CGI: Helping Girls in Kenya to Give Back

by Linda Lockhart, Managing Director, Global Give Back Circle
Sep 22, 2010 5:10 PM ET

Imagine you are a disadvantaged girl in Kenya, categorized as coming from the bottom of the economic pyramid. Imagine you grew up sleeping in a hut made from mud and dung, and next to you, in another hut your grandparents kept a cow, some chickens and maybe a goat. Imagine that you lost both parents, within a 12-month period, when you were just five. Nobody talked about how or why they passed away, but everyone knew it was because of HIV/AIDS – because this is how HIV/AIDS was attacking the parents of other children in your rural community – it was attacking them quickly and without discrimination. You were not aware of it at the time, but YOU were among the first generation of AIDS orphans.

Primary school in Kenya was free back then, but you still had to walk an hour each way to the closest school, and you walked barefoot. Imagine that a charity organization sponsored you through high school. Your village chief recommended you, because you were a bright girl. For the first time in your life you traveled out of your district and into the Nairobi area and you boarded in a safe and nurturing environment for four years. You received a uniform and a pair of sturdy black shoes that reminded you that you were functioning, and learning. The shoes reminded you every day that you could have dreams – dreams about all of the opportunities that awaited you in your society. But, after high school graduation you had to hand back your black shoes, forfeit your dreams and return to the bottom of the pyramid because you did not have the skills that lead to employment – and because you were a girl.

When a disadvantaged girl graduates high school, she has already overcome extraordinary odds. Unfortunately, the gap period between high school graduation and university is from 12 – 22 months. So, where does a poor girl go? Just a little more investment in her tertiary education provides the world with an extraordinary return on benevolent human capital investment.

It’s important that girls do not fall through the cracks after high school graduation. That’s the objective of the Global Give Back Circle (GGBC). It gives her a support system that will enable and empower her to step change her life by ‘completing her educational journey’. It was created in such a way that private sector corporates in Kenya treasure the investment in her tertiary education – since an investment in her is an investment in ‘benevolent human capital development’, because she is connected to a circle of giving back that has embedded a give back ethos into her DNA.

Read on at Microsoft's Unlimited Potential blog and learn more about Global Give Back Circle.