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!

Women in the Red featured on KTN’s “Morning Express”

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We often think of leadership as monumental and large-scale, such as founding an organization or initiating a movement. But leadership comes in many forms, as WGLG Country Engagement Coordinator Josephine Karianjahi discussed with host Michael Gitonga during a recent interview on Kenya Television Network’s “Morning Express.” Gitonga spoke with Karianjahi last week about the goals of WGLG’s Women in the Red campaign: to encourage more women to take on leadership positions, and to celebrate women who have exhibited extraordinary leadership qualities.

Appearing with Karianjahi was 18-year-old student leader Purity Wangui Muchai, who, as the chair of Women Student Welfare Association, mentors young women leaders. “By sharing stories of women like Purity, we hope to inspire people who are watching this show and listening to our show on Radio Maisha to know – where does an individual start their leadership journey?” said Karianjahi.

In keeping with its mission, the Women in the Red campaign just launched a Listeners’ Choice Award to recognize extraordinary, little-known women leaders throughout Kenya – women who are giving back to their communities, initiating critical conversations, starting innovative businesses.

Beginning today, the campaign invites you to submit stories of the women in your life who are doing remarkable things; and to vote on the existing nominees. To learn more – and to vote – click here.

 

 

Garissa: Loss and Transition

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A message of sadness and of hope from Women and Girls Lead Global in Kenya:

We learned over the Easter weekend that 148 women and men had their lives cruelly cut short at the hands of terrorists. At the Women in the Red campaign, we have had a chance to hear the exceptional stories of leaders across Kenya who are taking action and calling their communities to greater engagement in the issues that matter the most to them. In working with partners from across the country, we see the tremendous potential of stories that can inspire people inside their communities. This is why the loss of these bright people from across Kenya is a true robbery of Kenya’s – and Africa’s – best hope for building stronger societies.

Garissa is approximately 365 Kilometres away from Nairobi, yet the effects of the horror felt as close to us as if it were next door. It has been hard to re-imagine that the dreaded attacks are now here with us. The families of the students come from every walk of life, and for those who lost their lives, the wait for their identification at a Nairobi morgue seems endless. In true form, Kenyans have come together to support the families directly affected by donating to a blood drive in the city’s capital centre, Nairobi. Many have hosted vigils and prayer services, and still others have provided daily refreshments to the anxiously awaiting families.

Our goal is to identify places where women and girls can participate in their community and opportunities for these community leaders to amplify their voices. As we proceed in guarding ourselves against the dreaded attacks, and mitigate the effects of the Garissa attack, which is the worst since the 1998 Nairobi US Embassy bombing – we note the need for extreme courage, speaking truth to power, empowerment of marginalized groups, and other intrinsic leadership qualities in the days to come.

We stand together with the Garissa attack victims, with deep condolences to the families of those who perished, and wishes for recovery for those who barely escaped with injuries. We are #OneKenya.

For those who wish to provide support, please note that the Kenya Red Cross is the main connection to the Garissa victims, and their families.

 

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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Capturing the Essence of WGLG

For the past year, Women and Girls Lead Global has been screening films for communities of farmers, educators, politicians and schoolchildren across the five countries where we work – Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Peru and Jordan.  For many audience members, it’s the first time they’ve seen films about real girls and women triumphing over adversity.  It’s also often the first time they’ve had a chance to discuss issues like child marriage and public safety for girls and women.

Below, we’ve compiled some of our favorite audience responses from our first season of Women of the World films. Their comments suggest the very idea that inspired WGLG: that documentary film has the power to move, inspire and empower people, and to begin the process of catalyzing change.