My name is Maureen Muthengi, also known as Mo by my family and friends. I run Donate A Pad Initiative, this initiative is merely ran from my salary and my best friend Mona Manani (she’s such a darling and very generous) contributes monthly to ensure we keep the girls in school. Every term we donate sanitary towels to 200 girls from poor families in 9 schools in Kitui County. I’m passionate about empowering young girls to complete their education and am also a mentor. I have a Bachelor of Science in Information Technology degree (First Class Honors) from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and a Certificate in Project Management. I work at a refugee camp in United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kakuma, Turkana.
In June 2014 I was selected to participate in the Young Africans Leaders Initiative that was started by US President Barack Obama to mentor young African leaders who are change agents in their communities and making positive social change. 50,000 young people from 54 African countries applied and 500 were selected. In my country, Kenya, 5000 applied, 1000 were interviewed, and 46 were selected. I am among the 500 Africans who were selected to be Mandela Fellows and we were placed in 20 best universities in USA. The thought of it makes me feel privileged and honored to be in the inaugural group of young African leaders.
I was placed in University of California Berkeley, Goldman School of Public Policy for six weeks, which is the best public policy school in USA and the world. I took courses on Public Policy, International Affairs, Strategic Leadership, and Environmental Studies among others which broadened my perspective on leadership.
At the end of July we attended a Young African Leaders Summit in Washington DC hosted by President Barack Obama where various leaders, governors, business leaders and experts talked to us. We had talks with the Honorable John Kerry, Ambassador Samantha Powell, Ambassador Rice, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, and First Lady Michelle Obama, among others. I was starstruck and awed to be in the same room with these great leaders.
I was blessed to be selected by First Lady Michelle Obama with 35 other Mandela fellows for a round table meeting to discuss girls accessing education in Africa. I felt so honored that she supported what we were doing to enhance girls’ education in Africa. This just gave me more energy and strength to continue supporting the girl child to complete education.
One of the great benefits of the Fellowship is I met Young Africans who are doing great works in their countries. I was inspired by each one of them, we talked about the challenges we were facing back at home and we exchanged ideas on moving forward. I will maintain the network, it’s very helpful especially for growing Africa to a better place. Thereafter I also got an opportunity to attend the US-Africa Heads of State summit. I got to attend meetings held by one campaign. It was great sharing our views as Young Africans, but the most important thing was that we realized we had to create our own solutions for Africa.
We also attended a ONE Campaign concert–Femi Kuti performed–that was really cool. We got a chance to meet Cabinet Secretary Hon. Anne Waiguru in charge of devolution and youth affairs just to share on various ways we can collaborate and work together on Youth Empowerment. Finally, we had a meeting with US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec. He is just a great man. We shared with him our experience in US and what we learned from the university.
In August 2014, I was placed in GladRags in Portland, Oregon for my internship. GladRags manufactures cloth pads and menstrual cups and promotes positive attitudes towards menstruation. Just the perfect place for me! I will basically apply what I learned in University of California, Berkeley and also get knowledge on how I can grow Donate a Pad initiative as we look for sustainable solutions to keep girls in school throughout the school year. I believe Education is the best weapon that can change our world. If it were not for education I wouldn’t be here.
GladRags is just the best place to be, I have an awesome boss and great work colleagues. I must confess it has changed my view on reusables and this month I’ll try the Moon Cup (story for another day) In the few days I have been here I love working at GladRags as we are empowering and changing women lives by providing them with comfortable, sustainable protection.
I would be where I am today if it were not for the love and support of my family and friends. I give all the glory to God for opening doors for me. It’s not by might nor by power but by the spirit of the Lord.
Have a lovely read!