Silence is not an option for ending barbaric cultural practices. Political correctness is not an excuse for not ‘calling-out’ the atrocities of the most heinous form of gender-based violence in today’s world. Esther Cheebos is making history in West Pokot, Kenya, by leveraging the power of passion, her commitment to purpose, and the depth of her empathy. Every morning, as she sets out to work, on roads filled with cattle, goats, motor bikes, barefoot children, and local hawkers, she knows she is in position to change the course of history.
8 Empowered Beneficiaries Uplift Their Community Through Their Give Back Commitment
Shirleen Kasmeri and seven colleagues have grown up in the midst of cholera epidemics, hunger, and harmful cultural practices; such as FGM and early marriage. Rather than becoming discouraged, they are motivated and determined to change things for the better.
Morpus, a remote, dry village, located in West Pokot County, Kenya, is the home of the Global Give Back Circle’s ‘HER Lab’. The community of Morpus is comprised mainly of farmers. The environment, apart from being semi-arid, is highly littered due to improper disposal of waste. Over the past several years, the West Pokot region has been threatened with epidemics of cholera infections due to poor sanitation. The county government of West Pokot has been actively implementing policies to improve the sanitation of the region, and girls from the Global Give Back Circle are helping advance the government’s mission.
On recognizing the desperate need for proper waste methods, this team of eight rain-makers, under Shirleen’s leadership, has dedicated themselves to changing the environmental sustainability of waste management in Morpus
They have made it their mission to educate the community – holding frequent community meetings to discuss waste disposal strategies. The community now emphasizes reusing and recycling as common practice to minimize excess waste: recycling household water to irrigate their farms and using readily available sacks to plant kale in small scale gardens. Through constant litter collection, to rid the center of plastics and inorganic waste, they have influenced the community to dispose of their waste correctly.
Apart from having a visibly cleaner Morpus center, the team has seen incredible results from educating the community on efficient farming practices too. The team uses online technologies via smartphone applications to teach the community pest-control, irrigation, and other sustainable farming methods. Innovative farming techniques have increased food production and decreased deficits caused by the dry seasons. The community recently took on the initiative to install a pit latrine, for communal use. With access to the communal pit latrine, local women feel more comfortable traveling from their homes, into town, to sell their vegetables.
Shirleen and her team are making big changes in their community. For the past four months, they have witnessed the successful implementation of their Give Back Commitment and cannot wait to share their results at the next Annual Renewal Ceremony. The Global Give Back Circle empowers adolescent girls to effect positive change in their communities. Join us in our efforts to shift power to empowered young women who are instrumental in effecting positive change in their communities. Mentor HER, Educate HER or Support HER today.
Shirleen is from the Mtelo community. Her mentor has recently committed to being her sponsor to attend Maasai Mara University where she will study business commerce. Shirleen will be the first girl from Mtelo to go to ‘ever’ attend university.
A quarter of the world’s population is made up of rural women! Forced early marriages, female genital mutilation, scarcity of essential resources and gender-based violence are a fraction of the challenge rural women face every day.
Thursday, July 25th was a celebration of intelligence, determination, empowerment and elevated potential for girls from hard to reach rural regions of West and East Pokot counties, Kenya. Proud relatives, board members, and special guests gathered on the pleasant July day to celebrate the graduation of 37 beneficiaries from the Global Give Back Circle’s HER Lab, in Morpus, West Pokot County, Kenya.
All those in attendance dressed in traditional regalia, its vibrant and bright colors reflecting the joy in faces of the elated graduates. Powerful speeches reminded the girls of their newly discovered potential and amazing possibilities ahead. Shirleen Kasmeri, a beneficiary of HER Lab, thanked the parents for joining the fight against FGM and Early Marriage. She spoke of how she has benefitted from being at HER Lab, highlighting her increased confidence and eloquence. Guest speaker Dinah Endoo, a former teacher at St Elizabeth Morpus, gave an inspiring speech. She encouraged the girls to be the change that their community needs. She emphasized that the girls are the pride of Pokot and that they should take advantage of the great opportunity they’ve received to go out and make a difference.
