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Royal visit: Queen Matilde of Belgium wades into age old Maasai culture early marriages and FGM

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Belgian Queen Matilde with excited school children at Furaha Centre in Kalobeyei Village, Kakuma Refugee Camp, Turkana County during her recent visit-Photo By Frank Dejongh

18-year-old Purity Kesuma fits the aphorism “pigs will fly” meaning that the seemingly impossible phenomena can come to pass in a life time.

Born into the conservative Maasai culture that treats women and girls as objects without a voice, Kesuma has not only shrugged off early marriage and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) so prevalent in her community, she has acquired wings and, like the popular aphorism,  flown to an unlikely audience with a European queen.

Thanks to the unique circumstances surrounding her life, wiry and shy Kesuma had the exceptional privilege of narrating to visiting Queen Mathilde of Belgium and Crown Princess Elizabeth her tottery walk from an igloo shaped abode at a Maasai Manyata in Mailwa Village, Kajiado County to Ilsibil Secondary School where she is a candidate in this year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE).

“I am the youngest of five girls from three mothers married to my mother and the only one to set foot in a secondary school,” she recounted after a meeting with the queen who was on a tour of Kenya recently in a mission to raise awareness on education for vulnerable groups and child protection issues. She had been to in her capacity as honorary president of UNICEF, Belgium.  She had been to Niger, Tanzania, Senegal, Haiti, Ethiopia, Liberia and Laos on a similar mission.

She says: “The eminent visitors could not believe that the teenager before them who now aspires to be a doctor had escaped from an arranged child marriage to a man many years her senior when she was only 14 and had narrowly dodged the knife that had genitally mutilated her four older sisters in an age old rite of passage to womanhood.

Her story of a bare knuckled struggle to realize her dreams against all the odds stunned the royal duo by its sheer luridness.

“I returned home after sitting the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) at Mailwa Primary School and effervescent with the hope of proceeding to secondary school the following year courtesy of my 295 points only to be rudely confronted by the possibility of missing out for lack of school fees. I was devastated to the bone when calling letters arrived from Ilsibil and Esolenge Secondary schools.  My father told me to my face to forget further education. Reason?  No school fees.

Purity talks to Belgian queen Matilde and Crown Princess Elizabeth at Ilsibil Girls’ Secondary School, Kajiado County– Photo by Sarah Ooko

“Downhearted and lost for what to do, I left home and went to stay with a married step sister with a toddler to assist her with maternity chores, hoping that school fees would somehow come my way. I had hardly settled down when information came that I was wanted back home.

Also Read Sahara Group Reiterates Support For The Arts At Bling Lagosians Private Screening

“Still, no fees, but rumours were rife in the village that my father intended to marry me away to a man I had never met. Arrangements had been made to have me circumcised before I could meet my suitor. I hid from home and ran away to my former school the moment I confirmed the rumour from my father whose word was final.

“My former head teacher received me with love. She asked me to take courage and promised to give me protection. She contacted World Vision and a team came over to talk to me. The gesture culminated in my joining Form one at Ilbisil Girls’ Secondary School.  World Vision offered to pay my school fees and here I am today in Form Four and a 2019 KCSE candidate.
Tears jump to purity’s eyes as images of the flight from home cascade through her mind. She blinks fast and uses the edge of her palm to wipe off the tears. She recalls how a moved Queen Mathilde wondered if her parents had accepted her back into the family.

“My father had disowned me, but had a change of mind after my former Head teacher pleaded with him to forgive me. I returned home and my father gave me his blessings. A father’s blessings are crucial in Maasai culture.

She says Queen Mathilde held her hand with the words “Your courage and determination will take you far. Prepare well for your examinations. You will hear from me through UNICEF”.
World Vision program Manager In charge of Osiligi area Ms Tabitha Mwangi Meoli says Queen Mathilde and Crown Prince Elizabeth engaged in community dialogues with Maasai men and women to discuss possible interventions and facilitation to trigger change in harmful practices such as FGM and early marriage affecting girls’ education.

She says through facilitation by UNICEF, New Vision organizes alternative rites of passage and persuades fathers to bless uncut girls considered a cursed lot by society.

“The curse is real and can affect uncut girls in many forms if reprieve from fathers and elders is not sought and given.   We also talk to Morans to accept uncut girls for wives and enlighten them on the disadvantages of FGM,” says Ms Meoli.

The Queen and the crown princess who were in the country for three days also visited Furaha Centre that offers art therapy activities at the Kakuma refugee Camp in Turkana County, the Kalobeyei Integrated settlement in northern Kenya where children and adolescents build learning and education skills and the UNICEF supported Jitegemee Livelihood Project that empowers young mothers through access to education and skills development.

