Empowering through Education:Day of the Girl Child!

12876985614_1a726a5901_oFive years ago, the United Nations designated October 11 as International Day of the Girl Child as part of their campaign to highlight the discrimination that girls around the world face every day. I grew up in Zimbabwe in the 1990’s and the first decade of the 2000’s, in a country that had after independence from white settler rule declared that education for all children – boys and girls – should be free. But as Zimbabwe faced economic decline, social services were cut, including the opportunity for free education at government schools.

I was one of the lucky few, part of a privileged elite. An only child, my parents prioritized my education above all else, sending me to one of the best private all-girls school in the country for my high school education, despite the massive increase in tuition fees that occurred almost monthly due to hyperinflation. As the country struggled to maintain its infrastructure, I would often study by candlelight on nights of prolonged power cuts. In my last year at school, supermarkets were often full of empty shelves, and my parents had to resort to the black market for imported food supplies from other countries.

And yet, these were minuscule challenges compared to what the rest of the country faced in those years, and still does. Across the country, and the continent, girls are often not given the choice to go to school because of parents forced to make an economic choice between educating their son or their daughter. When they do have the opportunity for an education, they lack access to basic resources that we here in the United States take for granted – books, stationary, new clothes, tampons.

While researching schools in the rural areas for my dissertation in journalism at Columbia University in 2013, I talked to girls who had to walk for several hours to get to the nearest school. When they did get home, they were exhausted, and had no time to read for pleasure or even do their homework because of the chores they had to do in order to help their parents. When girls do complete their education, they often lack the funds to make it to university, or find a skilled, paying job. They face domestic and sexual violence, discrimination in the workplace and legal systems, lack of governmental representation, access to basic resources, and violation of their human rights. Even when educated, they are not always empowered.

International Day of the Girl Child highlights all these issues, and brings the world’s attention to them. It strives to ensure that girls can grow in a safe and healthy environment into young women, with all the opportunities I was so fortunate to have both in the past and now. Today is a day to recognize strides that have been made towards gender equality in Africa and across the world, and to call for more to be done.

So how can we help with these efforts? We can volunteer and help out with non-profit organizations such as Asante Africa Foundation. We can sponsor a girl’s school fees for a year what we’d pay for our cell phone bill in a month. We can work with governments, we can become teachers, we can write and talk about all the challenges that girls face to raise awareness. We can try and figure out what the underlying problems challenging girls’ education are, rather than simply donating money that often doesn’t go to the right places. We can listen to girls and women, and make their voices heard. We can challenge the status quo that sees girls’ education as less important. We can help women to be both mothers and workers, daughters and students.

We don’t have to check our privilege – we can use it.                                                                                                                                                                                         – Trishula Patel

Trishula Patel is currently a PhD student at Georgetown University, focusing on African history. She has a B.A. and M.A. in history from the University of Pennsylvania, and an M.S. in journalism from Columbia University. She has written articles for The Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Weekly, PassBlue. 
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International Day of the Girl Child: Why Should We Care?

524642_10151327561973618_962487558_nAs a girl, it’s pretty obvious. I am instantly up in arms when made to imagine a life where the only viable option is securing a husband for support. Thankfully, that was never a problem I had to deal with growing up in the Philippines. But not everyone is as lucky. Even now that it’s 2016, when most concerns have evolved towards virtual pursuits, many are still stuck in the struggle against culture and old traditions.

I’ll never forget how the problem was illustrated to me at the first Asante Africa Foundation event I attended last May. Joseph Nsengimana, Director at Intel and advocate of African development, was our guest speaker. He shared this in response to a question about girls and education:

 “Many societies in Africa are very male oriented. You have children that are boys and girls, and you’re looking at them. When girls grow up, they get married and become part of their husband’s family. And the boys will marry and one day bring their wives to become a part of your family and become your responsibility. So when resources are limited, and the parents have to make a choice of who to educate, they are put in a very difficult situation.”

If you put it that way, it’s an easy decision to make. The girl stays at home and misses out on school. If only that was the worst of it! Since I became a part of AAF, I’ve heard all kinds of stories from bartering daughters for cows to young girls being kidnapped for marriage. UN Women’s latest fast facts on child marriage states that 1 in every 3 girls in developing countries is married before reaching the age of 18 [Click here for details]. How can any girl deprived of education ever gain the tools to fight such a fate?

