Another video, relating to education, presents my interview with Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg. This film, will give you a chance to hear from someone who created and organization devoted to the education of girls, a group called Akili Dada. And who believes passionately in the importance of education to train a generation of African women leaders. Greetings, we are very lucky today to have a visitor from Kenya Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg. Who is the founder of an organization called Akili Dada. I'd love to hear a little bit about you, what led you to create this organization, and your thoughts about education for girls. >> Thank you so much for having me, and I'm really excited to get to do this. So I'm founder and executive director of Akili Dada. Akili Dada is a leadership incubator that is investing in the next generation of African women leaders. Really passionate about the future of the African continent and making sure that African women are part of the decision making and part of the leadership that's going to drive the transformation that we are expecting for the African continent. And education is central to that, education is central to leadership and development. And so, education has been core, I think core of our work at Akili Dada. >> I think many people think that education in fact is the key intervention if we are talking about international development, healthcare. What do you think about that? >> Education is critical. It is absolutely critical, not just education as education, but also education as a proxy for all sorts of other things that we want to bring women up to par on. So, when you look at education as education, what happens, we have all sort of statistics and data showing the types of transformation that happen in societies when women are educated. And that it changes women's lives. I come from a school of thought looking at education as a right. You're not doing women a favor when you advocate for girls' education. It is a right. And, equality when it comes to access, is a human right. And so, those are links that I think are important. And, women have a right to education. Go to her right to education. Separate and apart from the impacts that that education has on communities. So, we believe in providing access to education for girls, not just because you improve outcomes of maternal mortality, or food security, or all these other things. The first and foremost reason ion to educate girls is because it is a right. >> And it's only just. >> And it is, it is the fair and just thing to do to bring about that equality of access. And then you get the bonuses of all these other things, as studies indicate. >> Absolutely. >> Are there. So, yes. >> Well, please tell us about Akili Dada and let us know what those words mean. >> Yeah. So, Akili means intelligence, smarts, brains, but not just book learning, it's an all encompassing word that captures strategy, ability, skill. To me, it's a very powerful word. It's a very empowering thing to wrap your brain around, excuse the pun. Dada means sister. And not just blood sister. But for example, the connection that you and I have, it's a generational, transcultural, international. Communities of women working toward making the world a better place, is the ways that Dada, sisterhood is captured in the Akili Dada mission. That's what we are. We are a sisterhood of women who have a vision for making the world a better place, a vision for women's leadership, and we are strategic, we are capable, and we celebrate women's smart. >> Wonderful name for your organization. So what- >> It really drives the mission. It really drives how we work. It's not just a name for us. So it's been really powerful. >> And tell us about your work. >> So, the over all mission is to ensure that African women are at the decision making table, when it comes to driving Africa's prosperity. And that we are making intergenerationally investments. And making sure that young women are getting prepaid, and get in positioned to occupy their rightful place, after the decision making table. How we do that? We make three types of investments in young women from poor families currently working across Kenya. And those three investments are one, luring bias to access because poverty throws up tremendous barriers in front of young women, especially young women from poor families. And so, one of the first things we do is lower the bias to access. That means we give full scholarships to really bright girls from poor families to make sure they have access to the education that they have qualified for. But that their families can't afford to provide for them. We run a fellowship program where we are investing in young women who have a social change project that they have started, that they have a vision for driving transformation in their communities. But they don't have the resources, the financial resources, to grow that organization, that project to scale and sustainability. And so we run a fellowship program that provides seed funding and a monthly living stipend so that young women can start, grow, and thrive organizations that are addressing local problems. So that's one thing with all buyers to access. The second is mentoring. We all do much better when we're embedded in supportive communities. Women, in particular, and young women in particular, do that much better when they're embedded in supportive communities. And so we run a mentoring program that includes both intergenerational mentoring as well as peer mentoring. And that's the that dada, that sisterhood. That building of communities of support and where we as women give each other permission to excel, give each other permission to do well and to do good. So that's our second type of investment. And the third is leadership skills building, where we know that leadership is not accidental. You don't just wake up some day and you're a leader. And that there is skills to learn, and that you can be very intentional in grooming young women's leadership. And so we do things like run leadership academies, where we have semantic areas. So, one month, we'll run a leadership academy around public speaking. We know that young women's voices are important. And some of what needs to change in the world is young women's voices need to get heard. And as much as it's a supply and demand issue, we are addressing the supply side of this, which is to make sure there is a cohort of young African women who are articulate, who are very clear about their vision for the continent, and who are able to articulate that vision to all audiences. We also do things like negotiation skills training as part of our leadership development. So whether you're negotiating your first sexual encounter, whether you're negotiating your first paycheck, or your first multi-million dollar deal. As women, we need to bring serious