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News at Brighter Green

Executive Director Mia MacDonald Quoted in Civil Eats Article 1/26/15

Executive Director Mia MacDonald was quoted in Advisory Board member Anna Lappe's article on Chatham House's recent study on peoples' understanding of climate change and food, particularly meat production. You can view the Civil Eats article here.

New Report Released by Brighter Green and the Global Forest Coalition on the Unsustainable Impacts of Livestock and Soybean Production in Paraguay 1/22/15

Brighter Green and the Global Forest Coalition, published a new report entitled, "Meat from a Landscape Under Threat: Testimonies of the Impacts of Unsustainable Livestock and Soybean Production in Paraguay". You can access the report here.

Brighter Green Featured in NYC Meatless Monday Press Release 1/22/15

Brighter Green and Executive Director Mia MacDonald were featured in NYC City Council Representative Helen Rosenthal's press release on the push for NYC to adopt the Meatless Monday campaign.

Executive Director Mia MacDonald Appears on Our Hen House's Highlight Reel Podcast Episode 1/10/15

Brighter Green Executive Director Mia MacDonald appears on Our Hen House's highlight reel episode on January 10th. The original TV episode can be viewed here.

East African Girls' Leadership Initiative Program Update 1/10/15

Brighter Green and Tribal Link released a January Program Update on the East African Girls' Leadership Initiative. You can access it here.

Brighter Green and Humane Society International Publish COP 20 Policy Recommendations 12/4/14

Brighter Green and Humane Society International published a policy recommendation document on animal agriculture and climate change for the COP 20 meeting in Lima, Peru. You can access the document here.

Brighter Green Releases Summary on Forthcoming Nature's Rights Paper 10/14/14

Brighter Green released a summary of a forthcoming nature's rights paper entitled Nature's Rights: Rivers, Trees, Whales, and Apes.

View News Archive


East Africa: Girls’ Leadership Initiative

Click here to read blog posts on the Girls' Initiative.

Brighter Green's collaborative Girls’ Education, Leadership, and Rights Training Initiative is well underway with the initial cohort of girls from Maasai communities in Kenya and Tanzania. The project aims to develop the girls' skills, capabilities, knowledge, and confidence so that as adult women they are successful community leaders and effective advocates for indigenous peoples and the environment at the international level. Achieving this is even more urgent as climate change and the effects of globalization are felt more intensely by indigenous communities around the world. All ten girls—bright, but needy—are now working hard in their respective boarding schools in Kenya and Tanzania.

Sabina Tumeki Siankoi, a seventeen-year-old program participant, discusses the initiative's impact, "My plans have tremendously changed since I completed grade 8. My parents had nothing and although I passed my exams, I was hopeless until this program came along."

Below is a new program video, recently premiered at our Girls' Initiative fundraiser (December 2012), which provides information about the program as well as introduces some of the girls. The video highlights their goals, their experiences in the program, and what they've learned over the past few years.

Updates on the Program

We are now finishing our fourth year of the program. Both the Kenyan and Tanzanian girls are finishing their final year and are planning to go onto higher education.

In November 2012, all five Kenyan girls, Ann, Hellen, Joyce, Sabina, and Elizabeth, sat for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) national exam, required for admission into university. Two girls, Elizabeth and Hellen, received scores that qualify them to start university in the summer. Joyce, Sabina, and Ann will attend a one-year bridging certificate course before entering university the following year. In January, the Kenyan girls attended a workshop to further their understanding of and engagement in issues of human rights, women’s rights, climate change, and environmental sustainability.

The Kenyan girls interned at local organizations between the end of their examinations and the start of their computer course. They are now taking a computer course that will help them as they move to university and intermediary colleges.

The Tanzanian girls completed a successful workshop with program coordinator Daniel Salau and the PAICODEO team in December 2012. In addition to receiving guidance and support as they continue their studies, the girls discussed the impacts of the severe draught affecting the Parakuiyio people as well as human rights issues. Three of the Tanzanian girls finished their end of year exams and have been promoted to form four, their final year of secondary education. One girl, Rehema, finished her final year of studies and is waiting to enroll in an intermediary college. 

To help Sabina and girls like her with their school fees and living expenses, please click here.

On December 6, 2012, Brighter Green and Tribal Link hosted a successful fundraiser, raising over $3,000 to help fund the education, living costs, rights trainings, mentoring, and leadership skill workshops for two girls for one year. Below are two videos from the fundraiser of Grace Salau, a Kenyan Maasai woman who serves as a mentor for the Kenyan girls, speaking about the role of women in Maasai culture and the importance of educating Maasai girls.

