Emma Mogaka: We need to allow girls to be children first before they become wives

Emma Mogaka is the Executive Director of a grassroots organization called Rural Women Peace Link.

She is also an all-around superwoman fighting for local women from various counties in Kenya to have an equal opportunity to participate in governance and development.

The organization, run by an all-women team, mobilizes the participation of local women in peacebuilding, governance, and development. 

Their main focus is women from the rural area because these are the women who are marginalized the most.


Tell us about Rural Women Peace Link. How did it come about?

Rural Women Peace Link (RWPL) was founded in the early 1990’s by a group of women peace builders.

The significance of its name was to capture the critical issues the Community Based Organization (CBO) was addressing, namely rural women who had a passion to promote peace.

Their vision then was to help rural women to network, gain self-esteem, be empowered and promote and maintain peace in their respective areas of origin.

 

Our main thematic areas are:

  • Women’s human rights pillar: This pillar seeks to advance recognition and appreciation of women’s human rights in their communities against socio-cultural restrictions and negative perceptions. RWPL achieves this through training rural based women and girls on their rights through community education on legal education, human rights reproductive health and issues of bodily integrity and increasing access to justice.

 

  • Peace building and conflict mitigation pillar: We strengthen the role of rural women and youth groups in mitigating violence in the community, monitoring conflict through early warning indicators and mediating conflicts.

 

  • Women’s economic empowerment pillar: the focus is on grassroots women and women survivors of conflict and gender-based violence to promote sustainable livelihood management through offering life skills and entrepreneurship trainings. We also provide seed grant to facilitate start-up activities as well as linkages to financial institutions, partners and donors.

 

  • Education support and mentorship pillar: RWPL supports and encourages beneficiaries, mostly bright promising girls from vulnerable backgrounds, to take up opportunities offered through formal education in schools and colleges.

 

  • Leadership and governance pillar: RWPL mentors women leaders through capacity building training and exposure enabling them to participate in leadership effectively in different areas and also to vie for electable positions.

 

What led you to join this organization?

RWPL resonates with my passion for women and girls. I joined RWPL in January 2015 as a program coordinator for the leadership and governance program and became the executive director in January 2016.

RWPL provides a platform for me to reach women and girls at the grassroots level. I have had an opportunity to meet amazing women doing remarkable things in their communities.

RWPL works with 11 women network leaders whose stories shook me to the core. They have grown from ordinary rural women to women leaders. One of the women was nominated to the County Assembly of West Pokot after the just concluded 2017 elections.

Through teamwork, I have seen RWPL staff grow and together we are actualizing the vision of the organization through the support of our board members and technical advisor.

We need to allow girls to be children first before they become wives or parents. Click To Tweet

Why is empowering women important to you?

Empowering women and girls is important to me because it enables them to become aware of who they are and what makes them authentic.

They become aware of their capabilities, their likes and dislikes, their boundaries, their options and opportunities and all these enable them to develop into authentic human beings.

It is important that the girls and women I empower live a healthy life. We need to allow girls to be children first before they become wives or parents.

I empower girls so as to give them the opportunity to get an education and pursue their dreams. This way, they too get to help in breaking the cycle of poverty and strengthening our economy.

I am a mentor first and foremost because my experiences and knowledge positively influence the development of women and girls in their limiting environment. They do not always have to learn from mistakes because they get guidance.

Do you feel like this revolutionary work you’re doing for women is your life’s purpose?

Yes! In 2012 I attended a leadership training and I remember doing the passion test. We were required to complete this statement: When I am living my ideal life, I am…

We had to write 10 things we would be doing if we were living our ideal lives, then prioritize them. Mentorship was number 1 on my list.

Then it hit me that I actually talked to women and girls every chance I got. Totally unstructured mentorship!

I cannot support another woman if I’m drained and empty - Emma Mogaka Click To Tweet

Who are your top three women role models and why?

My mum is my most real role model! She perfectly demonstrates work-life balance – she worked full time and raised five children.

Her passion for women inspired me and I have watched her support women and encourage them wherever she is and whenever she has an opportunity.

Selline Korir. Founder of RWPL, Selline has worked in several international organizations where she has touched the lives of women and youth. I met her in 2014 when I was looking for Women Human Rights Defenders to profile.

As I was interviewing her I knew this is one woman I would love to learn and develop under. I approached her for mentorship and I have been growing under her wing since then. She gives selflessly to causes she believes in.