negotiating skills to the table. So that type of training falls under our leadership skills buildings. >> About how many women, young women are affected? Are these primarily high school girls? How many are you reaching and where? >> We are working with an age range of age 13 to 35. And here we figure it's really important to walk with young women in that transition from childhood and into womanhood, from girlhood to womanhood. And that transition is an important part of where women make decisions about who they will be and how they will pursue that. Where age 13 is when girls are hearing, no you can't because you're a girl. And so it's really important for us just to build communities as early as age 13. So we're articulating and sharing a different message of potential to growth. We're reaching in Kenya over 2,000 high school girls with the work that we do in various permutations, we're not giving 2,000 scholarships even though we would love to be able to. There's certainly need for that. But even where we're not able to offer the full scholarships, we are able to deploy the mentoring and their leadership skills building. Reaching about 15,000 community members across Kenya with our work. >> It's amazing. >> Yeah, it´s been a tremendous journey, and you were there from the very beginning. >> [LAUGH] I was, very lucky to be there. And what are your plans for the future, for Akili Dada? >> There is so much work to be done across the continent. We think that the message that we have about women's leadership and the place of women, African women at the decision-making table. There's so much work to be done both again, on the supply and demand side. On the demand side, to transform conversations so that African women leader, is not an oxymoron, and for some people it still is, what do you mean? And they have these incredibly disturbing images of what they think African women are. And an idea of a lack of potential there, and that needs to change. The public conversation, especially in the West, about African women, absolutely needs to change and we see some of what we´re doing in Akili Dada as being part of transforming that narrative that´s out there. Certainly what we´re doing, you and I in here right now, is part of that. And the other side of it is the supply side, to make sure that we've got hundreds, if not thousands, and hundreds of thousands of young African women who are educated, well-networked with each other in intergenerational networks, courageous. And in a supportive environment that honors and nurtures that courage, and who have a vision for what needs to be changing in their communities and who see themselves as the agent of that change. And not just seeing themselves, but who act as agents of change in their communities, it's a lot of work to be done. >> It is. >> And we're there to do it. >> When we think of the need for girls education, whether it's for development reasons or for reasons of justice, I think many of us think of little girls at the beginning of their school lives. And the opportunities that they may or may not have at the elementary school level. >> Mm-hm. >> And I know that your focus is on high school and beyond. Do you believe that that efforts to get little girls, young girls, into elementary school is being well enough dealt with? What should we be doing at that level? I'm not suggesting that Akili Dada needs to be doing anything more than it's doing now, but I think many of the huge challenges are at that lower level. >> Hey, if little girls don't get access to elementary and primary school, guess what? They don't get into their kindergarten program. >> That's right. >> And so for us, even though our niche, our particular work at this moment in time is around that age 13 and on wards, we fully recognize that if we're not working with partners who are making those investments from birth, really, and making sure that the access that grows have to healthcare, to nutrition, and a safe home environment that then prepare them for a safe high quality early childhood education and on down the line before they get to us. If we don't support that work, then we are undermining our work when the goal gets deserted. So absolutely early childhood and early primary education is critical. That's the foundation of laying the building blocks. >> And are you seeing the star programs, outstanding programs? Programs that you will point to that you feel are really valuable, not just in terms of education but also in terms of learning? >> Yeah, just thinking particularly in Kenya, there's Gatoto, which is one of the programs that's working in one of the slum communities in Kenya. I think that they do really interesting work. There's also Little Rock, Little Rock Early Childhood Development Center, and of course the International Child Resource Institute, that has offices in California has a presence in Kenya and they are running an early childhood development center. And I think for me those three organizations stand out as organizations that are doing interesting work, and again we need those organizations to do what they are doing so that we can draw from them. We can draw from their graduates who enter. There's an organization in Kibera also, Shining Hope Communities has done really interesting work with early childhood education. That, again as Akili Dada because we start working with girls at age 13, we really need to be drawing from a deep well. So in my view, you can't do too much, certainly not at this point. >> Kibera is the huge slum outside of Nairobi? >> Yes. >> Yeah. Last question, and I think it's an unnecessary question, but that is, are you hopeful? You must be because obviously you're passionate about what you're doing in a more global sense in terms of girls' education and the future of women. >> Absolutely. I'm absolutely hopeful. I am clear about the tremendous amount of work ahead, but I'm also greatly encouraged by how far we've come. I recognize that I, and this has been said before, I stand on the shoulders of giants and Akili Dada is riding on the backs of sisters who plowed difficult ground for us to get to where we are. And that gives me hope, because it's a hope based on knowing your history. It's a hope based on knowing the history of where we've come from and a deep appreciation for who did the work before we got here. And a recognition of the work that we need to do so that our younger sisters coming up. Find the ground tilled, even as they are able to sow what we may not be able to sow right now. And so I think a lot of intergenerational terms in terms of the work that's been done and the work yet ahead, and have a strong consciousness of the work to do now so that the next generation finds it an easier road to go. Absolutely hopeful. >> Thank you so much. We share the metaphor of a garden. And so I especially appreciated that last metaphor. Thank you so much, Wanjiru. >> Thank you.