Change-makers just have to DO SOMETHING! 27 Year Old Gladys Muthara is DOING SOMETHING to end violence against girls and women around the world
World Change-makers all have one thing in common. It isn’t a specific skill set, education, exhaustive experiences, important network or position. People who change the world for the better just have to DO SOMETHING about problems that they see. They feel a personal responsibility toward humanity. From meeting many inspiring change makers through our UN Women’s Global Champion group, the one common thread weaving diverse, global change-makers is the inability to do nothing.
These extraordinary and ordinary people begin where they are, using what they have, to do what they can. Within each of us is the potential to move mountains one pebble at a time. But first, we have to look at the pebble and recognize that it is important and does effect change. We must pick it up and hope that the mountain will eventually topple one pebble at a time. But we must start with that pebble of progress in faith and determination.
Gladys Muthara is a soft spoken, 27 year old woman whose serene presence belies her tenacity and grit. She was raised in rural, Central Kenya. Even as a young girl, Gladys saw challenges as opportunities waiting for her. She grew up in humble circumstances, and she attributes early experiences with need as fuel to improve life for herself and people around her.
I have asked her to share her inspiring story of how to be a change-maker in her community and around the world by mentoring, training, and inspiring teens.
How do you stay positive when facing the challenges?
I am an optimist and I always believed I could achieve whatever I wanted. For instance, I was the first girl from my secondary school to attend a university. Many girls would drop out of school to get married. Besides overcoming challenges such as lack of school fees, personal supplies, and reading materials, I had to believe in myself even when many people in my local community felt that I would not amount to anything better in life simply because I am a girl. Self-motivation and goal-setting are essential for me.
When did you realize that you wanted to be a change agent?
After high school, I started championing girls’ education and particularly mentoring younger girls. I would go to various schools to speak to students and give them tips on how they could manage their time and perform well in school. I would especially be moved if my audience was girls since their challenges would really resonate with my experience. Since then, I have been championing quality education in Africa as a Managing Partner at Aid for Rural Education Access Initiative (AREAi). I am a girl who is very passionate about creating positive change in my community, country, and the world. I want to contribute to the betterment of the lives of girls and women, even beyond Kenya. I want to be part of the change that will give them their dignity.
Tell me about your current project as a change-maker?
Melanie Joy, a fellow Empower Women Global Champion for Women’s Economic Empowerment recommended the Star Weave activity done at the One Million Stars to End Violence project initiated by MaryAnn Talia Pau, and to be exhibited at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. I strongly believed that we could adopt this activity, because the stars have a deeper meaning. I imagined the dark shadow that has been cast in the lives of children by the monster of violence; weaving stars to shine light upon this darkness in our lives totally resonated with our project.
Where did your inspiration to start the Teens Weave Stars Campaign come from? Why is helping end Violence against women & girls so important to your organization, Teen Action?)
The thought of addressing Violence against Women resonated with me because it painfully reminded me of my own experience with physical violence. I made my first star from pieces of paper that I plucked from an exercise book. It illuminated the dark shadow in my heart and brought tears to my eyes. I felt relieved that I was finally doing it; telling my story, my bitter experience, and also sharing this light with young people in Kenya who do not deserve to go through this!
I also remembered the countless gruesome pictures of physically abused women in Kenya that I have seen being circulated via social media.
I thought of how children who grow up in violent families end up. In most cases, they too become violent parents. In search of the perfect activity that teens would engage in as they hold guided conversations and learning about violence, star-weaving workshops were a perfect fit.
What do you hope to achieve with this project? What immediate and lasting impact do you hope to have?
I hope to see thousands of teens graduate in Phase One to become young leaders, peer educators, and champions of ending violence against women and girls in their communities. I hope to see teens believe in their ability to create change in their communities and to join teen led community activities during the 16 Days of Activism. I hope to see the Teen Ministers of Gender Based Violence deliver the teens’ petition to the government of Kenya and the government act on the issues highlighted by these children. I hope to see our stars, bearing Kenya’s national colors, displayed at the 2018 Common Wealth Games, and make a statement to our government and Kenyans in general. Finally, I hope to see the global community join in and support our call to end Violence against Women & Girls in Kenya by weaving and posting pictures of their stars on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and World Pulse and declaring “I support end to violence against women & girls” and tagging us using #Star4Zero #TeenAction #EndVAW #OneMillionStars.
The lasting impact I hope to achieve is in the teens; I hope they will live to utilize the life skills and knowledge they will acquire during the program to lead positive change in their communities.
What message would you like to send readers?
Ending violence against women and girls is like putting out a fire in the largest forest in the world. Yet we cannot afford to sit back and witness the fire devouring the trees of development that we so resolutely strive to achieve. We must rise up to action, even in our own, small ways.
To support the Teens Weave Stars Campaign and help end violence against women and girls in Kenya and beyond, please weave an 8 pointed star, take a photo with your star, and post the picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and/or World Pulse with the statement “I Support End to Violence against Women & Girls”. The following hash-tags are being used: #Star4Zero #TeenAction #EndVAW #OneMillionStars
Video on Star Weaving: https://youtu.be/qSjyDqztzaQ
Thank you Gladys Muthara for your passionate and unwavering work on behalf of girls and women worldwide and thank you for sharing your story with us on WeTriumph!