When I returned to Kenya 2011, Mary Ogalo was heading up the Global Bag Project in Nairobi. Global Bag Project is 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 slum in Kenya – Kibera. She wanted to help these women to provide food for their families and education for their children.
As the Ignite Excellence Foundations first scholarship recipient, Mary was well aware of my reasons for returning to Africa in 2011. Our first line of business was to provide scholarships to perspective women leaders like her, and second 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.
One afternoon while wandering through the campus of Africa International University (AIU) in Nairobi, I came upon an enthusiastic Mary on her way to the Global Bag Project workshop and office (also located on campus, and where Mary and her family reside). As we stopped to share pleasantries, she boldly made a confident proclamation. Fascinated and inspired, Mary told me with no uncertain terms: “You will want to interview me for Wisdom Exchange TV someday. Someday soon.”
For the first time I realized that the foundation and Wisdom Exchange TV had an intersecting point. The motivation for developing Wisdom Exchange TV was to provide a resource for African women to learn from the African pioneers before them. Women who have carved the way. Women who came from similar backgrounds. Women who could be a local inspiration. Now, for the first time, I recognized through investing in prospective women leaders by providing tertiary education, we were also possibly helping to create the pioneering women we would interview for Wisdom Exchange TV, the vary resource that we created to help provide scholarship recipients with tools for success.
Mary Ogalo made that objective very clear. Today I’m proud to state 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.”
The Country Girls Caucus primary mandate is to conduct a series of leadership and life skills 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 the Kenyan Ministry of Education, has reached 42 schools, 911 girls and trained 48 teachers. These girls have formed small clubs in their schools and are using a discussion booklet developed by Mary Ogalo to initiate conversation.
One woman impacts many. With the understanding of the culture, the issues and the ability to navigate politics, Mary was able to take an idea and initiate a program that will have a huge ripple effect across Kenya.
This is where our investment in change should go, to women who know what is needed and know how to navigate the political and cultural nuances to make it happen.
I’m proud of Mary’s accomplishments and her vision and 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 find out more about the Ignite Excellence Foundation or to donate, visit: Ignite Excellence Foundation donations.
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Suzanne F Stevens CSP*, Cultivates conscious contributions™ and influential communications. Suzanne is an International Speaker, Chief Edge Optimizer for Ignite Excellence Inc. Group, Entrepreneur, Philanthropist, Host & Co-producer. She is a recipient of The International Women Alliance World of Difference Award in 2013 – in education. This acknowledgement recognizes people who make a difference in women’s economic empowerment international. To find out more visit: www.suzannefstevens.com.
Suzanne is one of 60 Certified Speaking Professionals (CSP) in Canada and is included in the 10% of individuals who have this designation internationally.
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.youmewefoundation.org/scholarships/mary-ogalo-of-kenya/