Also in her itinerary was the AMREF Dagoretti Child Protection and Development Centre that rescues and liberates children living in vulnerable situations, The ACAKORO football academy in Nairobi’s Korogocho slum that develops football talent in deserving children while providing them with school fees and meals.

Queen Mathilde is the wife to the reigning King Philippe of Belgium. The couple has four children of whom Crown Princess Elizabeth is the eldest. Her assistance to the king in carrying out  state functions include private and state visits abroad and audiences with representatives of various groups.

Besides her role as UNICEF ambassador for Belgium, she   is the Honorary President of the Queen Mathilde Fund that endeavours to assist the weakest members of society with focus on child poverty and the position of women in society.

 

Credit Standard Media

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NGOs - SDGs

Sahara Group Supports Gender Equality At OECD Summit In Paris

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Pearl Uzokwe, Director, Governance & Sustainability, Sahara Group, speaking at the panel discussion on ‘Private finance for gender equality and women’s empowerment’ at the 2020 OECD Summit in Paris(Source: Sahara Group).

Paris, France– Ensuring equal access to resources and opportunities regardless of gender is essential for promoting sustainable development across the globe, Pearl Uzokwe, Director, Governance and Sustainability, Sahara Group has said.

Uzokwe who spoke in Paris at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Private Finance for Sustainable Development Conference said galvanizing private finance alongside other sources of finance  for gender equality was not only urgent but critical for sustained wealth creation, especially in developing countries.

Uzokwe said Sahara Group had consistently led the cause of equal access and opportunities in the private sector through support for gender related projects and policies that supports employment and growth within the organization which is free of any gender-based considerations. “Sahara Group is passionate about the issue of gender equality and we continue to promote and invest in projects that empower men and women to pursue economic prosperity. We are also entrenching gender diversity at the board level of the organization in line with global trends in corporate governance,” she said.

Noting the need for women empowerment as a precursor to achieving gender equality, Uzokwe said governments and businesses need to be “more deliberate and committed” in their support for activities that will connect girls and women to transformative economic opportunities. She said strengthening the private sector and ensuring well-defined and unbiased entry pathways are available at all levels.

“Sahara Group aligns with the position that empowering women and eliminating the hurdles to success for women in both the formal and informal sectors has the potential to set the tone for attaining several sustainable development goals, with special emphasis on goal 5 that speaks to gender equality,” she affirmed.

The OECD conference noted that a collaborative approach involving the government, business, civil society and development agencies will be required to achieve the task as raising private finance towards promoting gender equality.

Also Read: Building Sustainable and Profitable Enterprises: An Interview with David Owumi, Founder of VisionCTRL Africa

Participants called for an enabling environment for the private sector to thrive and support female entrants, adding that diversity remained the most potent driver of innovation that is required to make businesses thrive and prosper. They also noted that since women provide 50 percent of that innovation ratio, ignoring their unique needs and offerings would be a cost too high for any organisation and country.

Sahara Group

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Interview: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy For Girls Executive Director, Gugulethu Ndebele On Girls And Leadership

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Gugulethu Ndebele, Executive Director of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG)

The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls (OWLAG) is a non-profit organisation based in South Africa that provides a nurturing educational environment for academically gifted girls who come from disadvantaged backgrounds. Gugulethu Ndebele in this interview with Alaba Ayinuola of Business Africa Online, talks about her background, the Academy, its impact, empowering and positioning girls for leadership, challenges and more. Excerpt

Alaba: Could you give a brief background of yourself?

Gugulethu: I was born in Soweto, Johannesburg one of the largest townships in the world and is also the home of two of South Africa’s global icons and Nobel Laureate, Nelson Mandela and Arch-Bishop Desmond Tutu. My family is originally from KwaZulu Natal Province and moved to Johannesburg as a result of the Migrant Labour System.  Even though both my parents and sibling have passed on, I feel blessed to have three amazing children.

In 1983 when my college, the University of Zululand was invaded by Zulu Warriors (Impis) many of my fellow students lost their lives and am fortunate to be alive even though I lost sight in one of my eyes. Despite all these challenges, I never gave up on learning. I have an MSc in Organisational Development and Change from the University of Manchester, UK and a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from Wits Business School. 

I am passionate about Children’s Rights and Girls Education.

Alaba: What sparked your interest in the non-profit career path?

Gugulethu: I have always been an activist and growing up under the apartheid in South Africa created a passion and a desire in me to stand up and advocate for the rights of disadvantaged people. As a student, I fought for the banishing of Bantu Education and my first work experience was with an Education NGO, SACHED, which drafted the first post-apartheid education policy document. This document was used in the production of the Education White Paper. And so I have always known that change will not come from government alone.  Change will come from the vast skills and knowledge that also resides outside of government.

