*By Doris Mugambi – Program Associate, Innovation in Leadership Program

Celebrating young women who have taken their place in the long journey towards achieving gender equality.

The world marked the 3rd annual International Day of The Girl Child, a day close to our hearts as Akili Dada. We reflected on the challenges that continue to afflict the girl child and at the same time looked at the great strides that we’ve made towards achieving gender equality. In September, we also witnessed the global launch of the newly adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a renewed commitment to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. Yes, prosperity for all, including girls and women.

As an actor in the girls and women’s rights movement, Akili Dada’s core focus is ensuring that girls and young women access and actively participate in decision-making spaces. This, I can safely say, is what makes us get up in the morning and drives us towards our objective of ensuring that African Women Lead.

With this in mind we hold “Dada Dialogue” sessions which are platforms that bring young women from different counties in Kenya together not only to share their challenges, but also to develop localized solutions to these challenges. As I listen to the young women share their challenges; early and forced marriages, teen pregnancies and oppressive cultures, I realize that the narrative remains the same.

I stand to say, if this is a journey, we have made steps but we are yet to arrive at our desired destination.

Monika Jain Panchi, in a piece on “Women Empowerment” says,

“The whole country is discussing

about my empowerment.

But I am not safe

even in my apartment.

Women’s court is being made

to give me justice.

But from my childhood I am taught

to live with injustice.”

It is for this that I believe with the renewed efforts and focus to achieve gender equality all stakeholders from family to school levels, must be involved for the effect to be felt across the board.

And as governments and other national stakeholders sit to form structures and systems that allow women to access equal opportunities, we will continue to host dialogues that enlighten and challenge young women to add their voices and have their influence felt in shaping the policies that are being developed towards fair and equitable gender representation. The dialogue sessions we hold will continue to be a space for these young women to challenge each other to take on leadership in their different capacities. And that through the dialogues the young women would change their own mindsets and those of their communities to view women’s empowerment not as a threat but as an opportunity for development. The sessions will most importantly serve as a space for these young women to learn and exchange ideas that would empower them to take their positions as contributors and actors of social change.

For the strides we have made, I write this to celebrate women who take time to shield their daughters from the oppressive cultures and heavily patriarchal societies.

To celebrate young women like Bahati, one of our Dada Dialogues participant, who uses her skills in poetry and mass media platform to create awareness and champion for an end in teenage pregnancies and child marriage.

I celebrate those women and actors that have made it their life’s purpose to ensure that girls unlock their power and potential, to take their rightful places in the long journey towards achieving gender equality.