Post authored by Mkamboi Mwakale and Sasha Rabsey.
We’ve just concluded the inaugural East Africa Girls Summit with participants from across East Africa. Young women from Komera Project, Sega Girls, Fortress of Hope and Akili Dada all came together for four days of leadership development training and community-building.
Stories and Values
The young women took part in a storytelling workshop with Ayla of Resonate where they identified their values and how their stories relate to those values. The most important values they identified were courage, kindness, equality and community. The girls broke into groups and discussed one value and then selected a representative to speak to the group at large about why that value was important.
The girls learned how to tell a story by first identifying a challenge, choice and outcome. Ayla also shared videos other young women telling their stories, so that girls at the summit could practice identifying key components of others’ stories.
As you can imagine, the deepest learning came from the experience of telling their own stories. Akili Dada Scholar, Hellen, demonstrated her value of courage through sharing her experience learning to swim in her first year of high school. Peris shared a compelling story about her journey from the lowest scoring history student to leading the class with an “A” average.
During the session girls gained an appreciation for the power of narrative as an effective communication [EA_1] tool, gained important knowledge on the fundamentals of storytelling, developed stories that were clear, concise and compelling while developing a sense of community with each other.
Ayla also facilitated the morning session and the girls were introduced to understanding of Mission & Vision. The girls were grouped into 3 and were able to discuss the Komera project’s mission and vision as a case study. After a comprehensive analysis of Komera’s mission and vision, the girls were asked to work together and come up with the Summit’s Mission, Vision, Values and Personality.
MISSION: To nurture leadership, self-awareness, creativity and empower them through training and mentorship.
VISION: A generation of empowered young women leaders who are creating positive social change.
Our next session on entrepreneurship was led by Watitri Njunguna, a 24-year-old entrepreneur. Watitri runs a successful restaurant in Limuru town called Tiris Kitchen. Watiri’s dream has always been to work in the hospitality industry. In college she made attempts of selling juices to her colleagues, and was not taken very seriously. She used her peers’ discouragement to fuel her path to the business she now runs. She shared the challenges that exist in starting your own business, and gave the group tangible ways to overcome those challenges. You could see a new-found curiosity spark. It seems we have some future entrepreneurs among us.
In the afternoon, Ms. Jackline Atieno, Regional HR Lead of Relief International, to share her personaljourney. Jackline was pregnant at the age of 20, and was forced to deal with a myriad of challenges because of her situation. Because of the stigma that surrounded her, she had to fight extra hard to prove that she could play a positive role in her community and society. Finding a job and studies became part of her schedule as she struggled to make ends meet as a new single mother. Today, her daughter is 15 and has seen her struggle through it all, rising from administrative assistant to lead the HR Team for Relief International Africa. Jackline also talked to the girls about the relationship between parents and their children, which resonated with the group.
Thinking Outside the Box
Miss Caren Wakwoli led an evening session around the notion of leadership. She challenged the girls to share what they thought about leadership and expand on traditional views. In her ways, Caren had been planting seeds to grow “out of the box” thinking since the first day through a number of games and puzzles she introduced to the group. Each day prior, the girls spent their free time working together to come up with [EA_3] strategies and solutions. In the end, the girls agreed that a leader is someone who takes initiative, is self-aware, open and makes decisions based on a set of values.
Tech + Innovation
On the fourth day of the summit, we took a trip to the iHub where the girls were introduced to this co-working space that brings innovative techies together under one roof. The iHub brought to life the conversations around collaborative leadership and creative thinking. Worlds collided as we passed by two Akili Dada mentors working in the space.
Continuing into the tech realm, we visited the Nairobi Development School, which is an initiative of an Akili Dada Alumna, Martha Njeri Chelimo. Here we met with programming students who shared what they were learning in the school. The girls were also introduced to the language of programming, learning terms such as ‘bug error’, syntax error, code, and ruby on rails.
The last stop on the tech tour was the Software Technologies company in Gigiri. There we met Techpreneur, Nivi Mukherjee CEO of eLIMU, which builds app that are making learning easy and fun to hence increase students’ motivation. The pilot project was launched at Kawangware, a school in the slum area of Nairobi. The school greatly improved their performance, becoming the best school in their division following the national exams, which motivated the founder to move forward with the project. eLIMU has a social enterprise aspect in that they focus on working with schools that have limited learning facilities and resources and high student to teacher ratios. The bus ride home to Limuru was filled with conversation about tech.
By the last night, it was clear that the summit had an incredible impact on the young women who participated. They were already putting their heads together around how to create more opportunities like this for themselves and each other.
We ended the summit with a celebration and were treated to a beautiful dance routine by a Rwandese team.