Executive Director – Rural Women Peace Link

Last July, I decided to start a series on my blog focusing on profiling people I have met who I respect and have such powerful personal stories. I started some interviews and everything went on ice. Why? To be honest, I don’t really know why, but what matters now, is we are here, ready to blow your mind with powerful stories of individuals I have met and engaged with, in my lifetime.

I kick off this series with a phenomenal woman I met several years ago, Emma Mogaka.

In 2013, while I was seeking new places to contribute to as a freelance writer, I came across an opening for bloggers for the Young Women’s Leadership Institute (YWLI). It was here that I met an uber-enthusiastic Emma. Emma had only been in the organization for a few months but she oozed determination.

Emma genuinely wanted to make a difference; at the time she wasn’t quite sure if she was on the right track, but she was sure of one thing, she was determined to mentor young girls. She wasn’t just thinking about it. Emma had quit a full-time job at a research firm to take up an internship at YWLI to build her leadership skills to scale Adopt-A-Girl mentorship programme which she had just founded.

“’What do you have in your hands?’ That’s the question I asked myself. I had an opportunity and some resources to start a 6-month program so I did.”Emma states.

6 years later, and over 500 youth across Nairobi have benefitted in various ways from Adopt-A-girl mentorship. It’s not just young women and girls, young men and boys have also been beneficiaries of the mentorship programme through programmes in High School, and through youth groups across informal settlements like Kibera and Korogocho in Nairobi, Kenya’s capital.

Emma admits that she wouldn’t have been able to do it without her dedicated team of volunteers. The mentoring programme has offered training in technical skills, life skills, financial literacy and trauma healing programmes. Through funding from organizations such as Saint Luke’s Foundation, she was able to provide seed funding to these deserving youth to build enterprises.

Emma’s hard work has seen some of the girls from the programme go on to University; one, in particular, is in her fourth year or medical school.

“She is a brilliant and very determined young woman. She has overcome so many challenges and her story is unfolding beautifully.” Emma says of the young beneficiary.

Others have gone on to start businesses; others are running sensitization programmes in their neighbourhoods, demonstrating to their peers an alternative to crime to improve their lives.

“I derive a lot of satisfaction in seeing women and girls succeed! I believe that with the correct information, girls make decisions that enable them [to]soar to great heights!” Emma asserts.

Emma innately found herself constantly challenging people to see a way out of their plight. While she traversed Kenya doing research work for the firm she worked for, she found herself inspiring women to improve their plight. Emma recalls one woman who was a stay-at-home wife, whose husband was a truck driver who would be away for weeks on end. While her husband was away she never seemed to have anything to do. Emma found herself challenging the woman with new ideas to envision her life differently, more purposeful and with endless opportunity to exert herself.

After completion of her internship at YWLI in 2014, Emma was still seeking a way to do what she loved, helping women and make a career out of it. She continued to volunteer with other organizations as she built Adopt-A-Girl and moved to Eldoret town, a town located in Western Kenya. In 2015, Emma’s hard work and dedication paid off, she was offered the position to lead the Rural Women’s Peace Link.

As she settled in seeking ways to strengthen their programmes, Emma drafted a sponsorship proposal for one of their projects in Nandi County, located south of Eldoret and the Northern Rift area of Kenya. The successful application of this grant and its subsequent impactful projects saw the Rural Women’ Peace link win the Tomorrow’s Peacebuilders’ award that same year, the only African organization to win the award that year.

Emma admits that the Rural Women Peace Link has, “expanded my perspective of women and girls issues and how their meaningful engagement in peace, governance and development issues is paramount to our country achieving its goals.”

Despite all the celebration, the reality caring and championing for others does take its toll. Emma credits her mentors for their support,

“I debrief as often as possible. I talk to them and I ask questions. The greatest lesson I have learnt, though painful; is never carry these issues home because eventually, it will affect your personal life.”

Emma lives by a simple mantra, “She refilled her pitcher, and in doing so, she was able to refresh everyone around her” ~ Queenisms.

She has set boundaries separating her work and ensures she spends time with her friends and family. “It’s a tough balance but it is necessary.” She exerts. She also spends a lot of time reading and researching to ensure she stays sharp and ready to employ the best measure possible to inspire the next generation.

Emma isn’t done yet, as she continues to push Adopt-A-Girl mentoring programme and build the Rural Women’s Peace Link she is determined to end discrimination against woman and girls. She strives to see more girls take up their positions across industry and end generations of poverty, strife and exploitation one day at a time.