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East African Girls' Leadership Summit & Mentor Program

What is the East African Girls' Leadership Summit & Mentor Program?

The Story

Girls' education is a critical piece to gender equality and a key lever for changing the world. The more education girls receive, the more able they are to put off early pregnancies, earn more, and be able to support their families if and when they choose to have them. They are also more likely to be leaders in their communities. We want all girls to be able to attend school. 

However, 46 million girls are out of school in Sub-Saharan Africa, and 31 million of them are out of secondary school. Contributing to East African girls not attending and staying in school are many social practices that signal to girls that they do not belong in school. For example: 

  • Families prioritize resources on educating boys over girls: As a result of this gender discrimination, if resources are scarce, girls are not sent to school.

  • Child Marriage: 40% of girls in Sub-Saharan Africa are married before age 18. Child marriage often results in girls not being sent to school in the first place or being pulled from school once a marriage is arranged, which can be as early as age eight. 

  • Lack of access to sexual and reproductive health information and services, resulting in teen pregnancies: Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest rate of teen pregnancies in the world, 33% of teenage girls in Uganda, 28% in Tanzania, and 26% in Kenya become pregnant before age 18. 

In response to a lack of opportunities for girls from across East Africa to convene, learn from one another and develop their skills as young community leaders, the first East African Girls' Leadership Summit was implemented in 2013 by Komera, an organization holistically supporting girls in Rwanda and The HOW Fund, which supports marginalized women and girls globally. Over the past several years, the program has evolved. Today, CAI partners with several funding partners including The HOW Fund, PaperSeed Foundation, Arthur B. Schultz Foundation, Imago Dei Fund, and Disability Rights Fund to empower young women in East Africa as critical agents of change, self-advocates for their rights and leaders of their schools and communities in embracing gender equity. These emerging Urumuri Dada (Sisters Who Light Up the World) implement large-scale creative advocacy campaigns, with support from women staff of partnering organizations trained as mentors in the CAI creative leadership methodology.


 Build creative leadership and advocacy skills via the annual East African Girls’ Leadership Summit, equipping girls to be active change makers in their schools, communities and beyond.


Provide a platform for girls and mentors to determine a critical topic they want to address through creative advocacy efforts coordinated across East Africa. 


Develop mentorship, facilitation and advocacy skills among African women working with EAGLS changemakers, through the two-year mentor program. 


Support mentors throughout the year in their creative advocacy efforts with the girls by providing access to mini-grants, coaching calls, creative advocacy how-to toolkits and site visits.

The Model

The goal of this program is to create a network of female leaders who use creative leadership and coordinated advocacy efforts to bring about gender equality in East Africa. To do this we:

Art and creativity are infused throughout the program to unlock leadership potential and as a tool that can be deployed to catalyze change in schools and communities.

Why it Works

We believe that girls’ leadership and advocacy skills paired with women mentors who are equipped to activate and guide girls’ advocacy efforts, is a winning recipe for moving the needle on gender equality. More importantly, program participants reflect this to be true. Laetitia is a 16 year-old Rwandan girl who participated in EAGLS last year. 

Laetitia’s reflection perfectly illustrates how this program not only develops personal leadership skills but also empowers girls to make changes in her community that advance gender equality. Paired with a mentor, Laetitia has the support and guidance she needs to engage her peers and her community to stop gender-based violence.

“This program has

helped me be confident

and courageous. I now believe that I have the ability to make decisions and make changes in my community, and I want to teach my school mates how they can stop gender-based violence.”

The Impact

Since 2014, 171 girls and 69 mentors at 20 organizations have participated in the program. As a result of the program, girls and mentors initiated creative advocacy efforts that shift attitudes, change behavior and effect policy reform on gender equality, female genital mutilation, child marriage, girls’ education, sexual and reproductive health education, and teen pregnancies. (Sustainable Development Goals 3, 4 and 5.) In 2018 there were 61 documented creative advocacy efforts that reached over 10,900 people.

We are excited to be a part of the Girls Opportunity Alliance, an initiative of the Obama Foundation that is empowering girls through education worldwide. 

The world needs powerful women and girl leaders able to advocate for their rights, including a right to education!

You can help make this a reality by contributing to Creative Action Institute's Girls Opportunity Alliance campaign, which supports the East African Girls' Leadership Summit and Mentor Program - a transformative opportunity for women and girls to step into their leadership, build powerful networks across East Africa, and effectively advocate for their rights. 

We've joined the Girls Opportunity Alliance!