Education As A Pathway To Promote Gender Equality And Women Leadership
March 19 2020
East African women are emerging leaders in their communities. They are modernizing their rural villages by representing their viewpoints and affecting change around them. These young women in leadership are empowered by Asante Africa’s educational programs where inspiring women leaders, like Anne Mueni Muli, are living examples of gender equality for young women. Men are also essential contributors to the success of female leaders; Simon Kinyajui teaches boys how to support girls in their leadership goals. Even a brief educational seminar can encourage and inspire young women such as Nakibuule who is running a small-scale business while influencing other students to do the same. These impactful educational programs and dedicated program leaders are successfully shaping female leaders across numerous countries in East Africa.
Anne Helps Aspiring Women in Leadership Find their Place at the Table
Inspiring women leaders are emerging throughout even the rural parts of Kenya and Anne Mueni Muli, Asante Africa Youth Livelihood and Entrepreneurship Program Coordinator, has a vision for future female leaders in Africa.
“I would really love to see the next generation learn to trust their inner voice and trust that they can always make a difference and use their strength to overcome their weaknesses.” ~ Anne Mueni Muli
With her own four month old daughter chattering in the background, Anne graciously extends her busy day, still exuding her captivating and positive spirit to its fullest as she speaks about women and leadership.
Having come from a humble background, parents who struggled to make ends meet for their four children, Anne’s parents taught her the importance of work ethic to attain a better life. She fought to overcome the social stigma associated with poverty and worked to gain her confidence.
“I’ve never allowed anyone to define what I believe in,” she states as she describes the experiences that shaped her into a leader. Attending schools where boys were consistently considered best in science, Anne experienced the deficiency in gender equality and felt compelled to rectify it.
“I developed the desire to see change,” Anne says, “and to see everyone just being treated equally and being given equal opportunity the same case as men.” It became her mission to fight for the rights of the less fortunate in society, particularly women, and her primary focus became women’s rights in education. Anne is proud that she has achieved success that enables her to “sit at the table” where she offers suggestions and experiences her ideas being implemented.
As a program coordinator for Asante Africa’s women’s leadership development programs, Anne leads staff while continually embracing ideas for helping youth succeed. Her philosophy is solid — don’t be afraid to make mistakes, instead learn from them, get up and move on. She guides her staff by expertly utilizing their individual strengths to achieve the organization’s goals while acknowledging their differences and improving their weaknesses.
Anne’s dedication is paying off, “Currently in Asante Africa Foundation, the majority of young people that have been through the programs that I manage have now assumed leadership roles at the county level,” she explains. These highly successful graduates have become leaders who are positively changing their communities and transforming East African societies.
Girls who are emerging leaders need to know that their gender does not determine their success. “Nobody cares whether you are a woman or you are a man, you just have to present yourself, speak out, show what you’ve got and that’s what people care about,” Anne states. Success for women is about hard work and demonstrating one’s worth to earn respect and a place at the table where decisions are made. “Let your voices be had,” Anne concludes.
Simon Brings Boys and Girls Together to Support Women in Leadership
In Kenya, male educators are empowering girls by encouraging boys to support their female peers as equals. Simon Kinyanjui, Senior Regional Coordinator for Asante Africa’s Girls’ Advancement Program, believes that progress for women in leadership can be achieved by teaching boys and girls to work together right from the start.
“Let us bring empowerment to both of them so that they grow at the same level so that in the future we don’t have to come back again and start over about women’s empowerment.” ~ Simon Kinyanjui
When Simon joined Asante Africa in 2018, he was introduced to an educational environment where students who came from pastoral families, with traditional patriarchal values, struggle to attend school because of their responsibilities in their households. This was new for Simon having been raised in a home where his mother valued and prioritized education. “My mother inspired us to embrace education as a catalyst to change the neighborhoods where we were living,” Simon states.
He recalls how hard his mother worked and how much she sacrificed for the family, all without an education, and still wonders what kind of difference she could have made had she attended school. Inspired by his mother, Simon felt privileged to begin working with women at Asante Africa. “It really boosted my passion for what I was already aspiring — to be a voice for the women,” Simon explains.
Simon, a program coordinator, works with program leaders, participants, and their families. “I want to give a chance for these young participants who are the future of this community to see that there is light at the end of the tunnel,” he says.
The Wezesha Vijana (Girls’ Advancement) Program teaches girls about sexual reproductive health, personal safety, and financial literacy in order to prepare young women for leadership roles in society. But girls aren’t the only focus of the program. “How are we preparing the man for the empowered woman?” Simon asks. He explains that a vital component of this program is the boy inclusion curriculum that educates boys about gender equality. Early education for boys and girls about the value of equity in gender roles teaches both genders to compliment each other rather than to compete.
Boys sometimes resist sharing opportunities with the girls that they attend school alongside. “Boys will come to me and say ‘Simon, so you have given breaks to the girls, what about us?’” Curriculum specifically for boys increases their self-esteem and confidence by teaching them what men should be doing and how they can support girls.
“In Kenya, we are one of the countries in Africa that is really embracing women in leadership. For example, we have women representatives in every county,” Simon points out. According to USAID, women in Kenya represented 34 percent of Members of the County Assembly in 2020. Women’s rights today are advancing in areas of education, career opportunities, financial aid for business ownership, property ownership, and inheritance of wealth.
Simon looks towards a future in Kenya where education has created equity in gender roles and life accomplishments. He concludes by expressing his appreciation for women’s dedication and determination. “What you give a woman they give back twice. If you give them commitment it will mean success in your career. If we give women a chance in leadership, I’m sure they will give back to our society,” Simon states.
Nakibuule’s Transformative Experience as an Emerging Leader
Even a solid education in Uganda doesn’t prepare young men and women to embrace the entrepreneurial spirit necessary to get ahead and succeed in life, explains Nakibuule, a recent graduate of Asante Africa’s LEI Summit.
“By the time I left the summit, there was a change in me in regards to confidence. I had more love to go into leadership and I had gotten the idea of helping out others so they can also grow themselves.” ~ Nakibuule
Transformed by her experience at the summit and inspired by the outstanding program leaders, Nah is proud to be paying-it-forward by helping other students in her community with their small-scale businesses.
Nah lives with two incredible women in leadership roles: her mother and sister, both educators. From the age of two, Nah attended school with her mother and she recalls that it would have felt strange not to go to school. School offered consistency, instilled good habits, and looking back, Nah appreciates her mother for being “a great pillar.”
Nah, Right, Talking to a customer for her online clothing boutique
As Nah works towards completing her Bachelors in Automotive and Power with the goal to one day start her own auto dealership, her mother is excited to see her two daughters succeed as young women leaders.
Thanks to programs like those offered by Asante Africa that serve to empower young women and work to end gender discrimination, Nah is looking forward to an equal future to that of men in her Ugandan community. Women’s rights to work have come a long way, explains Nah, companies are recognizing gender imbalance and working to end it, “Everything a man can do, a woman can also do.”
Written By ~ Shauna White
Education for Every Child
Through Asante Africa’s educational programs, Anne, Simon, and Nah are striving daily to bring gender equality to East Africa. Their determination is paying off — young women in leadership are achieving success in their rural villages all the way to the county level.
“My proudest moment is seeing young people being given leadership responsibilities that can transform their societies, their communities, and their families.” ~ Anne
Still, continuous education for every child in East Africa is the greatest need for girls and boys to have an equal future.