Advocating Girls’ Progress

Asante Africa Foundation’s efforts at education have always included the girls. But it soon became apparent that extra effort had to be made just to keep them in school. Early pregnancy, and even menstruation, had joined child marriage as key issues that kept girls firmly at home.

In 2011, AAF launched its Girls’ Advancement Program as a response. Its mentors chose to call it Wezesha Vijana, which is Swahili for “Empower Ourselves”. A fitting title for a special curriculum that included teaching girls about their own bodies, building confidence, and imparting practical skills like handling finances.

Most important, it opened young girls to a world of possibility. Because when girls are allowed to be girls, they learn about their own strengths and abilities. It inspires them to make themselves better. And sometimes, it even moves them to consciously make a positive impact in their own communities.

Why Everyone Should Care Too?

It’s easy to make the case for how girls have the potential to become partners in building a better future. We all know what we’re capable of. But the truth is that effecting such a huge change requires more than just ourselves.

As our CEO, Erna, says: “Complex systemic problems require a systemic solution. When keeping girls in school, we need the community, parents, and boys to be a part of the equation.”

Overcoming years of tradition requires every single person to lean in. And I’m positive of success when organizations like the UN encourage the world to make gender equality priority. I feel it every time I hear stories from our communities in Africa about a father sending all his daughters to school, or a young boy asking why no one ever told them about what their sisters had to go through. I see it when our girls graduate and do their part by paying it forward.

Girls can rock just as well as anybody. All that needs to be done is to let girls be girls.

Written by Christy Monastrial. She joins Asante Africa Foundation this year as Marketing Manager and considers women empowerment as the cause closest to her heart.

 Help us send 5 girls Back to School. Click here for details.





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Meet Samson Nyongesa

Before seeing Samson, our guest speaker from Kenya, at the ‘The Journey to 2020′ event, we thought its best to tell you a little more about the person himself. Everything that’s happened in his life reveals the character and determination of someone who wants to see real change in the world. We’re very proud, and cant hope for a better example than him for young men and women out there. 

“When I look back from where I have come from, I just can’t keep quiet. I have to help a youth somewhere, to at least be able to reach where I am.” — Samson Nyongesa

Born in Western Kenya and raised in a polygamous family of 15 children, Samson Nyongesa knows well why we cannot keep quiet or still.

His mother struggled to support him through primary school. With secondary school financially out of his family’s reach, Samson dropped out. His older brother, already supporting his own four children, intervened but he too struggled to raise funds for Samson to return to school. Election violence catapulted Samson to the other side of the country, in a camp for the internally displaced. He would live there for nine months. Education, peace, the life of and in Samson was stunted.

But there was one more intervention: Samson’s headmaster reached out to Asante Africa for a scholarship. He reached out to others until, person by person, he finally tracked Samson down.

The headmaster acted as Samson’s guardian to ensure that the young student had the support he needed to complete his studies. At the Asante Africa scholarship orientation, the young Samson shared his desire to be the “best lawyer that Kenya has ever witnessed” so he could be a positive influence in his community, so that people would not lose their lives to unnecessary strife and conflict. The cost of his country’s strife was high—borne on the heart of Samson and many Kenyans. But he was not done trying to find his way, lifting his own potential so he could reach the hearts of others.

He had to repeat his sophomore year. But he proceeded to graduate second in the school district and the top one percent in his class, awarded a scholarship to the University of Nairobi. In Narok, in his community, there was much to celebrate.

With support from his USA sponsor, Samson recently completed his Bachelors in Economics and will receive his graduation certificate in December 2016. Through it all, he served as an intern with Asante and twice attended Asante Africa Foundation’s Leadership Incubator.

Because Samson Nyongesa is still reaching. 

It wasn’t enough to follow his own path through university. He was determined to pay it forward. He used his training, education, and experience to start Life Transformers, mentoring other change agents. 

What began as serving one person has grown to working with over 300 university youth across three campuses. Over 5000 young lives have been impacted over the past four years.In not keeping quiet, in fulfilling his educational promise, Samson has inspired and begun a transformation much larger than himself. 

Come join Samson Nyongesa as he makes his first visit to the U.S. to learn and to share what he has learned: how we can and how we must keep reaching for each other. 

Watch him and the Life Transformers share their excitement about Samson’s first visit to the United States.

