Emily Karechio is an under-thirty Kenyan Change-Maker who is empowering young women in her community through her organization, http://www.muthaafoundation.org/index.php/emily-karechio . The award winning non-profit guides women through economic development programs providing education, mentoring, and facilitates entrepreneurial ventures. MCDF also educates on reproductive health while preventing the spread of HIV. She founded her organization at the ripe age of twenty three and that alone should teach us that passion and purpose trump age!
She holds a Nairobi Law Diploma, a Development Studies Degree from Ireland, and is currently pursuing her MBA from Strathmore Business School in Nairobi. Emily chose to pursue her MBA to educate herself in her own venture as well as in running corporate social responsibility initiatives through her organization.
She has received numerous recognitions due to her tremendous work including being selected as an Action Partner of Oxfam International Youth Partnerships in 2007, the National Focal Point of Global Youth Coalition on HIV/ AIDS in 2007 and the National Coordinator of the Universal Access for Female Condom in Kenya among others.
Through her leadership, MCDF has won three prestigious Millennium Development Goals Awards in 2013.
She is an inspirational leader working to improve the lives of her people, and I am honored to share her story.
Who or what has influenced you toward this path in life?
What influenced me to found the organization was seeing my mum lose three children at birth. My mum was educated, a Primary School Certified teacher, but did not have the right information on family planning and reproductive health. She was a reflection of many who were literate but did not have access to the right information. This prompted me to found an organization that would provide education to our women and girls, enabling them to make informed decisions about themselves and that of their families.
The positive ripple effect of our work in the community inspires and encourages my team and me to keep going. When one community woman begins making the right and informed choices about her reproductive health, she influences other women to do the same. We are focused on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG3): “By 2030, reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births” (http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/sdgoverview/post-2015-development-agenda/goal-3.html).
What are the biggest challenges that MCDF faces?
Our biggest challenge is getting funding. Inadequate networking opportunities and minimal visibility of what we do and our achievements impedes our growth and ability to scale.
Specifically, donor’s conditional ties affect us. In the donor world the funding trends are changing. We see donors are using basket funding, hence the lack of strategic partnership challenges for our organization to acquire funding. We also face donor bias; donors look into funding the organizations that they have previously funded or have international ties, with few opportunities to small and new organizations into their pool.
With the little funding that we do receive, I achieve as much as possible to make the most impact.
What is your vision for the future of your organization and the results that it will create?
My vision for MCDF is that it becomes a platform that enables sustainable development for Africa. This could be through providing information or grants. I want to harness opportunities for women in the corporate world and in communities. My goal is in creating a place for women to connect, sharing the issues they face and finding support and learning from each other. The ability to meet people of influence is essential.
For example, one of the programs we offer is Biztech. This is a platform where we help young women to gain economic independence by “providing them with the entrepreneurial tools that they need in order to create their own business venture and inspire conscious capitalism in their societies.
Technology, along with mentorship, is the main tool that the project provides. The technology packages consist of a technological device, data, and applications specifically chosen by successful entrepreneurs to jump start their ventures.” http://www.muthaafoundation.org/index.php/programs/empowerment/biztech
I would also like to create a trust fund with corporations which share the same passions and invest in the trust to help us create sustainability. My dream is to create sustainable development for the people of Africa.
“I want to be part of global social change.”
What do you do to help fund MCDF?
I contract with organizations to run their Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns for income. We offer consultancy services and research and training across the sectors. What I have found is that many corporations approach CSR with a predictable response; quickly choosing an organization to contribute to for a temporarily fix, checking off the boxes so to say. We would love to have more investment in increased sustainability with long term benefits that impact real change. This takes more forethought, and corporations don’t have the time or people to do this kind of research. That is my role.
You mentioned that you must travel for two weeks at a time to pursue your MBA. When you are absent for two weeks at a time, how does that affect your organization in its day to day activities and goals?
I have the best team working with me! Each time I return from school I am amazed at how much they have accomplished and driven us closer to our vision. I hear the reports of the grass roots events the team had successfully organized and the initiatives that they achieved in my absence and I feel blessed.
How does your style of leadership affect your team and empower them to be so successful without their CEO being present?
I have learned over the years since I started MCDF what traits to look for in employees. I’ve learned the hard way, through experience, that they must share a passion for the vision for it to drive them toward excellence. I hire great people who I invest in and train so that they can lead without my presence. I have also learned to delegate and let my team make decisions and mistakes because we learn great lessons from the mistakes we make. I am free to let go and trust them, and they always astound me!
How do you find balance while being so busy? What’s your idea of fun?
I have learned from experience that I must make time for enjoying life and re-energizing; otherwise I become drained and am not able to give my best. I am a proud mother of a six year old daughter and making time for her is essential and precious. I also love taking trips with friends to escape and explore. One of my favorite places to visit is Tanzania; not only is the landscape beautiful, but the people are so warm, hospitable, and very accepting of other cultures.
Do you have a favorite book and/or quote that inspire(s) you?
“Limitations only live in our minds. But if we use our imaginations, our possibilities become limitless.” James Poalinetti
I love that quote too Emily. Thank you for all of your wonderful contributions as a change-maker through the Mufaa Community Development Foundation. Thank you for taking the time from your good work on behalf of girls and women to allow this interview. I know you that your vision will be realized!