Over a post-graduation bonfire and dance, the graduates spoke about their plans for the future, powered by new-found self-confidence and skills. After 6 special months of digital literacy and life skills training, the girls shared their aspirations to be accepted to college and certificate courses. The graduates’ excitement to use their skills to impact the Pokot community was evident. All were glad for their improved income-generating capacity to support their families.
Global Give Back Circle’s HER Lab is an economic empowerment incubator for at-risk girls who have completed secondary school with a desire to obtain additional life, livelihood and leadership skills. Beneficiaries of HER Lab receive training in Digital Literacy and Coding, Hairdressing, Reproductive Health, Entrepreneurship, Beadwork, Agriculture and life skills workshops. HER Lab is designed to support girls rescued from FGM & Early Marriages to transition into economic independence and social empowerment.
Six months ago, 37 at-risk girls began their journey at Global Give Back Circle’s HER Lab in Morpus, West Pokot County, Kenya. Today, Global Give Back Circle and our partner organizations congratulate these once at-risk girls on their graduation. We look forward to seeing their successful transition to educated, economically independent women who will be leaders of change in their communities.
Have things always been this good for you?
Not at all, before attending university my family was shunned and discriminated against because my father believed girls should be educated too. When he decided I would attend high school, no one in our community could understand why he would sacrifice so much by working every day and never taking a penny for himself, just so I could get an education.
I am proud of my name, Catherine Chelaa. My name tells you I am Pokot. I come from a very tiny village in West Pokot, Kenya. Who would have ever believed I would be sharing this information while in my third year of study at Kenyatta University where I am pursuing a Degree in Education Science. Coming this far in my educational journey is already a dream come true.
Growing up in
my community, everyone especially looks at girls as a source of wealth. I was lucky
to have a father who would hear none of that – not even from my mother. He made sure I had a chance to get educated. You may wonder how he was able to pay for my
school fees. He did it through a barter
arrangement at the high school I attended.
He worked every single day as a watchman without getting paid. His only payment being that his daughter
never missed a day of school.
The day I joined University was one of my very best moments. I had only heard about Nairobi through the radio and the books I read. The moment I arrived in the city I was excited and dazzled. In all the excitement, I even misplaced my bags and documents which were only to be found a day later. The first few weeks at the university were hard for me. I made too many wrong turns and got lost too many times, because I was afraid to ask for directions. The Computer Lab was the first place I sought out. By the time I finally found my way around, I already had made the computer lab my haven. It was a familiar place. I feel at home in a Computer Lab given that I spent 6 months at the ‘21st Century Skills Computer Lab’ as part of the Global Give Back Circle program.
At Kenyatta University, everyone is required to register for classes on the on-line Students’ Portal. My classmates were quick to notice how skilled I was at using the computer and the internet services. Thanks to my digital literacy skills, I was able to help my fellow first year students, who had no prior computer skills training, in the registration processes. This boosted my success at making new friends, and to them, I was no longer ‘the shy timid girl from a marginalized region.’ I was a ‘tech expert’.
My journey has been made easier because I have my Mentor, Erica Marley. Erica works for Microsoft in the United States. We use technology to communicate with each other, e-mails, Skype and WhatsApp. Anytime doubt in myself, or in my abilities, starts creeping in, or when I am almost ready to give up, Erica reminds me of how far I have come. Her positive attitude pushes me harder at achieving my dreams even more. Erica has exposed me to an even bigger, more diverse world. We even read books together! This has helped improve my reading skills. Erica introduced me to TedTalks and she sends me links to TedTalks she knows I will like. She inspires me every day, to be the best version of myself.
More and more girls from my community have now started going to school. My sisters now have a chance to pursue their education. Just this year, I was helping my younger sister decide what she wants to do in college. As part of my Give Back Commitment, I have been facilitating group discussions, in my village, on the importance of girls’ education and saying ‘No’ to FGM.
Through the communications skills I have learned through the Global Give Back Circle, I am able to lead conversations that people used to shy away from – because they were too confrontational. Finally, people are listening. Community leaders are now coming to me for direction, especially on encouraging even more girls to say ‘Yes’ to education. I am so honored to be an agent-of-change and ensuring more girls have a chance at obtaining a good education and proving that so many myths are wrong, especially myths surrounding girls’ education and female reproductive health. I know I can count on Erica to support me along this path. I am positive things will always be this good!