If you haven’t bought your ticket to our event yet, click here NOW. Follow us on Facebook (Asante Africa Foundation) and Twitter (@AsanteAfrica) and get all our updates. Lots more coming up.
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Breaking News:Our Girls Program Recognized by UN-GEI

Asante Africa Foundation’s Wezesha Vijana Program – a special curriculum that boosts the girl child’s chances to succeed is highlighted as Best Practice in United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI).  The UNGEI Good Practice Fund supports organisations and local governments from across the globe to shed light on best practices and lessons learnt in gender focused education initiatives. 

Education has the power to change a girl’s life and that of her family and community. All over the world – and in developing countries, in particular – we see proof that when women are educated, child marriages and child mortality rates are drastically reduced. In fact, simply making sure that girls don’t miss out on primary education is enough to substantially reduce maternal mortality. But it’s important that girls stay in school long enough, at least through lower high school grades, before we can reap those benefits. In far too many instances, this just isn’t the reality.

Girls are far less likely than boys to complete primary (elementary or middle) school, especially in low-income countries where only 20% have achieved gender parity at the primary level and 10% at the lower secondary level. These findings are highlighted in UNESCO’s Gender Summary Report, which analyses data from the 11th annual Education for All Global Monitoring Report. The report was released in partnership with the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI).

Project Highlights

From 2014 -2016, the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI), in partnership with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), launched the UNGEI Fund for Documentation of Good Practice in Girls’ Education and Gender Equality. 

Out of 450 global nominations, 17 programs – including Asante Africa Foundation were chosen to be highlighted as unique and creative ways of promoting and sustaining girls’ education. Overall, the case studies demonstrated that even small-scale programs aimed at changing attitudes towards girls and women in the context of education, can contribute to gender equality in the wider society. 

Case studies also found that undergoing workshops that teach them about health, or build up their unique strengths and capabilities, made girls that much more confident in aspiring for professional and personal opportunities beyond school. More so when programs engaged the boys and the whole community by fostering changes in attitudes and behaviors, and by focusing on increasing girls’ agency and self-confidence.

“Complex systemic problems require a systemic solution. When keeping girls in school we need the community, parents, and boys to be a part of the equation. We witness firsthand the power of knowledge when the girls stand up with confidence.” Erna Grasz, CEO of Asante Africa Foundation

Find out more

To ensure that these project findings are shared with sector wide practitioners, researchers and donors, a website has been established to centrally host materials. To view case studies and learn more about the project, visit www.goodpracticefund.org. Click here to download Asante Africa Foundation’s Case Study.  

Stay updated with Asante Africa Foundation’s latest news and events. Follow us on Twitter and FacebookClick here to RSVP to our upcoming event ‘The journey to 2020. The future is closer than you think.’
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The Future is Closer than You Think!

Fall is finally here, and with it we are excited to announce Asante Africa Foundation’s The Journey to 2020 – The Future is Closer than You Think – an event to celebrate our journey of transforming 1 Million lives by 2020. We invite you to join us on Saturday, October 22nd from 6-9pm at the David Brower Center in Berkeley to celebrate our history and look toward a bright future!

This event is particularly significant as we recall the beginnings of Asante Africa Foundation. We have come a long way since we were first established in 2006 by our founders Erna Grasz, Emmy Moshi, and Hellen Nkuraiya. What began as a two-village project has expanded to over 40 partnerships (and counting) with schools in 35+ villages in Kenya and Tanzania.  We are ecstatic to continue our work in reaching 1 Million lives by 2020!

At the event, you will have opportunity to meet two alumni from our organization: Carolyne Sunte, a young entrepreneur and mentor from Maasai, and Samson Nyongesa, the founder of “Life Transformers”, a leadership organization with over 300 university youth across 3 campuses who have impacted over 5000 young lives in the last 4 years (To know more about Life Transformers and their efforts click here).

Both alumni will be traveling all the way from Kenya to talk about the impact Asante Africa has had on their lives and how they are using their own experience to impact the lives of others.

At The Journey to 2020 event, we are also incredibly lucky to have African musician, Piwai performing live! Piwai is known for her catchy, genre fusing melodies and exotically mystifying sounds.

There will also be a Live Auction, Local Artwork, Traditional Food and a Wine Bar! There are so many reasons to come out to celebrate with us on October 22 – we hope you will be there!

Be sure to RSVP on or before October 14th to save your spot! You can buy your tickets on

This is just a sneak peek into the main event. Make sure you subscribe to our blog or follow us on Facebook (Asante Africa Foundation) & Twitter (@AsanteAfrica). There’s a lot more coming up.


