In 2012 when I returned to Kenya and was spending quite a bit of time there, Mary Ogalo was heading up the Global Bag Project, a US based non-profit social enterprise that donates the proceeds from the sales of reusable shopping bags in the developed world to microcredit ventures in the emerging world.
Mary was spending all her working hours trying to create employment for women from the largest slums in Kenya – Kibera. She wanted to help these women to provide food for their family and education for their children.
Mary was well aware of my reasons for returning to Africa in 2011: one to provide scholarships to perspective women leaders like her, and the other to celebrate, inspire and develop future women leaders by interviewing pioneering African women for WisdomExchangeTV.com. These pioneering women’s voices would reach thousands, and hopefully someday millions. They would be the inspiration for perspective women leaders in Africa of today for tomorrow.
On a particular day while wondering through the Campus of African International University (AIU) in Kenya, where Mary and her family lived, she informed me of a reality. She told me with no uncertain terms: “You will want to interview me for Wisdom Exchange TV someday. Someday soon.”
This proclamation never even occurred to me. For the first time I realized that the foundation and Wisdom Exchange TV had two intersecting points. The motivation for developing Wisdom Exchange TV was to provide resource for African women to learn from the pioneers before them. Women who have carved the way. Women who came from similar backgrounds. Women who could be a local inspiration. For the first time, I saw how by investing in prospective women leaders by providing tertiary education we were also possibly creating pioneering women we could later interview for the vary resource we created to provide them with tools for success.
Mary Ogalo made that objective very clear. Today she would in fact qualify as a pioneering woman in business, politics, philanthropy and education. She is a woman I want to interview!
Through Mary’s ability to connect and listen to the women from the Kibera Slum who worked on the Global Bag project, she was able to identify a huge gap in rural girls education. Mary explains:
“I began the County Girls Caucus for young girls in rural Kenya, to assist them before they move to the city. This came about as result of meeting many women through Global Bag Project in the city slums who are living in regret and in deplorable conditions. When I did a survey among these women they said that they wish someone reached out to them while they were younger – out of what they told me they wished someone told them, I designed a training program for girls.”
Country Girls Caucus primary mandate is conduct a series of leadership training for girls to pass on information and values needed to break the cycle of vulnerabilities among women. To find out more why this program is needed visit: http://countygirlscaucus.weebly.com/why-cgc.html
As of September 2014 the Country Girls Caucus in collaboration with Kenyan Ministry of Education, has reached 42 schools, 911 girls and trained 48 teachers. These girls have formed small clubs in their school and are using a discussion booklet developed by Mary Ogalo to initiate conversation.
One woman with the understanding of the culture, the issues and the ability to navigate politics was able to start what will be a huge ripple effect in Kenya.
This is where are investment in change should go, in women who know what is needed and know how to navigate the cultural norms to make it happen.
I’m proud of Mary’s vision, ability to capitalize on opportunities and determination to see them through. Ignite Excellence Foundation cannot take the credit for Mary’s success, but it can suggest that the foundation invested in someone we saw potential in and gave her a hand-up. Mary did the work required to create a positive ripple effect in her community and country.
Mary I’m humbled to call you a friend.
To Learn more Visit:
To find out more about the Ignite Excellence Foundation or to donate, visit: https://www.gifttool.com/donations/Donate?ID=1377&VER=1&LNG=EN&PID=1338
Learn more about Country Girls Caucus: http://countygirlscaucus.weebly.com
Video: Global Bag Project — December 9, 2011 A Foundation Graduate invest in the poor & the environment
Mary Ogalo’s progression -July 4, 2010 – http://www.igniteexcellencefoundation.org/scholarships/mary-ogalo-of-kenya/