Kenya from the initial conversations till the policy launch in 2016,the Ministry of Health, Kenya recognizing me as a Non Communicable Disease champion, 
  • working with various people from all over the globe looking for mental health information and insight from researchers, journalists, PhD students, policymakers to yet to be formed and established mental health organisations. 
  • aaand cutting short President Uhuru Kenyatta's closing speech to pass a point on mental health across. 
4. Doing my first TED Talk - 'Why I speak about living with epilepsy' - and getting over 50,000 views within its first few hours of going live (plus an overwhelming number of the emails and testimonies from across the globe) - and having Chris, the founder of TED in the audience...and speaking at a UN General Assembly showcase by the MOTH in New York which had UN under-secretary as the special guest. 

5. self-organizing a storytelling tour dubbed Akili ni Mali (Swahili for Mind is Wealth) early 2017 that aimed to spark conversations about mental health in Kenya. I was able to do 15 sessions (11 of which saw me do over 15 hours of speaking and over 3500 kilometers in road travel spread across 6 counties in Kenya and 4 pop-up sessions at a flea market in Nairobi). This tour ended up doing more than I had imagined including selling out on a merchandise line that I had begun as part of my fundraising and awareness for the tour (check out my store ), sparking healing journeys for those who attended the sessions, beginning a count up to renewed purpose for myself as well as going to Nigeria for a 6 state tour.

Current Situation 
Everything has come full circle for me and I am back to moment of obligation. I am very grateful for the past seven years and everything God allowed me to experience and learn. My physical and mental health is the best it has ever been and so is my spiritual health - which is my grounding.

I am back to hanging out with my first love - writing - which I am doing full-time. 

'15 minutes of fame '
I have had my share of '15 minutes of fame' on various national (NTVCitizenand international media outlets (BBC,  Al-JaazeraWNYC Radio, Dutch Newspaper and an Indian Newspaper). 

As a speaker, I have done a TED and TEDx Talk, MOTH Community Storytelling gigs (UN General Assembly showcase in New York, Howard Theatre in Washington DC and Nairobi), Aspen Ideas Festival Spotlight Health where I also interviewed Caitlyn Jenner about mental health and the list goes on and on. (see more below) 

My opinion pieces on various aspects of mental health have been published widely from National Public Radio (NPR), AllAfrica.com  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. I am a contributing blogger for The Huffington Post. and contribute(d) regularly to Kenya's Daily Nation.

Awards and recognition;
  •      50 Global Social Impactors 2017 - World CSR Day
  • ·    42 African Innovators to watch 2016  - Ventures Africa
  • ·    Aspen New Voices Fellow 2016 - Aspen Institute
  • ·    Top 40 under 40 women 2015 - Business Daily
  • ·    Non communicable Disease Champion Kenya 2015 - Ministry of Health, Kenya
  • ·    Google Africa Connected Winner 2014 - Google
  • ·    Activist of the Year 2013 - Malaika Trust
  • ·    East Africa Youth Philanthropist 2013 - East Africa Association of Grantmakers
  • ·    Named one of the top 100 movers and shakers - Drum Magazine 
Published Opinion Pieces ( opeds);
Media Interviews/Features;