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Beyond the Page


“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.” ― Frederick Douglass

Here, at this page, is one of the greatest freedoms we take for granted: our ability to read, to translate the world and have the larger world translated to us. Our literacy builds bridges that connect us with people around the planet, economic opportunity, choices, play, empowerment—and if we don’t have those? Our ability to read and write are our modern day weapons and search tools. They help us think. They help us find a way to the person, place, idea, or thing that will get us what we need.  

Today UNESCO marks the 50th anniversary of International Literacy Day, a day that celebrates efforts to raise literacy rates across the world—and reminds us that, beyond this page, this freedom is far from achieved.  

According to UNESCO, it may be 2084 before we see universal education across the world. The recently released Global Education Monitoring Report shared that 263 million children worldwide—nearly the size of the entire population of the United States—were out of school as of 2014. The challenge looms large and girls, students with disabilities, and students from minority groups as well as refugee children of any school age remain grossly over represented among those denied schooling. While the structures for a universal primary education may be a generation away (by 2042), universal secondary education may take us until nearly the close of this century to reach hundreds of millions of children—resources and systems trailing far behind need.

Today, in East Africa alone, two of every three children lack access to secondary schooling. As a team, we are racing to impact a million lives by 2020 through classroom learning, development for economic opportunity beyond the classroom, and a special emphasis on the advancement of girls.


Since 2006, we’ve helped create safe learning spaces and equip students with the tools they need to access every opportunity at their grasp. We strengthen the capacity, talent, and resiliency of communities, teachers, and particularly girls in the classroom and beyond. So that our youth, our parents, our teachers, our schools, our communities of East Africa can turn the page.

Will you go beyond the page with us?

Be a part of our Fundrasing Event ‘Journey to 2020’. Click here to know more. For other ways to support, click here.


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Remember the first day of school?

The fall session in schools has just started and most of us are probably wistfully looking back on summer as some kind of recent, warm, dream that slipped away far too quickly. Around the world students, parents, and teachers alike are gearing up for a new school year which will begin (if it hasn’t already) in a few days.  

We’d like you to think back (for some of you, way back) to your first day of school.  We’ll set the scene: The pencils are all sharpened to a fine point. The folders, notebooks, and backpacks are all in pristine condition, and you’re wearing a brand new, albeit perhaps uncomfortable, outfit. Were you nervous? Excited? Were you counting down the days to next summer?  For many of us, school was something we always knew would be there, even after a summer away.  School was as dependable and familiar as the favorite pair of shoes we picked out just for the occasion.  But for many other children around the world, this is not the case.

At Asante Africa, the students in our programs in Kenya and Tanzania are going back-to-school as well, although the experience is made that much more meaningful because of the struggles they have had to overcome to continue their education. Many of our students come to us with little or no family for support. They are held back by the poverty and limitations of their villages. In the cases of young women, many are also taken out of school at a young age to be married and are not able to continue their education or accomplish their dreams.                                                                                                                       When we look at the figures surrounding childhood education globally, they are simply daunting:                                                                                                                                                  As many as 121 million children and adolescents globally do not attend school at all.  Of these, 73 million (59%) out-of-school children of primary and lower-secondary school age live in developing countries. And finally, more than 4 out of 10 out-of-school children of primary school age will likely never enter a classroom.

Our focus is not only to get the students to school but also to create an environment that allows them to go Back to School. Regular mentoring from peers and other students in Asante Africa’s scholarship programs, helps these kids ‘keep the faith’ and move forward.

Our students excited to go back to school

‘The Government Officials (MoEVT-TZ) and Corporate Partners (P&G), recognize our model of TRULY engaging educational stakeholders and community members. This means that the parents’ voices are essential, the school principal’s voice is critical, and the community makes the decisions, while we at Asante Africa Foundation facilitate the process and create a transparent process for all.’

– Erna Grasz.

 In Kenya, our students have an 83% pass rate from primary to high school, while the national average is only 56%. 100% of our scholars have successfully graduated high school, and 30% score high enough for full university scholarship, while the national average is only 5%.  In Tanzania, we have a 100% pass rate from primary to secondary (66% are girls), and 91% of our students graduated from high school.

With numbers like these, we know our programs are working. We have and will continue to focus on creating and sustaining an environment which keeps children coming back to school each year.    

To learn more about our scholarships program and how you can contribute to our continuing efforts in bringing our students back to school, click here. Its less than $3 a day!



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