Project Akilah

I pondered recently on this blog, about how to create change, where there was an opportunity to create educational opportunities to help young people to achieve their dreams. A team of Rwandans, Americans and Europeans is doing just this for young women in Rwanda and restoring an abandoned educational facility to create value for a new generation of young people.

The Akilah training and leadership institute will provide education and skills to young women to find meaningful employment in the Rwandan economy. The founders are working closely with the Ministry of Education, Workforce Development Authority, and private sector leaders to develop curriculum that provides the students with market-relevant skills. Read more at the blog.

How can you help?

Become a supporter (that means $). The funds will be used to equip the school with all the materials needed for their first class of young women in January 2010.

Here is to more initiatives like Project Akilah

From the Project Sunshine desk



I rarely get up before the crack of dawn, but today I got up and sat down to wait – for an hour, and another half hour, until the sun peered at me over the horizon. Isn’t it true that when you get up way too early you are probably meant to think and pray about someone who needs a prayer. This morning, as I was sitting and sipping my breakfast cup, I was struck by how fragile we are, and how much we depend on the sun for everything. I imagined the sun failing to rise and what confusion that would throw to the world. I thought about the people who were thinking that they might not have a scrap in the world, but if they had a sunrise, then everything they needed was in their hands. Sunshine, the focus of this blog, is the other thing that I considered.

It becomes difficult, three years into writing whatever you want on your blog, to start sharing with others that the blog is meant to illuminate, and share that with a wide audience, some of whom you know and others who you do not. Truth be told, if we were to share the news, most of the blogs would be about war and death and disease. In looking at yesterdays headlines, most of the coverage took on the shootings in the US and Germany, political conflict, the financial crisis, and other very newsy (read sobering) topics)

Where are the stories that you want to read, about the father who helped deliver his wife’s baby, or the child who finally learned how to walk on his own, or that homeless girl who everyone said would drop out. I understand that without the worst of the news we would have no news. So today, instead of cleaning my eyeglasses with the foam of decay, disaster and death, I decided to wait for the sun, and its rays (in winter, these do not mean heat) and the morning sounds, of the ducks quacking in the morning, of the construction workers moving machinery and of my own rumbling tummy calling my attention to the pantry yonder. The sunrise brought with it a new awareness of the fact that compassion needs to arise in the world that we live in – and that there needs to be storytelling once again about tall, strong and wise warriors of our communities, if we are to survive.

Last week, sunrise came in my mailbox. I used to be quite the letter writer when I was younger, and I submitted many a letter in high school. So it came as quite a surprise when a letter came stamped from miles and a country or two away. So, I slit the envelope open and out popped a letter requesting some advice to give to a girl who lives in western Kenya, who the donor supports, who needed to get encouragement. See, this high school girl, who shares a name with one of my favorite gal pals from high school, and her younger sister, both want to be doctors, however, it is difficult to imagine how they will surmount the obstacles and become more than subsistence crop farmers as their kin. It brought me to the question – how does PS blog change perceptions, is it merely talk, or is there action. And, if I wax on about Kenya and Africa, what steps am I taking to concretely address the question of tangible action. What are some viable options for a girl who dreams, when she does not have a rich pocket to sustain her?

Sun rising – dreams that cannot be deferred – a challenge and a call to action – post International Women’s Day how can I stand by and just watch? Words are powerful and mine have travelled as far as I can imagine, so how is it that we can change lives with education particularly for these two girls ?

My Home

Just got home. I kicked off my shoes, took off my winter coat, played a favorite song, and sat down to read the news. I checked on my favorite country, and saluted the coming International Women’s Day. I courted a cup of steaming hot cocoa, well, maybe some crisp aromatic coffee, readying the mind for the nights work. Getting home means unpacking the day, coming home implies that I am relaxed, that I require no more than the assurance that the day’s tasks were attempted, and that I am back to where I started in the morning.  Its news to me also, that this is life in my twenties, and that is to be applauded, from the Maker of this bountiful earth, I say thanks! My usual response is not to count the things I have, or where I made quantifiable targets. Rather, to say, it is done, and that I am finally home.

