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From Kenya to Rwanda, World Pulse Listens to Women Firsthand

© Andrea Leoncavallo

By Jensine Larsen

In February I traveled with a World Pulse delegation of women leaders across the dusty Kenya plains to the lush hills of Rwanda and met face to face with hundreds of World Pulse online community members, danced and connected with grassroots women in churches and fields, and hosted Speak Out forums with leading figures in parliament, human rights, law, and media. I came away irrevocably convinced of the readiness of women leaders to push their voices to higher levels and to use communications technology and new media to accelerate women’s empowerment in their communities.

You can view photos from the trip here.

We had intimate conversations with women entrepreneurs from Africa’s fastest growing microfinance program in Kibera slums, lunched with Wanjira Mathai of the Green Belt Movement (Nobel Peace Winner Wangari Mathaai’s daughter), dialogued under Acacia trees with Masaai women, consulted with the 300,000 strong network of Rwanda’s women genocide survivors, and toured model HIV antiretroviral distribution, income generating, and legal justice programs.

In Kenya, women told us that the rapidly approaching 2012 elections are top of mind and that the last thing they want is a repeat of the bloody 2007/2008 post-election violence. With only 10% of women in parliament “we are an embarrassment” they cried, calling for organizing of a women’s platform, funding for candidates similar to a Kenyan Emily’s List, support networks for women opting to run, bodyguard protection for candidates, and savvy media campaigns.

During the Kenya Speak Out, inspiration was so high that three women announced that they
would run for office. You could feel the electricity in the room pop! As a result, World Pulse is
working with our partners in Kenya to create a steering committee to advance the women’s
platform and online support network leading up to the crucial 2012 elections. Kenya is at a
historic turning point and with the passage of the new constitution there is a real window for
women to drive change (before August women weren’t considered citizens and couldn’t even
own land). We heard the call loud and clear that the women of Kenya need support as they
make it happen. They are ready.

In Rwanda, the situation was very different. Already at 56% female representation in parliament, and with one of the world’s most progressive constitutions, not to mention model education, health care, and AIDS treatment roll-outs—women felt that strong progress had been made at the highest levels. Gains that—they were quick to point out—surpass even the United States. Yet, they reported that these gains were not reaching into the rural areas which comprise 83% of the country’s population, and women are not yet claiming their rights en mass. For Rwanda the mantra was training and education. They want more ICT training, business training, empowerment training, and English training.

After consulting with the Rwandan women leaders, we decided to equip Rwandan women with internet communications technology training to train other women how to use World Pulse to speak out to the global public, connect, and access needed resources. Even the members of Parliament were asking for the training!

I can still smell the tang of sweat and strength as I danced hand in hand with my new rafikis (friends) and passed the light of joy between our eyes. The now common phrase of the untapped “power of African women” has become heart-stoppingly real to me. I have lived it, and I am stronger for it.

Comments

William's picture

African women

I found the women in Liberia to have the strength needed to run a nation, feed a family and discuss how to improve the future of the children. They are survivors and instinctively know how to get things done. I believe they are the hope of the future of Africa.

Nusrat Ara's picture

You are doing amazing work

You are doing amazing work Jensine and are an inspiration to so many people all around the world.

Love

Nusrat

nabwire joyce im amother of four children my parents died's picture

be strong.

thanks jensine for the work that your are doing it is not easy but God will give you strength,be strong.

love

joyce

usha kc's picture

Jensine you are so great

Jensine you are so great hero . Very much proud to have you in my life through World pulse.
go higher and higher and kiss the summit of success!!
alwyas luv

consolata's picture

You are a Mentor

Jensine, for you to be where you are, you must have encountered alot of challenges. As our mentor, I believe sky is the limit for us who are following your foot steps.
Keep up the good job you are doing my dear sista.
Kenyas sistas,arent we so lucky to have been one of the chosen countries for World Pulse team visit?
For those who met Jensine, life will never be the same again..The inner voice will keep on shouting.. move ON...on ..on..
Will are behind you Jensine wont give up.
Lots of Love,
Consolata

Claris's picture

Impressed

Hy that is am amazing journey you took..Am glad that women are downing their traditional tools to pick up new and more powerful tools like leadership.tell me please how can i meet up with the proposed women leaders in kenya before 2012?

Auma's picture

You go, Jensine!

You are a true hero! Woman of the people! Your trip made an impact in our community- a possibility of sharing voices to tackle issues that have long been burning!

On a personal note, my life was changed-that kind that takes ages to do. I have never felt so motivated to go on!

You are my hero, Jensine!

