Akili Dada recently partnered with HOW Fund to host the East Africa Girls Summit.  Below is a guest post from our friend and Founder of HOW Fund, Sasha Rabsey.

Our first day amongst the chilly but lush green landscape of Limuru, Kenya for the East Africa Girls Summit was filled with nervous anticipation. The girls were rested and ready to go. Young women from Tanzania filed into the room holding hands with girls from Rwanda and Kenya as if they were old friends even though they had just met the night before.

We began by introducing ourselves as an animal and explaining why we chose that particular animal. There were lots of giraffes, lions and one dove. Beautiful representation of young women exuding power and dignity.

Ayla Schlosser, the Founder of Resonate, opened the day's session with Story of Self. The girls learned that their own story is a way to engage with others, understand their own values and how they can define how others think of them and what they are capable of achieving. They learned that their personal story enables them to present themselves to the world and that they need not be defined by others. This is a powerful lesson for young women anywhere in the world. Although many were at first shy to share their story, they quickly felt the importance and power in the ability to tell one's own story.

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.

Next up was the really hard part which was to create their own personal stories incorporating their values into a three minute statement. In pairs, they sat on the grass and told each other their stories, making them shorter and shorter while maintaining the power of their values. Difficult, but oh so rewarding. We all returned to the larger group and with great bravery each young woman stood up and told her story. The goal is for their stories to help them build confidence and agency in order to encourage leadership for the change they want to see. It was a long and tiring day but ended with song, sisterhood and gratitude. Girls left as they entered, holding hands and arms entwined.

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