On the long drive through the incredible landscapes of Kenya and Tanzania – taking in the vast expanse of the Rift Valley, the pink flamingos dotting Lake Elementita, and the arid dusty plains of Kajiado painted with Masaai cattle herders in their traditional red blankets – I felt myself exhale, and remember how deeply important it is to get into the field. My visits to the East African region of late have been to witness our East African Girls’ Leadership Summit (EAGLS) and Mentor Program trainings or meet with partners and funders. But last month I had the pleasure of visiting four organizations who have been part of our EAGLS network in Kenya and Tanzania.
Happily, what I saw confirmed that the skills and knowledge we are developing in our trainings have been transferred back to the organizations. All partners demonstrated that their participating staff and girls have really benefited from being part of the EAGLS network. The mentors have integrated new strategies into their community programming, and have conducted peer training to share with their colleagues. The girls have stepped into leadership roles, tapping into their confidence and vision to stand up for their rights and inspire others.
Equally exciting was witnessing the ways in which our partners could benefit from deeper collaboration. Our model includes virtual coaching and select site visits to support the mentors in integrating their learning. Across the board, partners expressed interest in deeper support by receiving in-person, real-time feedback as they test and refine their skills. We will identify more funding for this initiative so that we can give the mentors and their organizations the kind of support they need to fully leverage the power of the participatory leadership methods and advocacy tactics.
For me, the most inspiring piece on this journey, beyond spending time with the mentors and girls, was beginning to imagine another layer of our programming that will support girls in addressing social norms in their communities that negatively impact them. We hope to be able to provide partners with on-site residential Creative Animators that can work with their staff and communities to design arts-based campaigns for behavior change in the way we have done so with our environmental partners in Central America.
To reach these goals, we must now work to inspire funders to accompany us on this journey as we empower girls to activate the leader within.