Alaba: Kindly tell us about the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls SA (OWLAG) and the gap its filling?

Gugulethu: The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls was established by Ms Winfrey as a gift to Madiba. She opted to build a school for girls because she wanted to contribute to the growth of SA.  She is on record that she believes change in SA will come from women.  And so she built a school that will develop and nurture young women to be leaders, not only of South Africa but the World.

The schools fills an important gap.  Firstly, it is a fact that even though girls are in the majority in schools in formative years, few of them finish Matric and succeed.  Secondly, the economy of the country is still skewed towards males, especially in critical skills areas.  So as a schools, we support the development of a new generation of women leaders who, by virtue of their education and service, will lead the charge to transform themselves, their communities, and the larger world around them

Finally, the narrative of a South African girl at the moment is dominated by abuse, violence and trauma.  And so as a school, we intent to change the narrative of the South African girl to be that of empowerment, success and victory. As the only Trauma Informed School in Africa, we are trained to help girls deal with trauma so they can benefit from the education that is provided.

Alaba: How does OWLAG drive inclusion and position girls for Leadership?

Gugulethu: At the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls leadership is integrated in everything we do.  All our programmes are learner driven (with the support of adults). As a school we believe in the importance of empowering young women to lead.  Our education programs are also designed to support the development of our girl’s skills and to enable them to provide leadership on every aspect of their lives. 

We offer engaging and dynamic activities to motivate and enable our girls to believe in their abilities to catalyse change and to mobilise others to do the same. We continuously challenge them to engage and lead, ethically.

Alaba: As an organization, how do you measure impacts?

Gugulethu: Each area of our work at OWLAG is underpinned by Monitoring and Evaluation.  In each area we have indicators for success which we monitor o an ongoing basis.  Educationally, we measure impact from Grade 8 because we believe success in Grade 12 depends on the foundational work we do in Grade 8.  And so the progress of our girls is measured from Grade 8 and throughout the system.

Grade 8 2019 Founder’s day

Alaba: What have been your achievements since your appointment?

Gugulethu: Our results this year were the best since 2013.  We were able to not only exceed the IEB aggregate in all subjects, but also overall.  We increased the number of our distinctions substantially (we had 197 distinctions, 49 more than last year) and all our girls are registered in University, as we speak.  Off course this is not because of me alone, it is because of the amazing work of OWLAG staff, especially teachers and our Support Services.  My role is to create an enabling environment for them to do their work and I believe I did that.

In addition, we just had our % year Strategy Approved by the Board.  This Strategy will move OWLAG into another level and will position us not just to be the best in SA but in Africa.  My dream is to have versions of OWLAG in Africa

Alaba: What challenges have you encountered working with non-profit? How are you overcoming them?

Gugulethu: The challenges are relentless. The biggest challenge is resources.  Too many good NGOs have closed because of lack of funding. But some of the challenges are self-inflicted.As NGOs, we are always in competition with one another.  This is in part due to the limited resources so segmenting your non-profit and identifying your unique selling proposition becomes the focus as it is key to your success.

Secondly, NGOs are sometimes not seen in a positive light by governments.  They are seen as competition and at worst as political entities.  This makes it difficult to work with government to ensure lasting change. Working together in partnership with other like-minded non-profits and is key in this sector.

Finally, I think as a sector we need to ensure that our work is credible and evidenced based.  We need to be accountable to the people that support and fund our work. And therefore collecting and using credible data for reporting is key.  People have to trust that what we say works indeed works.

Also Read: Meet Mariatheresa S. Kadushi, Founder of M-afya, A Mobile App Providing Health Information In Native Languages In Africa

Alaba: How would you describe your leadership style?

Gugulethu: I am an engaged leader. I believe everyone in the organisation has a role to play and that I need to create an environment for them to thrive. I lead by example and challenge my team to strive for excellence.

Alaba: What is your advice for women in leadership position or aspiring women?

Gugulethu: My advice to women is that we need to use our own strengths to lead.  We do not need to behave like men to be great leaders.  As women, we are nurturers, we are builders, and we are motivators. Let us use those strengths rather than try to be what we are not.

Secondly, it is important that we fix each other’s crowns. When one woman succeeds, we all succeed.  So let us not pull each other down.  Let us be the big shoulders for other women to stand on.

Alaba: What inspires you and how do you relax out of work?

Gugulethu: I am greatly inspired by the potential of young people, especially girls. At the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls we recruit girls from desperate situations and have experienced multiple traumas in their young lives. Watching them blossom and thrive gets me leaping out of bed every day.