Anna Tibaijuka – Her Replacement and Protests in Nairobi

There are things that happen once or twice in a lifetime. An African woman gets placed in a powerful decisionmaking post, and the UN staff protest an internal action albeit peacefully. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka is the first African woman elected by the UN General Assembly  as Under-Secretary-General of a United Nations programme.In October 2006, she was appointed Director-General of the United Nations Offices in Nairobi (UNON), the only UN headquarters in Africa and the developing world.

As of March 3rd, she is no longer the director general of the  UNON, yet she does retain her role as Exec. Director of Un Habitat.She was replaced by Achim Steiner, UNEP Exec Director as the Director General of UNON. His credentials in the UNEP network are outstanding, and he will be an asset to the UNON Directorship. Even as the appointment is billed as a routine shuffle by Sec. Gen Ban Ki Moon, what a message to send to women globally about their place in the UN. What of the role of empowering women. These are not light messages – Secretary they are very very loud and weighty.

Before I start describing how I feel about this event, here is some more of the story about the UN staff response in Nairobi.This story is not as visible – so major, and even the feminist blogs have yet to say boo. A search on Twitter revealed no word on “Tibaijuka”. Are we alright with this? There seems to be nobody but the UN staff who are protesting this message from the UN Sec Gen, seemingly so. On Tibaijuka, how can all these talking people not have a single thing to say about this?

I was not in the least bit amused. I asked some people here their opinions, and one thing that came out was that she still has her job( so we should be happy?!) and that she was not doing that great a job anyway(according to one) The next question was whether I would have had the same opinion had Tibaijuka been a man – that one is a moot point. A man is not an African woman – of course it would be different.

In response, I said

How can you say she did not do that great of a job. Its unprecedented that a woman at her level should be demoted – especially as the UN promotes the gender equality and the African woman – what an upside down message. I cannot say Steiner will do a better job either, its the principle”

I also said –

“Transfers are routine, we accept that as a given. Both are superbly qualified to lead. The principle that I am alluding to is that you cannot preach water and drink wine. The head of the UN in Geneva has been there for 7 years – Geneva has not yet become the poster child of UN success. They make mistakes. Ban has just illustrated that he will eliminate her(the only African woman under secretary) while promoting that UN is an EOE in favor of greater gender equality. ”

Am I continuing to hear radio silence here?

Here are some of the responses to Anna Tibaijuka from events in world history

From UN Habitat

  • She has served as a Member of the Commission for Africa established by British Prime Minister Tony Blair which resulted in the cancellation of multilateral debt for several African countries by the G8 Summit in 2005 at Glen Eagles, Scotland.
  • In July 2005 the Secretary General appointed Mrs. Tibaijuka as his Special Envoy on Human Settlements Issues in Zimbabwe following massive evictions of the poor in urban areas.
  • Since 2002, Mrs. Tibaijuka has been instrumental in promoting water, sanitation and slum upgrading globally and in assisting the African Union to establish the African Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (AMCHUD).
  • She also helped place urban poverty high on the agenda of similar regional bodies for Latin American and the Caribbean, as well as the Asia-Pacific.
  • In its unanimous decision to re-elect Mrs. Tibaijuka for a second term as Executive Director of UN-HABITAT, the General Assembly noted her success in forging strategic partnerships with financial institutions for follow-up investment in housing and urban infrastructure. These include the UN-HABITAT $570 million agreement with the African Development Bank and $500 million agreement with the Asian Development Bank.

From the blogosphere:

Swahili Blog on the Albino Killings and Tibaijuka’s opinion on the way forward
Decide for yourself. Thank you madam Tibaijuka for serving at UNON. Welcome Steiner.

100 Words – Disturbed By Brutality

If there were another weekend for me to live in my part of the world, I should wish that the snow that coats my window pane were enough to numb my brain from the shock and horror and disgust at the alleged reports of police brutality. I read over the accounts of the executions and also caught on to the fact that it is very difficult to read John Githongo’s account of corruption in Kenya. So different are these two stories but they are so connected. Kenya is diseased, corruption is the differential diagnosis. I have to say, the tears and the anger have to give way to action. So do the numerous Facebook notes on the Kenya we dont want, and missives like this from writers who should be doing, and not just commenting – for the Kenya We Want!