In honor of International Day of the Girl, Asante Africa Foundation spent time with Benedictus, Carolyne and Esther, current student scholars who attend St. Mary’s Secondary School and who have participated in the 2011 Leadership Incubator in Arusha, Tanzania. The girls sat down to give some perspective on educational opportunity, leadership and their hope for girls worldwide.
What are some of the challenges facing girls in Kenya?
Esther: Most of the poor living here are from the Masaai community. Some girls are married off early, some are taken and many girls are circumcised as part of a cultural ritual; these things force many to run away from home and they miss out on an education.
Carolyn: I am from Narok where most of the girls in our community are not given a right to education. The Masaai community still views education as a male dominated right. Most privileges are given to men or boys, meanwhile women or girls must stay at home, doing domestic work, giving birth to children and sustaining or making men happy in the community.
Benedictus: I can speak to early marriages. The girls in the community are given out by their parents while they are still young. They are given out to old and young men. Some can be given out at age 11 or younger. Maybe the girl wants to be educated, but now her education is cut short to become someone’s wife. Unless she runs away to where she can get support from the police or an organization like Asante Africa Foundation, she cannot continue with her education and her dreams.
Why is it important for girls to be leaders? Why is it important for women to be in leadership positions?
Esther: When women are in leadership positions, they know about the problems of their fellow women and so they enhance the ability to solve problems facing women.
Carolyne: Women promote gender equality, because they don’t exercise discrimination as men do when they are in leadership positions. Women can change the world. Women can promote equality and dignity.
Bendictus: Women can do many things at the same time. Even now in the family, women are the guides. They are only limited because they are not given opportunities, but they are the ones who guide their families and how things are supposed to be planned. They are good planners.
How has Asante Africa Foundation helped you be a leader?
Esther: Asante Africa has helped us by holding the Leadership Incubator. Last year, we went to Tanzania. I, myself have benefitted from it. We were taught about being a leader. It is not a matter of being a principal or a head of some thing. You are a leader by the actions you take. If you are able to organize and take responsibility in the things that you do, you are a leader.
Carolyne: I have gained a lot, especially through mapping out my dreams. From now on, I am able to handle many challenges and I can help others, because I understand that I am a leader myself. I have come to realize that being a leader is not just about holding a position in society or an organization, but that one can be a leader of themselves. Leadership is also an act of mobilizing others to a great aspiration.
Benedictus: Asante Africa has been a wonderful organization for my life. They have helped me get an education. I can say everybody is a leader. Being a leader is not forcing someone to do something, but to start with yourself. I am a leader to myself and I must be a role model to others.
What message of hope do you want to give to girls all over the world?
Esther: No one should have their dreams shattered. In whatever situation, you should keep the fire burning and keep on working hard. You don’t have to be what you came from. Just try. You can have an awesome future.
Carolyn: I encourage women to aspire to become leaders. They should not be there for men to look down upon, as if they have no use or no importance in the world. They should view themselves as leaders.
Benedictus: If you are a girl, you know yourself, your background and where you come from. It is up to you to know where to start. For any girls who do not have an education, now is the time to seek assistance from any community to get educated, so that you can see your dreams come true.