Leymah Gbowee – The first time I watched ‘Pray The Devil Back To Hell’ I was amazed, impressed and awakened. Leymah demonstrated movement building in Liberia.

She, together with other Liberian women, mobilized women for a cause (Peace) – religion and social standing notwithstanding. The results speak for themselves.

 

Tindi Nancy: I am looking forward to promoting self employment among women

Tindi Nancy
Once in a while, a 'wrong turn' can end up as a new design - Tindi Nancy Click To Tweet

Tindi Nancy was born in the agricultural town of Eldoret, Kenya. Growing up, Tindi craved for independence and life away from home, so she jumped at the first chance to go to Nairobi for university. It is at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology that she developed an interest in African jewelry and it turned into a side hustle. After graduating, Tindi was not so lucky in getting a job and because she was just sick of the whole job search she decided to grow her side gig into an actual business.

It’s been three years since Tindi went full time and she says she has no regrets. Being an entrepreneur has made her grow in a lot of ways and she has also invested in meaningful relationships along the way.


You create and supply Maasai tribe jewellery. Can you brief us on the Maasai culture and why jewellery is important to them?

The Maasai are found in Kenya and Tanzania. They are known for their colorful beaded jewelry and clothes.
Although the world around them have been westernized, they have refused to be influenced. They have stayed true to their traditional beliefs and customs. Women are the ones who make the jewellery and colors used represent something in the community

How do you decide what you want to create?

It’s all a process of demand and supply. I am always watching out for new trends and l work with my tools to create something similar.
Once in a while, a “wrong turn”  can end up as a new design. Another way is through customised jewellery, some of our customer’s ideas contribute to a new design.
Tindi

Beyond applying basic techniques, how do you evoke an emotional response to your work?

By establishing a relationship with a client. Listening to them and making sure I deliver beyond their expectations.
You need to come up with new provocative designs - Tindi Nancy Click To Tweet

I reckon jewellery making requires patience especially when you are making a piece with small beads. What other attributes are important for a jewellery maker?

Creativity and artistry.
You need to come up with provocative new designs. As a jewelry artisan, you should also pay attention to detail because you work with small pieces and it’s those small items that affect the whole design or quality.

What’s the most valuable lesson you have learnt?

Consistency.
It takes time to grow and be the best in something. Every failure or trip along the way is an opportunity to improve your skills. You build your network with time, and through your network, you learn the ins and outs of the business, you get to learn from their mistakes and improve their shortcomings.
tindii

What materials and techniques do you favour?

I enjoy working with beads, l love being surrounded by vibrant colors. It is versatile, and I get to put it on almost everything from bags to shoes as well as other accessories.

How often do you release new collections?

At least four times in a year.

What’s your favourite solo outing?

I enjoy reading every morning, I spend at least thirty minutes reading. Once in a while, I come across books that make me struggle with the choice of finishing the read or working. It’s always a tough choice.
I just finished Trevor Noah’s “Born A Crime” and it was excellent. Every book gives me a new perspective of the world and because l love diversity, I struggle to answer what my favourite genre is.

You are launching an online marketplace in May, what are your expectations?

 I am looking forward to promoting self-employment among women and young people by providing them with marketing services as well as a global platform to sell their handmade products. The aim is to give talented Africans in marginalised areas a more dignified way of earning rather than for them to rely on handouts. They know how to fish, all they need is the hook!
On the other hand, this will give consumers a wide range of unique handmade products from across the continent. I am also expecting Africans to support local economies by buying locally made products.

tind

When supplying crafts to boutiques, what attributes do you look for? How do you choose which boutiques to supply?

The boutiques should be keen on ethical practices and it’s very important that they uphold fair trade values and value the uniqueness of every product. Mostly, they are the ones who come after me, but I have to make sure they are an ethical business and will pay on time and as agreed for the products received. Businesses need to receive their orders on time, on specification and also enjoy profitable price margins.
As a supplier and artisan, I am very conscious about pricing. I know how it feels when a customer makes an awful offer for an item that took three days to make  (earning $5  for a three-day work is insulting) so I make sure the price point is profitable both for the business and the artisans. l also make sure that l supply quality products that are worth more so I take the time to go through the products. My customers have come to terms with that side of me, so when I place an order they go the extra mile of perfecting everything.

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