Girls ‘Take over’ ahead of International Day of the Girl
In the run up to the commemoration of the International Day of the Girl this October, Plan International –Kenya, through The Global Girls Take Over initiative, last week provided a rare opportunity for 16-year-old Alice Salaita, to ‘take over’ as Swedish Ambassador to Kenya Her Excellency Anna Jardfelt for a day. At the same time, 18 year old Virginia Muthoni who hails from Kibra ‘took over’ various ‘Ambassadorial’ duties of Canadian High Commissioner to Kenya Her Excellency Lisa Stadelbauer.
For Alice, her ‘Ambassadorial’ role began on early Tuesday morning when she was picked up in Ambassador Jardleft’s vehicle by Deputy Ambassador Michael Hjelmaker who chauffeured her to meet Ambassador Anna at the Embassy in Nairobi. Alice was warmly welcomed by Ambassador Jardleft who took her on an orientation tour of the Embassy of Sweden and the neighbouring Embassy of Somalia hosted in the same compound.
Young Alice proceeded to her maiden ‘office’ where she chaired the weekly meeting with Political and Trade departmental heads of the Embassy to discuss various topical issues among them feminist policy, Sweden-Kenya interactions on culture and environment.
Another highlight meeting as ‘Ambassador’ was meeting the gender and development officers at the embassy. She shared with them her personal story and challenges she has faced growing up in Kajiado County after she lost her father, the only bread winner of her family of six children. She was enrolled at Soila Maasai Rescue Center for her primary education, which saved her from practices like female genital mutilation and early marriage that are faced by girls her age in her community.
“Getting a golden opportunity to step into the shoes of an Ambassador is overwhelming and humbling at the same time. This is a mind-shift to how I have viewed women leadership in my community. I also hope Ambassador Jardleft will visit my school in the near future. I am so excited for this opportunity to be a leader and make decisions on behalf of the Ambassador,”
said an elated Alice who is currently a form one student at Illodokilani Secondary School in Kajiado.
Virginia Muthoni, a peer educator with Kibra Young Health Programme facilitated by Plan International that deals with gender equality, was given a warm, high-profile welcome by H.E Stadelbauer, who ‘shared her power’ at her office on Limuru Road. Her mission is to a call to action on the media to curb the negative portrayals of women and girls that influence how the world views them and how they also view themselves.
Muthoni proceeded to ‘chair’ a meeting with various heads of programme heads at the Canadian High Commission where they discussed security for women employees, development programmes, representation and inclusion. Her priority was updates on how employees were treated to curb discrimination and harassment.
“My experience stepping to the shoes of the High Commissioner is an eye-opener and mind-shift that it is possible to be a leader and an agent of change in future. I am privileged to have been accorded high respect and attention as I chaired the meetings,”
said an elated Virginia.
The second born in her family, Virginia is a former student at St. Christine High School in Kibra. She said having the opportunity to carry out different roles to be a ‘High Commissioner’ for a day has influenced her career choice adding that she will motivate other young girls and boys to aim for higher positions as there are no designated careers for girls and boys.
Since 2016, several young women and girls have participated in the ‘Girls Take Over’ initiative across the country in various capacities as politicians, entertainment heads, teachers, army commander and Ambassadors. Among them was 17 year old Mary Georgina who ‘took over’ as Speaker of the National Assembly in 2018 while 9 year old Silvia ‘worked’ as the Speaker of Homabay County Assembly in 2017. The purpose of ‘Girls take Over is a call to action for radical social and political change to tear down barriers of discrimination and prejudice that continue to hold girls back.
On the other hand, Ambassador Jardleft said that there is need to empower young women and girls and show them that they can also be our future leaders and decision makers.
“Alice’s experience ‘taking over’ my role as the Ambassador is symbolic in encouraging young women and girls to study hard in school and achieve their career choices in future. Educating them is the key towards empowering them,”
said Amb. Jardleft.
Plan International Kenya Country Director Kate Maina-Vorley said Girls Take Over initiative recognises girls as powerful agents of change and as the leaders of tomorrow. This platform provides visibility and drives new opportunities for action and investment in them. Girls will occupy spaces where they are rarely seen or heard and making it clear they have the right to be there without being silenced or ignored.
“The programme is a culmination of the International Day of the Girl to address equal representation and curb stereotyping as well as discrimination against women and girls. It also recognises girls as powerful agents of change and as the leaders of tomorrow. This platform provides visibility and drives new opportunities for action and investment in them,”
Celebrated every year on October 11, The International Day of the Girl Child was declared by the United Nations in 2011 as a day to recognise girls’ rights and support greater opportunities and the unique challenges girls face around the world.
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