Tuesday, March 8, 2016

VV Mentoring Walk A Boost For Rural Kenyan Women and Girls

Hon. Angelina A. Ochiambo cuts the ribbon to begin the Walk
On Saturday 5th of March 2016, attention of Kenyans were drawn to a rural community in Sigomere, East Uholo, Ugenya in Siaya County, where 233 girls and 100 community women mentors gathered for the Vital Voices Global Mentoring Walk, an international event that saw girls make life-changing pledges to their mentors that will dictate their individual and collective future. The mentoring walk was officially opened by Special Guest, Hon. Angelina Achieng Odhiambo, nominated member of Siaya County Assembly, who encouraged the girls to keep working hard and complete school as a first decision.

Girls and Mentors walk joined by the community
"This is the first time that such an important event has taken place outside of a city in Kenya", said VV Lead Fellow,  Dr. Liz Odera, on a phone call from Durham, USA. "I was very confident, and very impressed to see how well the whole community, including the leaders joined hands and embraced the idea of mentoring girls." Liz, who is the founder of Girl Power Clubs Africa, also said, "There are women in rural communities have a lot knowledge and support to lend."  And this was, indeed, an opportunity to let them drive the process on their own, under the able encouragement of County Lead for Girl Power Clubs in Siaya, Maria Okong'o, who ensured that she was inclusive and brought in both men to champion the girls' cause, ably bringing in more than 7 media houses to cover the event, which was also encouraging messages from the MP for Ugunja Constituency, Hon. Opiyo Wandayi, who was unable to attend, but sent a representative.

Hon. Christine Ombaka delivers the keynote speech
Our Guest of Honor, Hon. Dr. Christine Ombaka giving the keynote speech, she said," Men in our Luo community who understand our tradition, recognize the importance of women, and that is why in 1969, men chose a woman, Grace Onyango as the Mayor for Kisumu, and later as Member of Parliament. And that's why the power of men is important in ensuring girls grow up, and for that, we congratulate those men who are ready to boost our joint efforts, However, for those men who look down on women, the time has come, when girls must have the same opportunity as men. And that is why we will all continue to join hands as Girl Power on the 8th March, at the International Women's Day". 

The result of this exciting event was the launch of a mentoring program, called, "Ask Aunty" which brings together women from the community to encourage, inspire, and train girls. "Many of these women grew up in Siaya, but went on to live elsewhere to study, work and have families. We are now offering them a chance to support the girls too.", says Maria.
Maria Okong'o (seated) and Joy Akim

Girl Power Clubs National Coordinator, Joy Akim, who was fully involved in the preparations, and ensured that all the technical areas were covered, said, "I was very excited to see how well local women can organize themselves, and also how much the head teachers and patrons of the school clubs were supportive and ready to lend a hand. I find Siaya a unique and exciting place to work in, and see the opportunities for growth will be great here". Joy intends to carry our follow ups with the mentors and mentees for the rest of the year, and hopes to report progress.

One of the mentees, Helen Achieng, summed up the occasion in one sentence, "Now I know that everyone cares about my future."

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