Love,
Leah.

warona's picture

A day to remember!

Dear Jensine!

Am so grateful to the women in Kenya and Rwanda.You are so privilledged to meet Wangari Mathaai’s daughter.Having such intimate conversations with women interpreneurs in Africa to me its an awesome treat.Am so excited to hear that women in Rwanda are hugry for internet communications technology training to train other women how to use World Pulse to speak out to the global public, connect, and access needed resources. Even the members of Parliament were asking for the training!

Yes , this is great, our world will never be the same. As much as the equiping of women and empowering is on progress who can stand them.Indeed they will be no more harassment, knowledge is power!

Thank you so much Jensine for changing this world, your heart is full of mercy.May the love of God carry you through dear, you are so amazing, touching the hearts of many and changing lives.

Regards

Warona

"success will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time " And when confronted conquer with love

what a remarkable statement 'I can still smell the tang of sweat and strength as I danced

hand in hand with my new rafikis[friends]'.....

I love this and will sure leave a lasting memory in the heart of Africa women.

Jensine have heard so much about your generosity toward women what a gift you are.
I know of someone that is dear to me that you gave strength and hope for living.

I BLESS GOD FOR UR LIFE .LOVE U,LOVE UR STRENGTH AND UR WILL.
PEACE MY SISTA.

God's mercy will keep African women.

Riruta UW Empowerment Programme's picture

BRAVO

Jensen,
Wow! I missed you Jensen. I wasn't in the country when you came, but was in South Africa championing the rightsofthe marginalised among them women.

As women we are humbled to see the work you and your dedicated team are doing to sensitize women on realities of life. At least you managed o brush shoulders with quite a number and heard from the horse's own mouth the needs and desires of women.

I wasn't able to meet with you face to face but surely I was well represented. What the women expressed is really what is on our hearts

Bravo! Keep on going

Anne

Anne Khadudu Baraza,
CEO- Riruta United Women Empowerment Programme
+254 729880651/ 020 2602803
!27-00502 Karen, Nairobi Kenya

Hi Loving Jensine,

Face to face at last, So kind and loving. Huggings joyous moments as we were lost for words when i saw you and when you recognized me even before i introduced myself. It was a great moment we shared together even with the other friends accompanied you.

At the Heroin court it was the Climax of all. we had a great talk, get together outing.

For your information you are the one who connected us even to those world Pulse Members in Kenya. It was my first day to meet them.

I would like my name to be included while you WORLD PULSE PARTNER IN KENYA TO WORK WITH US in the WOMEN'S STEERING COMMITTEE. Please ask LEAH NOT to FORGET Teresa while forwarding the names of Kenyans to you & WORLDPULSE TEAM.

i hope you will organize for marginalized women & girls computer illiterate to have an Internet Connection.

Once again, you are most welcome to Kenya and your group, I miss you. I hope one day i will visit your place and meet the rest of the World Pulse Members

MAY GOD BLESS YOU.

TERESA
KENYA

TERESA KAGECHA i would like to use the new password and email to participate in the WORLDPULSE VIEWS - COMMUNITY PARTICIPATION MOBILISING

Hi Jensine,
After reading your article and all the glowing tributes, i felt that i really missed out but nonetheless needed to add my voice - Congratulations Sister, for all the great work! and Keep it Up.

Cheers!
Carole

Small Actions >>>> BIG Change!

Rachel Erwin's picture

Rwanda Kenya Congo

Hello!
I am excited to read your words and feel the movement in the places you visited as women become empowered and find their voice. I have been working at the SAGE project in San Francisco educating women and men on trauma and providing EMDR to individuals as well as groups to help clear the effects of trauma through the nervous system so that the symptoms of PTSD are greatly reduced. I am wondering if you have any thoughts about the effect of PTSD in the areas you have been and any words of wisdom as I embark on my first journey into this region.
I have worked as a therapist in Cambodian communities, and in San Francisco with the most marginalized individuals, women and children being trafficked internationally as well as domestically in the sex industry. I am interested in bringing the work I have done into the context of this culture, to help reduce anxiety, intrusive thoughts, nightmares etc. EMDR has proven to be highly effective with the Cambodians and trafficked survivors in SF.
My first trip I will be assessing and gathering information. I welcome any and all thoughts any of you have on the subject.
Rachel Erwin

Rachel Erwin MFT
The SAGE Project
San Francisco
USA

Auma's picture

The SAGE Project

is doing a great job! Thank you for this inspiring work! I look forward to hearing more of your work here on PulseWire. Please keep us posted and welcome to Kenya!

Warm regards from Kenya,
Leah.

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