“I have always dreamt of becoming an engineer. Engineering is a course most people think ladies cannot manage. I would like to prove them wrong.”
We spoke earlier to the Global give back circle mentee Agnes about what she had planned for the New Year. For her, 2019 is the year to achieve BIG! Being a fourth-year student undergoing a Bachelor’s degree program in Geospatial engineering is already a dream come true for Agnes. Agnes narrates how she admired learned women and prayed that one day she would get an opportunity to reach the highest level of educational attainment. She emphasizes that she doesn’t take her progress for granted.
Agnes hails from a humble background of a rural village called Nyamarambe, in Kisii County. She is the fifth born of six siblings. Her parents who work as farmers were barely able to educate her with their low income. She has worked hard all her life, and because of her good grades, she acquired a scholarship at Starehe Girls’ Centre, where she went through high school under full sponsorship. She later qualified for a university scholarship through the Global Give Back Circle after her high school graduation.
Every start of a new year, Agnes sits down and draws up ambitious goals she would like to achieve. 2019 is no different. Academically, she has made plans to maintain good grades in order to be successful in starting her career. From timetabling and syndicates to tackle all her course units for this semester, she is all set to get the best grades for her final year in University. Working at Tullow oil Kenya, for any amount of time she says, has always been a major dream of hers. That is why, months before she is due to go for her industrial attachment, she has started working on her resume and cover letters. She feels that applying early gives her a better chance of getting an internship.
Agnes and Miriam during GGBC Annual Renewal Ceremony
Since joining the university, Agnes has always wanted to join the Student Union. She has felt that given the chance, she could bring much needed positive change for her fellow students by representing their needs in the student congress. Which is why she jumped at the first opportunity to campaign and share how she plans to represent her fellow student needs in the University Senate. Agnes garnered the highest votes for Congress Lady in a fair election early February at the Technical University of Kenya. She has big plans for her school and is looking forward to effecting change in her learning environment.
For Agnes, Giving Back is an intrinsic value that she has cultivated over the years. She is grateful to be part of the Global Give Back Circle and to have discovered the fulfilment that comes with lifting her society. Agnes is able to impact the lives of young girls through her Give Back Commitment, as well as, interact with different people from different communities. Giving has enabled Agnes to grow in creativity and to find joy in living. She stresses that her mentor, Juliette Murugu, has been her biggest inspiration. Juliette has always taught Agnes to go for what she wants and to believe in herself. Agnes believes that there is much she can do to change her society through leadership skills, empowerment and mentorship she is already receiving.
Agnes is an inspiration to not only her peers but to her community at large. She has mastered the art of multitasking through proper goal-setting skills and guidance from her mentor. Agnes is just getting started. Invest in a girl’s future. Global Give Back Circle Our Favorite Kenyan Recipes 2020
On June 23, 2018, Global Give Back Circle mentor, Naomi Lanoi, met her mentee Faustina Christine Wangari for the very first time ever. After eight years of exchanging letters, they were thrilled to finally meet in person.
When Christine’s lovely mentor, Naomi, came into her life, she was a young adolescent high school girl from an at-risk background, with a limited perspective on her potential in the world. In 2010, Naomi joined Christine on her journey with the Global Give Back Circle to become an empowered young woman with endless possibilities.
Christine attended St. Martin’s Girls Secondary School in Kibagare, Kenya, and graduated in 2012, where she then proceeded to college at Kenya Institute of Management (KIM). Christine says, “I thank God for Global Give Back Circle for educating me at KIM having received a diploma in Business Management- Human Resource.” Christine attributes her success at college to Naomi’s love and support, and to the helpful workshops given by the Global Give Back Circle. In 2016, she graduated from college with Naomi still by her side inspiring her every step of the way.
Naomi works for an NGO that fights for women’s rights and land rights. Christine has grown to cherish her and the relationship that they have. “I feel like she’s family,” Christine emphasizes. She goes on to say that Naomi is just the “best match” for her and that she is so friendly and loving. She admires Naomi’s unrelenting fight to secure justice and freedom for women, no matter what it takes.
