Focus: Gender, Health & Equity


Girls' Leadership: East Africa

Gender equity is so much more than the fifth Sustainable Development Goal – it’s a precondition for the end to poverty and the building of peaceful societies. Empowering young women to advocate for their rights through creative action is an effective approach to positive change on the community level - allowing taboo subjects like domestic violence, early marriage, rape, FGM and HIV to be explored collaboratively and productively, helping to shift limiting beliefs and practices that prevent young women from realizing their full potential.

In partnership with AMPLIFY, CAI empowers 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 Community Social Actions with support from women staff of partnering organizations trained as mentors in the CAI creative leadership methodology. 

EAGLS 2016 Impact Report

Young women from Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania convene in Nairobi for the annual East African Girls' Leadership Summit (EAGLS), where they receive training along with women mentors addressing every aspect of girls' transition into adulthood. They return to their communities and schools equipped to identify solutions to their issues, demand education, challenge gender inequality and lead creative actions - stepping into new roles that enable them to stand up to their parents to refuse early marriage, or find support.

The Mentor Effect: An Innovative Local Solution
The power unlocked from girls discovering their rights is exponential when coupled with the knowledge, experience and support of local women guiding them through their journey as effective advocates for gender equality. The courage required to confront culturally taboo issues is enormous. A mentor who provides acceptance and support every step of the way, even in the face of opposition from family members, teachers or local leaders, is the vote of confidence that girls need to step forward and speak out.

Mentor Outcomes: On average, mentors demonstrated a 14% increase in the ability to facilitate, speak confidently, engage multiple learning styles, and negotiate conflict within a group.

"All the techniques used were so incredible – whether it was role play, case studies or presentations. We started using them in our organization and we will continue to use and be more creative in our trainings." – Mentor Kamatari Ruth

Summit Outcomes

"I believe that in this summit, I'll get inspiration and determination to be ME, stand on my feet and fight for myself, community, country and the world" - Rutayisire Alice Lambert

  • Increased leadership capacity, confidence and ability to advocate for their rights.
  • Improved self-esteem and the ability to express oneself creatively and assertively.
  • Increased understanding of the skills, responsibilities and qualities of an effective leader.
  • Deepened capacity to use art and theater as tools to educate.
  • Developed critical thinking to identify and address root causes of issues.
  • Built networks across cultures and regions.

EAGLS expands beyond the five-day Summit to a capacity building and community engagement program that empowers girls and women through creative social action to effect change in their schools and communities. This project is part of a long-term initiative to cultivate a multi-generational network of young women leaders across East Africa through innovative leadership and empowerment.

Creative Action Toolkits
CAI developed three Creative Action Toolkits as an additional resource for our partners to implement creative social actions and scale their impact. This year, Toolkits focused on creative actions to teach and promote the Girl Declaration; Words on Fire: Poetry for Girls Education, inspired by girls’ rights advocate and Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai; and Ribbon Trees for Girls’ Rights, inspired by the global climate movement.

Through the generous support of the Paperseed Foundation, CAI provides mini-grants to partner organizations to support the design and enactment of creative community social actions to advance girls human rights. These social actions demonstrate that when given the opportunity, support, and resources, adolescent girls can challenge and overcome many limitations. Mentors have guided the girls in building a movement through social actions to mobilize community change. The girls have are being heard by decision makers, who are sometimes also the guardians of traditional notions that devalue the worth and rights of girls. With powerful messages and actions, young women are transforming these limiting assumptions and norms at a broader cultural and societal level.

In 2016, girls and their mentors engaged 6,000+ community members and students across Kenya, Rwanda, and Tanzania with 56 creative actions focused on girls’ rights, gender-based violence, and access to education.

Creative Action Spotlight: V DAY 2016: Fighting FGM in Kenya

Every February 14th marks the One Billion Rising “V Day” movement - an international call to action against gender based violence. EAGLS participants and their mentors take part by staging marches, speakers and performances of poetry, song, and the dance Break the Chain.

Although FGM is illegal in Kenya, it’s still widely practiced in many Maasai communities. Asante Africa hosted a community forum with parents, elders, school staff and local officials. Wearing T-shirts with the message “Let’s stop FGM completely” on the front and “Protect, Prevent and Fulfill” on the back, the girls opened the event with a spoken word poem, then performed a theater skit about a young woman who is cut by her mother and needs to be taken to the hospital due to complications. By the end of the forum, 257 parents made public pledges to end the practice of FGM.


2 mentors.250

Curriculum Design & Mentor Training

The CAI Creative Leadership curriculum is designed to be flexible, replicable, and scalable - holistically addressing emotional, behavioral, cultural, and systemic elements of girls' development.

Women from partner organizations train in our participatory approach, using arts modalities and forum theater to lead young women in identifying creative solutions to entrenched issues. The goal: to gain the skills and confidence to lead creative actions in their communities and future Summits. Participants identified the training as a breakthrough in understanding ways to empower girls on their journey as future leaders.