I am also a passionate reader. I love books and my wish is to have books in every household. I believe books open the world to people. So reading is one way of relaxing. I also love travelling and I think my first travelling experience was through books.

B I O G R A P H Y

Gugulethu “Gugu” Ndebele is currently the Executive Director of the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Institute for Girls (OWLAG). She joined the organisation after a long and distinguished career as the CEO of Save the Children South Africa, one of the leading child rights organizations in the world, operating in 120 countries.

Previously, she worked at the Department of Basic Education as the Deputy Director-General primarily responsible for Social Mobilisation and Support Services. Gugu was also one of the pioneers of the biggest Adult Literacy Campaign in SA (Kha ri Gude), the Recapitalisation of Vocational Colleges and the National School Nutrition Programme (NSNP).

Gugu holds an MSc in Organisational Change and Development (Manchester University, UK), a Post Graduate Diploma in Adult Education (Wits) and a Management Advancement Progamme Certificate (With Business School).

In 2016 she was appointed Vice- Chair of the UNESCO Bureau of the Global Alliance for Literacy. And in 2017, she was appointed by the Minister of Basic Education as the Literacy Ambassador for the Read to Lead Campaign. She is a Member of the South African Human Rights Commission’s Children’s Rights Advisory Committee (Section 11). Appointed into the Council of Rhodes University by the Minister of Higher Education. A member of the Institute of Directors Southern Africa.

Visit: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls

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NGOs - SDGs

Promoting Governance And Anti-Corruption In The Energy Sector

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Lagos, NigeriaDecember 10, 2019: According to the United Nations, every year $1 trillion is paid in bribes while an estimated $2.6 trillion are stolen annually through corruption – a sum equivalent to more than 5 per cent of the global GDP. In developing countries, according to the United Nations Development Programme, funds lost to corruption are estimated at 10 times the amount of official development assistance.

December 9 every year, the world commemorates anti-corruption day to take a stand against corruption as a serious crime that can undermine social and economic development in all societies. No country, region or community is immune.

As a leading private sector company in the energy space, we understand that corruption is a complex phenomenon that slows economic development because it discourages foreign direct investments and small businesses often find it difficult to overcome the start-up costs required because of corruption.

Over the last years, Sahara has been involved in initiatives, alliances and activities aimed at developing and strengthening its corporate governance and compliance systems. Some of these alliances include our partnership with the World Economic Forum – Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI).

Sahara was inducted into the World Economic Forum’s Partnering Against Corruption Initiative (PACI) Community in 2015 to reflect the organization’s commitment to eliminating corruption from the business environment.  In 2016, Sahara as a PACI member has contributed to series of dialogues including the conference on Building Transparency and Integrity in Business as well as the role of Youth Engagement in stamping out corruption – using Nigeria and Mexico as the model countries to drive the agenda.

In a similar vein, Sahara partnered with Deloitte to organize whistleblowing workshop for staff company wide to raise awareness on how corruption hampers business growth and how staff can work together to help stop corruption in the work place and also build trust. Sahara Group also enacted a whistle blowing policy that will help improve transparency of business across her entities. This is a third party operated technology driven whistleblowing platform launched in 2019.

In 2016, Sahara Group in partnership with the Sustainable Development Goals Fund (SDG-F) business leaders from the Private Sector Advisory Group (PSAG) and the Penn Law, University of Pennsylvania law School  published a report titled ‘Business and SDG 16- contributing to Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies’ to analyze why SDG 16 is relevant the private sector and how businesses can contribute to anti-corruption, peace and justice.

Some of the recommendations include private sector companies enhancing their compliance capabilities, while establishing strong and credible internal processes to curb corruption.

Sahara Group and/or its affiliates hold corporate ethical values and its brand in the highest esteem and passionately conducts business in a corrupt- free, anti-fraud and highly ethical manner that promotes free enterprise, excellence and competitiveness. In view of this, we are determined to maintain our reputation as a corporate entity which will not tolerate fraud, bribery, corruption or the abuse of position for personal gain. Our other policies that speak to the anti-corruption cause include:

  • Third party non- solicitation policy
  • Business transaction and relations character
  • Anti- corruption and anti-bribery policy
  • Whistle blowing policy
  • Gift and hospitality policy

This year’s anti-corruption day theme ‘Time to Work Against Corruption and the Climate Crisis’ calls for mobilization for ambitious climate action and inspiring governments,  businesses, civil society organizations  and individuals to step up efforts towards transparency, accountability and integrity.

Also Read: Fostering jobs, entrepreneurship, and capacity development for African youth

At Sahara, we remain committed to our tenets of integrity and ethical behavior by ensuring a zero tolerance for corruption.

Sahara Group

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