Gender equality is essential for ending poverty, building just and peaceful societies, and so much more. 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 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.
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:
|1. Build creative leadership and advocacy skills via the East African Girls’ Leadership Summit. This annual convening develops critical leadership skills that enable girls to be active change makers in their schools, communities and beyond.||2. Develop mentorship skills among African women, through the Mentor Program. This is a two-year program that equips women to be more effective advocates for girls’ and women’s rights through creative facilitation, advocacy and mentoring skills. The mentors work directly with girls who participate in the Summit.||3. Provide a platform for girls and mentors to determine a critical topic they want to address through creative advocacy efforts coordinated across East Africa. The 2018 focus is reducing teen pregnancies and early marriage in order to increase the enrollment of girls in school.||4. 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 that help mentors design activities for specific contexts, get feedback on facilitation skills, troubleshoot challenges, and celebrate successes.|
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.
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 this program last year. Laetitia says, “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.” 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.
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.