7 Sep 2014

GIRLS AS LEADERS: THE STORY OF NAOMI
By Catherine Nyambura.
Catherine and Naomi.

Naomi Mumbi is a girl whose resilience, positive outlook and zest for life is inspiring especially to her peers. Naomi has decided, and is on her way to what she wants for herself, to be a woman of her dreams. To break patriarchal norms, break barriers put in place by poverty especially for women and girls and finally to inspire and provide her fellow girls with hope that leadership is a domain that girls and women can occupy.

Naomi is an 18 years old girl born in Kiambu, Kenya. She is the first born in a single-parent family. Naomi is the first girl from her former primary school, Kanjai primary school, to go to a National school and her record score in the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education is still unbroken. Upon joining her school, Nakuru Girls Secondary school, she has been a leader in various capacities. At first she was a class prefect in her first two years and later was elected to become the dormitory senator in her 3rd year.

Naomi is a participant in Dandelion Kenya’s I Choose, My Life Program, a comprehensive sexuality education program. The program trains young girls on personal development, gender, health and sexuality with a special focus on HIV. The program includes communication and leadership skills, and this is what Naomi embodies- a leader. Despite her formal leadership capacities in being a prefect, it is this steady and consistency in leadership and excellence that makes Naomi a peer counselor. In her capacity as a peer counselor, Naomi is charged with the duty of mentoring fellow students in school.

Naomi has a dream. She wants to join and has already made an application to the African Leadership Academy with an ultimate goal of joining the Kenyan political leadership landscape so that she can help eradicate poverty. Her goal is very much aligned with the world’s development agenda, where the first proposed goal within the post 2015 development agenda is to eradicate extreme poverty in all its forms everywhere.

Personally, seeing a girl achieve these at a tender age, an age where girls are at risk of FGM, early marriage, dying from child birth and unsafe abortions or predisposed to sexual violence is a true representation of what is possible if governments and communities invest in girls' education. Investing in girls' education and keeping them in school has a ripple effect which  promotes improved maternal health to ensure women give birth at a later age to a number of children they have decided themselves and are educated enough to compete for jobs and take good care of their children. This ripple effect is realized through Naomi who organizes community programs in her church and former school to teach children aged 7-12 years about sexuality, leadership, health and HIV. Naomi also initiated the Voluntary Dining Hall Cleaning in her school to provide her fellow students with a chance and opportunity to volunteer and make a difference in their school.

Naomi has started preparing herself for her future, her grades are on track and she has participated in leadership conferences offered by the Equity Bank. She is not about to follow her dream blindly but is nurturing herself to bring out the best in her. I am proud to be associated with girls who refuse to let the difficulties of today spoil or smudge the beauty of tomorrow.

I know the story is nothing exemplary, but compared to the negatives we have heard of girls abducted from school, girls raped, married off and  mutilated every day. I refuse to not tell this beautiful story of a girl who has taken charge and will stop at nothing.