Christine is currently at the College of Human Resource Management taking a professional course to become a Human Resource Expert. She’s also doing an internship at AMREF Flying Doctor’s as she gains experience to eventually work in a Human Resource Consultancy firm. She wants to get exposure in the HR field, since her big dream is to eventually open her own HR Consultancy firm. Naomi’s support, she says, has made her dreams seem achievable.
On Saturday, June 23rd, Naomi had the opportunity to meet Christine as the empowered young women that she helped her to become. We are so happy to have witnessed Naomi and Christine’s amazing journey together. A special thank you to all mentors, like Naomi, who have proven that educating and mentoring a girl can change not only her life, but the world as well.
On May 19th, the Global Give Back Circle hosted its 2018 Annual Renewal Ceremony in Nairobi, Kenya. This year’s theme was ‘Giving Back,’ and the event brought together beneficiaries and benefactors of the program, including: alumna, beneficiaries in college, mentors, private sector partners, and local community members. Everyone celebrated and renewed their commitment to the ‘Circle’ for another year. We also had the pleasure of appreciating all beneficiaries and Alumna, who are giving back to their communities, by acknowledging the impact they are making in society. These incredible women shared words of wisdom with the younger beneficiaries –encouraging them to harness their passion and create practical solutions for positive change.
Renewing Give Back Commitments:
In honor of this renewal, the girls reviewed their Give Back Commitment and measured the impact it has had on their communities and themselves over the last year. They also discussed solutions to the challenges they faced during implementation and reflected on what they could have done to make their commitments even more effective. We were so impressed by how impactful they were and the number of lives directly and indirectly touched by the girls’ commitments.
Unique to this year’s Renewal Ceremony were the Alumna-taught workshops on health education that the beneficiaries attended after the main event. These workshops were organized and delivered by Alumna, who are now working as medical professionals. The workshops covered topics from lifestyle diseases to mental health to cancer awareness. The younger girls learned about risk factors, the importance of health assessment, and the various preventive measures for the diseases. This workshop helped to raise awareness about healthy decision-making and supplied the girls with useful skills, resources, and information to share with their peers and community.
Our Key Note Speaker:
Our Key note speaker this year was Ms. Betty Adera. She is passionate about matters related to youth and goes out of her way to advocate for them. She is the Founder and President of Betty Adera Foundation and is also the Chief of Party of the DREAMS Initiative, a PEPFAR Initiative targeting adolescent girls and young women that implements HIV prevention interventions in the informal urban settlements of Nairobi City County, Kenya. In the Global Give Back Circle Program, she is a mentor to two mentees: Nelly Mpuhwe from Rwanda and Perpetual Mukami from Starehe Girls’ Center in Nairobi. What stood out from her inspiring speech at the 2018 Annual Renewal Ceremony was her message on ‘Giving’:
“People are not defined by what they get, but what they give. Let your story be defined by your giving and by those people you help… A little can go a long way.”
To hear more of Betty Adera’s empowering speech, see the video below:
Global Give Back Circle – India launched its pilot on May 1st, 2015. Twenty girls from Magic Bus India Foundation were selected to be a part of the First Class! They were selected based on their leadership skills and their burning desire to continue their education and step-up to jobs in education, social work, medicine, engineering, textile design, IT, etc.
The weekend was filled with workshops designed to enable them to visualize what success looks like two years from now when they are in university or college and working towards their dreams of becoming a tax-paying citizen, able to move into the workforce with real jobs that are needed in their communities.
They wrote ‘Letters from the Future’ to their mentors or mentors-to-be so that mentors will have a roadmap from which to guide and coach as they walk with them on this amazing journey to independence.
Three of the girls were informed that they had been officially matched with mentors and they were quite excited to get their mentorship relationship off to a good start. Their mentors are all from Microsoft in the US and they will communicate via Skype and email.
Another workshop that took place was the Give Back Commitment Workshop. This workshop trains them on how to design, implement, measure and evaluate a Give Back Project that runs for twelve months whereby specific activities happen on a weekly basis. Inspiration on how to give back time and skills is derived from reading Bill Clinton’s book ‘GIVING.’
