My name is Maureen bii I come from a very beautiful country which is well endowed with rich culture from our 42 different tribes, very beautiful people, rich wild life and very attractive scenery from our eco system. My country is Kenya. My community is known as the Ogiek and we are the smallest in terms of population with about 10,000 members. My community is made up of happy people who adore their heritage &culture and help each other during hard times and fight for their rights. In the recent years ,our population has been declining due to tribal clashes, natural calamities, intermarriages, pandemic diseases like HIV Aids due to lack of accessible care centers as well as maternal health during child birth. I am the fourth born of a family of five siblings with our mum who is a widow. My mum valued education and ensured that despite the existing cultural practices that barred girls from accessing education, we would be educated to the highest level we desired. She was a strict disciplinarian who never allowed us to make unnecessary mistakes and above all she loved us. We are all adults now and don’t live at home but my Moms house is full of children coming from the village and you’d mistake her for a young mother who just started a new family. Challenges facing our community As a community we face major challenges that limit our progress in areas of development, education, eradication of poverty and health. We are lagging behind on major developmental issues coupled with outdated cultural practices which are dragging women backwards. On developmental side: • We lack good and equipped educational facilities i.e. no libraries for the school children, school facilities are situated many kilometers away from homes and this discourages small children aged 3-7 ears form going to school. • There is lack of health facilities and care services hence the increased mortality rates among the newborns and mothers. • This is also increased by rate of Hiv infections among mothers to newborns. • High rate of unemployment among the youth because a large percentage are not educated. • Lack of available clean and safe drinking water. • High rate of poverty with those adversely affected being women. A major setback arose from the fact that girls were not considered suitable candidates for education as it was the reserve for the boys. Girls were traded for cows and goats or used for financial gain. Girls were married off at tender ages between 14-18 yrs. to help secure financial security for many families resulting to increased poverty levels. As a result these girls go through hardships in their new homes and in many instances, majority go through abusive marriages, violent attacks from their husbands which sometimes leave them dead or paralyzed for life. My hopes My hope is to see many young girls pursue their life long dreams which are possible through education. I hope to see girls developing their families at the right ages as opposed to having families while teenagers. I would like to see women who are financially independent and are able to provide sufficiently for their children and to see women who are not abused by their partners or other men out there. I want to see dignified and strong women who can fight for their rights and can speak for themselves and for their children. I understand that it may take a while before I finally see the fruits of my actions but either way I have to take a chance. Interventions We have managed to solve some problems though not all. Some of the things I do to solve the prevailing problems include: • Provision for education opportunities for girls through scholarship from partner organizations. This program was also extended to include boys so that they feel part of the community. • Provision of sanitary kits to girls to enable 100% school attendance and reduced early pregnancies/diseases. • Mentorship forums during holidays to empower girls and boys with necessary life skills to deal with the daily challenges along the way. • I started table banking for widows, single mothers and young mothers to enable them save the money generated from the sale of vegetables and hence provide for their families. • We also started keeping dairy goats in our homes to counter malnutrition in small children. The milk can also be sold to generate income. • I also built a small library near the homes of the children to enable them meet, read story books, do their assignments without disturbance and also borrow books. This was children access reading materials for free during school holidays. It has been amazingto see a large number of children accessing the facility in search for knowledge and a good number of them have known how to read and writeEnglish words. My main aim is to inculcate a culture of learning and reduce illiteracy levels as well as reduce chances of drop outs. Urgent issue Of urgent matter is to tackle the issue of FGM and early marriage among teenage girls.In the recent past, girls have been made to go through hazardous practices that have led to death and disability as well as loss of a bright future. Many girls have been traded in for cattle and their body parts mutilated. Their bright future has been robbed and now there are a lot of many young girls with children to take care off yet they are jobless. The other issue is unemployment among the youth and issues surrounding education as well as poverty among the Ogiek members. Target Members My projects target young teenage girls/mothers,single mothers, widows, girls and the small children. In order to bring change in the community it was necessary to put the women first in the development agenda and empower them to be able to support the change Although we currently do not have external supporters, we bank on our membership support and efforts especially through income generating activities like farming short season crops as well as selling milk from our dairy goats. The revenues generated are used to fund other activities like purchase of sanitary towels and stocking of the village library. Resources Required The most critical resource that we need is adequate funding to enable us to complete pending projects aimed at supporting the young mothers and the children. Most of our projects have stalled because of lack of funds and we have lost many opportunities that would have propelled our revenues higher. The other resource is a fully equipped office with computers which will help us be able to effectively accomplish our projects. About Me Am currently the girls ambassador, Education ambassador and a peace champion in my village. Am a Generation Change Fellow 2016

Topic Leadership

5Encouragement

Dear Maureen,

Your plans and activities are amazing. I pray that you continue doing the great job you have begun so that many girls will eventually become financially independent and educated.

I wish you lots of courage.

Dear Maureen,

Thank you for sharing your story and your desire to see a better life and future for the women in your country! I wish you peace and the energy to do the work you are doing. 

Best,

Christine

Dear Maureen,

As I read through the long and extremely difficult list that you have described with such loving dedication and determination, I was filled with such deep respect for all you have done, are doing and intend to do. You have painted a very full picture of what is needed and what can be done. With all else that you have been creating there for change, the the library is such a wonderful addition. The seriousness and urgency of all the conditions you are working to alleviate show what an extraordinary, visionary leader you are. It was so good to see that others around you have recognized your leadership. Work such as yours is brilliant, and brainstorming on funding must remain collectively a priority for us all.

With love in Sisterhood,

Tam