We made some serious ripples in 2017.
And when I say we, I don’t just only mean the Girls On Fire Leaders as an organization. I mean the holistic leadership movement for the advancement of young girls that we’ve built together – YOU, me, the girls, our local staff, partner organizations, the United Nations, team of advisors, and thousands of community members in villages across Kenya and now Tanzania.
What we achieved and co-created together is momentous. Since the start of GOF 3 years ago, we've focused efforts on setting up the systems on-the-ground that enable a girl from the slums to know and actualize her full human potential through exploration of other cultures, solving social problems and in service of other vulnerable girls and their communities. Our approach has proven to be successful in not only helping girls thrive in their own lives, but unlocking global leadership opportunities that sets the course of their futures.
These top 10 amazing, life-changing actions we achieved in 2017:
1) We organized one of the best Girls On Fire Camps in our history and focused workshop topics a on keeping girls in school, eradicating FGM (female genital mutilation) and early child marriage.
In August/September, we went to one of the poorest area to work with other 1,000 girls and boys and 200 community members. We delivered an empowerment program, peer-mentoring, education and equality advocacy. We also had the girls focus on holistic leadership, which included yoga, meditation, reflection, thoughtful discussions about identity, character and self-love.
2) We expanded "beyond borders."
We expanded GOF work to Tanzania where the need to education girls is dire. We visited a few Maasai communities where we met with elders (women only) and they have a strong desire ‘to make their girls look like ours,” as they said. Girls there are not going to school and often cut and married at age 8 or 9 to old men. Beatrice an 11 year old GOF advised the elders by saying “everything needs to focus on education. Your girls need to be in school.” The elders agreed and we came up with a plan on making this a reality in 2018 and beyond.
3) We launched a GOF Scholarship Program
This scholarship will provide at least 10 bright young girls with pay for school fees, books, uniforms, extra blankets, solar lights to study, pens, sanitary pads, peer-mentoring and much more.
4) We launched a Boys On Fire program
Based on the overwhelming response from boys that wanted to participate in our discussions about equality and girl's empowerment, we launched a small program that we will expanding in 2018. Here Eunice fields questions from mostly boys about the treatment of girls in their society.
5) The Girls On Fire represented the power of youth voices for an AIDS-Free Africa
In front of leaders from 8 African nations, the Girls on Fire presented the power of girl leadership in the eradication of HIV and AIDs in Africa.
We were invited to share experiences of how targeting adolescent girls in leadership activities within the community and enabling youth to make better decisions about their health and well-being. The GOF model of holistic leadership is being adopted by 4 nonprofits in South Africa, Somalia, Swaziland and Tanzania.
6) We improved programs by focusing on inclusive voices from "the field."
We listened more. We co-created a model where everyone participates, has agency and ownership of projects, this includes Girls On Fire, the girls we work with and the communities we serve in rural areas and the slums.We formalized a feedback mechanism that brings in human-centric design and design thinking for social problems.
7) We participated in the prestigious Mandela Fellowship with UN Youth Ambassadors from 9 countries in Africa.
We were invited as guests to the Mandela Fellowship Conference where young leaders all over Africa convened to solve the continent’s most pressing problems. The girls got the opportunity to share how starting leadership training early has changed their futures and the future of communities we serve.
8) Two of the Girls On Fire had the opportunity to attend a leadership camp in the United States.
These girls spent 8 weeks at a leadership and science camp on the East Coast. During that time we did volunteer work with the homeless in New York City.
9) Delivered keynote speech to women leaders within the United Nations and worked with Villa Leaders to expanded GOF workshops within Kibera Slums.
We worked with Villa Leadership who is developing women leaders within the UN and we put on an emotional intelligence and leadership workshop with over 50 girls at the Kibera School for Girls. They were so impressed with the girls, they invited them to inspire women leaders at the UN in a keynote speech at their conference.
10) Created 3 sustainable community projects, two within Kibera slums and one at a rural school.
The GOF's created a school garden on the roof out of discarded water tanks. They produce enough to give a bunch to a girl daily to take home to feed her family. We also started a weekly school beautification project where the GOF's clean the school and plant flowers and trees. The project in the village school focused on environment, as well. We cleaned their classrooms and developed a more environmentally-friendly way of discarding trash, in addition, when we return for our next camp, we will build a large school garden.
BONUS: All three of the Girls On Fire, class 8 girls, have gotten the highest marks on their state exams and will be attending high school in the U.S. in the fall.
Your heart’s fire is fueling the futures of girls around the world and contributing to a better world for all of us. It’s been an honor and privilege working with you to reach these milestones.
We’ve got a lot of work to do, and now is the time to supercharge our efforts with your generosity and spirit.
With fire and so much gratitude,
Founder & Executive Director
Girls On Fire Leaders