Over the coming months, they will continue participating in life skills workshops that prepare them for university/college while also focusing on skills such as financial literacy, time management, communications and all things related to health and wellbeing.
Let me start by first saying that I was honored to have been granted the opportunity to attend the #YouthForChange and Girl Summit 2014 events, which took place in London from the 19th– 22nd of July 2014. I owe that to the Program Manager of the Global Give Back Circle, Lizzie, who nominated me for my Give Back Commitment and efforts surrounding FGM. I am so thankful that she, and the UK government, selected me to attend. Both were heartfelt events that made me recognise youth do indeed have the power to change the world.
I landed in London on the 18th of July, and from there my journey through a multitude of events began. First up, #YouthforChange, an incredible affair organised by the #YouthForChange Panel, a diverse group of young individuals from the UK, Pakistan, Malawi, Cameroon and India, representing a variety of organizations, from UNICEF to FORWAD to Plan. This group is passionate about inspiring action surrounding girls’ rights and ending the practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) and child, early and forced marriage (CEFM). Thanks to them, I took part in the #YouthforChange event, where I met and interacted with young people from around the world. Working together to find solutions to put an end to FGM and (CEFM), we attended breakout sessions and honed in on areas we felt would create real solutions to address, and ultimately end, these practices.
I personally attended a spotlight session on the role of health and education professionals in ending FGM, and another session on the role of faith communities and leaders in addressing FGM and CEFM. Coming from a Somali community well known for being an active participant in these practices, and also being Muslim, I chose these sessions, as I considered them key solutions in ending these practices. For myself, I wanted to draw a line between a religious practice and a cultural practice, as this is what happens to be the main problem in my community, where FGM and CEFM are entangled with religion.
I felt a sense of relief, as I recognised that FGM has no basis whatsoever in any religious belief.
As the sessions concluded, we put what we discussed in to action and came up with solutions in a formal ‘Youth Statement of Action’ to be presented at the first ever Girl Summit 2014.
On the 22nd of July, the UK government and UNICEF kicked off the Summit to spotlight girls’ rights. I can say that it was the most interesting, encouraging and inspiring event I have ever attended. Motivational speakers, government representatives, faith leaders, activists and champions from around the world committed to the rights and empowerment of women and girls.
The UK Prime Minister; David Cameron, Justine Greening; Secretary of State for International Development, Theresa May; Home Secretary of UK Government, Malala Yousafzai; Activist, and many other government representatives spoke about their state and personal commitments to women and girls. Their speaking was brilliant and truly showed all coming together in a collective effort to end FGM and CEFM.
We youths voiced our solutions and commitments to advance the potential and rights of women and girls too. Afterwards, we read our ‘Youth Statement of Action’ aloud to all and gave them each a copy of the statement.
I felt proud that we were given a chance to voice our concerns and how we will work to overcome them.
In the UK, it is estimated that over 20,000 girls are at the risk of FGM each year and thousands are vulnerable to forced marriage. If we fail to take action internationally, it is estimated that within ten years, 30 million girls and women will undergo FGM in 29 countries in Africa and the Middle East, where the practice is most concentrated. Already, as many as 70 million young women alive today have been married as children.
Based on these statistics, it is clear these practices are a threat to the world, now, and in the future. It is not a problem that exists just in Africa, but a global issue, and I am glad the government and UNICEF are committed to seeing a world where girls and women can fulfill their potential free from discrimination and violence.
A big thank you to the #YouthforChange and Girl Summit 2014 for inviting me to attend such an incredible event. My heartfelt gratitude goes to Lizzie, who nominated me, and Catherine Kiganjo for helping me with all the travel arrangements, my family and friends who supported me all through, and finally my ‘Mum,’ Linda Lockhart, who brought the Global Give Back Circle to being and made my academic dreams come true by giving me a scholarship.
I have a personal commitment to end these two harmful practices in my Somali community, where I now feel I will be able to speak up strongly and proudly to bring them to an end. Join me in spreading the word #YouthforChange.
— Hibo Yussuf Hussein, Proud Ambassador of the Global Give Back Circle