The Power of Participation: Girls Volunteer to Gain Agency

We initiated our work with new partner communities in Kenya by creating opportunities for girls to be interviewers and researchers. Our model incorporates ideas and lessons learned in the powerful work of Educate Girls, an organization that has successfully mobilized the leadership of 13,000 community volunteers to enroll millions of girls in school in remote, rural, marginalized regions of India.

Our program launched with five volunteers in the summer of 2019. Three girls and two young men underwent intensive explorations of gender sensitivity and training in public speaking, interviewing, and facilitation, all professional skills that will improve their opportunities for employment in the formal economy. Each young volunteer was also given a Kindle with access to hundreds of free courses and certificate programs. Knowledge is power, and new doors will open to these youth volunteers as they gain new awareness and information about the world.

Employing girls as community mobilizers is critical, both for their own empowerment and as a tool for changing ideas and perceptions. Participating girls gain opportunities to engage with teachers, parents and community leaders in a professional role, creating a pathway for the community to see them with new eyes while increasing their own self-confidence, efficacy and agency. And local girls in the community see new possibilities for themselves as they watch this shift unfold in girls who look just like themselves.