Skills Gained

  • Fostering inclusive dialogue
  • Prompting critical thinking
  • Building trust
  • Encouraging creative risk-taking
  • Allowing exploration of taboo topics
  • Leading creative social actions

“I realized there is a wealth of knowledge in the girls that we don’t often tap into. I have learned how we can draw that out using art techniques and the circle facilitation model.”- Prisca Muwia, Kenya Education Fund

Vero Girls2.300

Building networks & speaking out

Building friendships with young women from other countries empower participants with the realization that they are not alone in the issues they face. Together, they identify and practice ways to take action against abusive and negative behaviors from their families and communities. In each Summit, they learn the choreography of Break the Chain - the official 1 Billion Rising dance to express the power and unity of thousands of girls and women across 200 countries against gender-based violence on February 14. All partner schools and organizations participate in V Day with creative actions such as teaching and performing Break the Chain, staging community marches and forums - raising awareness with the inspiring message that girls and women have the right to safety, freedom and self expression.

WATCH: Students perform spoken word poetry against FGM

Improving Education for Girls in Ghana

"Ghanaian women and girls continue to suffer sexual abuse, physical violence, some harmful traditional practices, child labor and socio-economic violence.” - Nana Oye Lithur, Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection, Ghana, addressing the 57th UN Session on the Status of Women

Ghana ranks 130/169 on the UN Human Development Index, with a female literacy rate of 59%. Young women, especially from rural, marginalized communities, struggle to complete their education and gender-based discrimination is a serious obstacle to finishing primary and secondary school. The achievement of girls in school is influenced by local policies and traditions, which do not support girls’ access to education, and teachers are not trained to provide gender-responsive curriculum and a supportive environment for equal participation. Without the capacity of young women to effectively advocate for their education rights and without proper awareness of gender issues in schools and communities, policy alone will not do enough to prevent Ghanaian girls from dropping out of school.

CAI is launching Creative Leadership for Gender Responsive Education, a project in collaboration with The Forum for Africa Women Educationalists (FAWE) to empower educators and their students with a gender sensitive approach while building local advocacy for girls’ education.

FAWE focuses on research, advocacy and innovative interventions to address gaps in gender equity policies, with chapters in 33 countries. FAWE works at local, national and continental levels to create positive societal attitudes, policies and practices that promote equity for girls in terms of access, retention, performance and quality in education systems in Africa. FAWE influenced the institutionalization of girls’ education policies in several African countries, and the FAWE Centers of Excellence are recognized models for improving girls’ education access, retention, and performance.

Our key goal is to integrate creative methods within FAWE’s curriculum that will make it an accessible and dynamic vehicle to engage girls to complete their education and build the capacity of teachers and administrators in seven schools to provide more effective gender responsive education and for girls to effectively advocate for their education rights.

CAI will also deliver two capacity development workshops - one for 35 educators, administrators, and community leaders, and another for 35 students from FAWE affiliated schools. Teachers will receive a guide to replicate activities with other educators, school administrators and community members, and students will replicate activities in their school clubs and communities with a Creative Leadership and Theater Handbook.  A culminating theater event will be staged by the students to share learnings with their communities.

Health Equity for Girls & Women in Guatemala

The health and social benefits if women and girls have access to health services are enormous.

Despite the fact that 69% of the population in Guatemala is less than 30 years old, sexual education still hasn’t reached most public schools, and 1 in 3 indigenous women have no access to health and family planning services. Contraceptive use is strikingly low (and even lower among indigenous women), family planning services are severely limited, and maternal mortality rates are high. There are several organizations focusing on sexual and reproductive health issues - but often with limited resources.

In collaboration with WINGS, CAI has initiated a unique and strategic partnership to strengthen the sexual and reproductive health rights of women and girls in Guatemala’s Western Highlands regions by working with a cohort of organizations to increase their effectiveness in implementing sexual health and reproduction initiatives.

Goals for participants:

  • Build organizational and individual capacity to effectively engage target groups, shift attitudes and change behaviors to significantly strengthen the sexual and reproductive rights of women and girls in Guatemala’s Western Highlands.
  • Equip and empower participants to replicate what they’ve learned, taking creative, arts-based strategies, skill-sets and knowledge back to their organizations and communities to bring the impact of this project to scale.
  • Develop a creative, arts-based and regional model for behavior change that can be evaluated for replication in other departments of Guatemala to positively impact the reproductive health rights of women and girls.


Project Spotlight: Let Girls Lead

The Western Highlands in particular need additional support and capacity building. A largely indigenous area, the region has been identified by the new Country Development and Cooperation Strategy as home to the five highest-need departments for health, poverty and education. The indigenous population of the Department of Quetzaltenango is 58%, and it’s estimated that 60% of births take place at home with a traditional comadrona (midwife).

Let Girls Lead empowers girl leaders and local organizations to guarantee girls’ rights through girl-centered advocacy, impacting nearly 40 million girls in Africa and Central America. In Guatemala, Let Girls Lead has been instrumental in outlawing child marriage and protecting girls from violence through passage of a national sexual violence protocol. CAI provided a successful Creative Facilitation training for 25 young participants in a network of Let Girls Lead chapters in Quetzaltenango.

"This was one of the best workshops I have ever had the opportunity to attend. It helped me understand how to design and implement trainings that are much more creative, participatory and I learned how to facilitate an inclusive dialogue.” Aleidy Jerusalen De Paz Locón, Consejo Municipal de la Niñez y Adolescencia, Quetzaltenango

“The workshop awakened abilities and skills that I wasn’t aware of, and now I have the ability to apply them with the limited resources that I have. After the training, I am confident in my abilities and have discovered my weaknesses, for which I will continue to work towards overcoming.” - Sandra Cocon, Women’s Justice Initiative