Blazing a Trail to Leadership

A leader really has a task. You must be open, you must be a visionary and you must be very focused. Then you will be a leader.”

The media in Kenya has not historically been kind to women leaders. In an effort to right that, Women and Girls Lead-Kenya launched the “Women in the Red” radio show on Radio Maisha to highlight extraordinary women leaders who are blazing a path for future generations. “Women in the Red” is also the name of WGL-Kenya’s media campaign, which aims to cultivate and celebrate women leaders. It refers to the current deficit in women’s leadership in Kenya.

Recently, the  show put out a challenge to listeners – over one million Kenyans all over the country – to nominate women from their own communities for the Listener’s Choice Awards. Among the three finalists, Margaret Tawa of Nyakach – founder of the Nyalunya Development Community Based Organization, which supports orphans and vulnerable children by enrolling them in a kindergarten school that provides basic knowledge to enter public schools – was nominated and won by a landslide. Drawing on her wide network and strong community organizing skills, Margaret campaigned for herself among friends and colleagues on Facebook to bring home the win. We had a moment to speak with Margaret about her passion to increase support for women leaders in a brief interview prior to the awards announcement.

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Margaret Tawa

There are many challenges that come with the territory of being in a leadership role, such as tackling poverty, domestic violence against women or reducing school drop-outs. Margaret has encouraged women to come together and support one another by forming groups within their village.  Through this effort of inspiring women to unite, they are now able to submit applications for open opportunities as an assistant chief.

“Women are really responding and it is very nice. We have many women chiefs in Nyakach right now and even in many other places we are encouraging them” explained Margaret.

Margaret has a strong desire to be the best advocate for her community and has made the commitment to go back to school at the Kenya College of Accountancy and receive a degree in county governance and management. She explains this is not about a job or a salary, but to be an asset to her community.

“I want to give people a way forward. I want to give them advice…I want to be a role model,” she said.

It doesn’t stop there. In 2017, she plans to vie for the Member of the County Assembly position for Central Nyakach Ward. Margaret is confident about her chances of being elected, “Since I’m a member of the community, I know all the challenges, I know all the problems.”

Her win at the Listener’s Choice Awards has given her an automatic nomination in the Women in the Red Leadership Awards – a national contest that will honor the most remarkable women in Kenya. The goal of the contest is to move closer to realizing the ‘Kenyan Promise’ put forward by the 2/3 gender rule in the 2010 Constitution that aims to bring more women into leadership roles. This goal has yet to be met.

Check back later this month for updates on Margaret’s nomination!

Film Inspires Indian Father to Send Daughters Back to School

A reflection on intergenerational organizing, in honor of AWID’s #ICommit Tweetathon!

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A scene from Women of the World film “The Revolutionary Optimists”

When you ask many parents in Indian villages about education, they’ll tell you that it’s an investment – and beyond that, that it’s more valuable to invest in a son’s education than a daughter’s.  That’s what Bhagwat Thorat would have told you before he went to a community screening of the film Revolutionary Optimists. He had pulled each of his three daughters out of school when they reached puberty, fearful that if he waited too long to find them husbands they would have fewer prospects, that they would become victims to sexual violence, or if nothing else, that his investment would end up benefitting the husband’s family and not his own. Continue reading

Letters Leading to Evolution

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Thousands of young girls wrote passionate letters declaring their right to stay in school and out of child marriage to commemorate National Girl Child Day in Bangladesh this year.  The Youth Summit and Letter Festival – organized by Women and Girls Lead Global, National Girl Child Advocacy Forum and Youth Ending Hunger-Naogaon – called on girls to write open letters to their parents, telling them why they didn’t want to marry young.  Over 3,000 girls from 53 different schools in Bangladesh participated, sharing their desire for freedom and their disappointment that the law banning child marriage for girls under 16 is not being consistently upheld. Continue reading

Film about South Indian Poet Inspires Menstrual Health Movement Among Women & Men Alike

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Salma – the film’s title character

Salma, a Women of the World series film chronicling the extraordinary story of South India’s most famous woman poet and the violence she endured as a young woman, has stirred an incredible response among villagers in Maharashtra, India. One female health worker in particular has seen remarkable changes in the community she serves. Continue reading

Global Gathering for Girls – Oct 14 at 1pm GMT

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Five countries, six languages, and 100 young people leading change in their communities. Please join Women and Girls Lead Global at our Global Gathering for Girls. We’ll be convening youth from Kenya, India, Bangladesh, Jordan and Peru via Google Hangout to discuss how they’re tackling the greatest challenges facing girls in their countries.

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