Creating Opportunity from Chaos: Reimagining education, equality, and community through leadership 

Oct 27, 2020

On October 13, 2020, FHI 360 held a virtual event in honor of the International Day of the Girl, called “Creating Opportunity from Chaos.” We are already aware that girls are facing increased violence, higher school dropout rates, and are becoming victims of early marriage and motherhood. The worldwide pandemic has multiplied the problems that girls are facing and require immediate interventions. 

Young Voices – Panelists

This panel gave young change makers working on the frontlines across Africa, from Tunisia, Zambia, Kenya, and Senegal, an opportunity to share the struggles girls are facing within their communities, and the innovations and techniques that organizations are using to solve problems at their community level. The youth participants were Natasha Chikalipa, Youth Leader in FHI 360 from Zambia; Casimir Coly, Lead Coordinator with Women’s Global Education Project from Senegal; Simon Kinyanjui, Asante Africa Program Coordinator from Kenya; and Meriem Arraki, Ma3an Youth Mapper from Tunisia

Creating Opportunity from Chaos

Michael McCabe, the Senior Advisor on Youth from USAID remarked that these young people were “going beyond the rhetoric” and “making small ripples of change within their community, when taken together can create a wave for transformation and change.” 

The theme of the panel was to highlight the plight of the girl child within their communities, from facing gender-based violence, limited economic and educational opportunities, and a crumbling support structure. As a response to these problems and to meet the needs of the marginalized and vulnerable girls, the young change makers are using various methodologies in the field, including creating safe spaces, increasing community engagement, providing scholarships, and bridging the digital divide. 

Simon Kinyanjui , Girls’ Advancement Program Assistant, Kenya

Simon Kinyanjui – Panelist from Asante Africa Foundation

Asante Africa Foundation’s Adolescent Program Coordinator from Kenya, Simon Kinyanjui, was part of the panel. Simon spoke of the “on the ground” innovations addressing their issues by focusing on their health, financial, and social assets. Simon remarked that as a man he is there to represent the girls. He is driven by his passion to be a voice for the needs of adolescent girls, who face socio-cultural barriers to their empowerment and success.

Asante Africa Foundation operates in remote areas in East Africa, where, according to Simon, “culture is louder than laws or even orders, where the population is mostly nomadic and pastoralists.” In such transient, traditional, and economically underdeveloped areas, girls are denied their basic needs and are burdened with unequal distribution of resources. Girls also know very little about hygiene practices or about their sexual rights. They have to walk long distances to school, and have no digital tools or internet to access study materials.

In the panel discussion, Simon emphasized the important role of schools and after-school clubs, which function as a safe space for girls, giving them the necessary tools to become successful, including skills training, financial education, peer and community support. 

However, since the spread of the pandemic, school and club closures have left many girls without the necessary support. To mitigate the effects of the pandemic, Asante Africa Foundation put into motion programs to help their beneficiaries:

  • Asante Africa sponsors radio programs that give information in the local language. 
  • Flyers with important information printed in local languages distributed to households.
  • Distribution of kits with essentials – food, hygiene products, and review materials.
  • Created “community learning pods” for primary and secondary school children, sourced locally by mobilizing leaders and teachers from within the community to guide the students. 
  • Provided learning materials and tablets to students. 
  • Local organizers, with help from the local cell service providers, sent learning and revision materials through SMS and provided hard materials to students with no internet access. 
  • Coordinators are also doing follow-ups via phones or in-person visits with the beneficiaries to help address their needs.
Simon speaking to group in Kenya

Our programs reached and benefited nearly 2,300 girls in rural East Africa. Asante Africa’s programs include community outreach and education, including boys in the program to foster a strong community support and allies for the girl child. 

Simon and other organizers are also undertaking the rescuing of girls from forced and early marriages. Asante Africa’s community based model mobilizes the local government, local chiefs, and schools as important allies. Simon says, “if we want to empower an adolescent girl, don’t forget about the mother, don’t forget about the brother, don’t forget about the father. Don’t forget about those who are close to her.”

Creating Opportunity from Chaos

The fruits of the work by Simon and other local organizers have seen a community-wide reach. He says, “we have been able to distribute “Youth Essentials Kit” to beneficiaries to ease the pressure brought by the pandemic. Students and alumni are identifying the need within their community and engaging in income generating and “pay it forward” projects, such as mask making and soap making.” The outreach and the work to connect the students with peer and support personnel has kept many students active and positive throughout the pandemic-related closures.

How Can You Help Our Efforts?

  • Check out Asante Africa Foundation’s Wezesha Vijana Program and learn more about our programs. 
  • As Asante Africa Foundation is extending their Wezesha Vijana (Empowering Ourselves  in Swahili) Program into Uganda, please donate to help our efforts. Your donation will help us in providing health, communication, and learning resources. 
  • For young leaders – join USAID’s YouthLead platform and get resources and access to become global changemakers.


Written by Sumathi Ramanath


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