Recent Events:

December 2012: Girls' Initiative Fundraiser and Updates

The Girls' Initiative had a successful fundraiser as we finish the fourth year of the program.

June 2012: Program and Website Updates
Kenyan girls relaxing on break

The girls' website page has been updated with current bios, images, and news items.

January 2012: Kenyan Girls Attend Annual Workshop
Girls planting a tree

The five Kenyan girls planted a tree on behalf of the late Wangari Maathai, and discussed climate change and issues related to women's rights.

December 2011: Tanzanian Girls Attend Annual Workshop
Girls walking in Morogoro

With COP 17 underway in Durban, the facilitators engaged the girls about climate change, specifically from the viewpoint of indigenous communities, in addition to a discussion of the girls' struggles and successes during the past year.

October 2011: Mia MacDonald Visits the
Kenyan Girls

Ngong countryside

Slideshow of Mia's pictures from the trip to some of the girls' schools in and around Ngong.

December 2010: Human Rights Workshop Hosted by Partner Organization SIMOO
December Workshop

The girls took part in an interactive workshop for three days in Arusha, Tanzania. A trip to a nearby community project center showcased sustainable processing ventures benefiting local communities.

Julie Ojiambo, a Brighter Green intern, traveled to Kenya in August 2012 and met with and worked with some of the Kenyan program participants. In the video below, Julie talks about her experience meeting some of the girls in Kenya and her experience working on the Initiative.

Mia MacDonald visited the Kenyan girls in October 2011. Here is a slideshow of her photos of the girls and their schools:

Daniel Salau, of the Ngong, Kenya based organization SIMOO (Simba Maasai Outreach Organization), is the Girls' Education, Leadership and Rights Training Initiative coordinator. In this video, he updates us on the program:

In this video, Lucy Mulenkei of the Nairobi-based Indigenous Information Network (IIN) explains the project and introduces the girls:

The Girls:

Ledaiki Ann Nailantei
Ledaiki Ann Nailantei

Ann is seventeen years old and the youngest child of six. She is from a semi-arid region, where limited rainfall significantly limits economic activities. Ann was raised by her aunt after her parents died when she was four. A businesswoman, Ann’s aunt struggles to pay for the schooling of Ann and her other siblings, all of whom currently attend secondary school.

Though driven at school, Ann struggles with the death of her parents and often has trouble focusing on her studies. Despite this, Ann’s determination during her primary education caught the attention of a head teacher, who has helped Ann throughout the years to raise money for her school fees. Ann joined the Bisil Girls Secondary School in 2009, when she started Form One. She is currently in Form Four at the P.C.E.A. Kimuka Secondary School. She also holds a leadership position as a Prefect. When she finishes school, Ann wants to join the Kenyan Army and work to advance the position of women in her community.

Hellen Naipanoi Kipaili
Naipanoi Kipailii

Hellen is seventeen years old and is the only child of her father’s second wife. When her mother died, Hellen's father and his first wife raised her. There are significant burdens on her family, as her father, a Maasai herdsman, is paying school fees for the eight children under his care.

Hellen loves school, and considers herself grateful to have escaped the typical fate of girls her age who undergo female circumcision and early marriage. She is a member of her school’s Press Club, and wants to be an accountant when she finishes school. She would like to put some money back into her community and help other girls pursue their education. She is currently in Form Four at Moi Girls' Secondary School Isinya.

Joyce Kakenya Barta
Kakenya J. Barta

Joyce is eighteen years old and is the first child of six. Her family comes from the Transmara District, an area that has experienced tribal clashes between the Maasai and Kisii communities. The violence displaced Joyce’s family, and they have since settled on a strip of land offered to them by a sympathetic neighbor.

Joyce’s family cultivates the land, and assists the owner with chores. They engage in subsistence agriculture, as they are unable to produce surplus crops for sale. As a result, Joyce’s father has started herding cattle to earn extra money. Joyce’s parents made the unusual decision not to circumcise and marry-off their daughter, focusing instead on her education. Last year, Joyce had some problems with keloids but had a successful operation to remove them. She has also been appointed to a leadership position as Environmental Prefect. Her favorite subjects in school are Mathematics, Business Studies, and English. When she finishes school, Joyce would like to be a lawyer or journalist, although she is also interested in politics. She is currently in Form Four at the P.C.E.A. Kimuka Secondary School.

Sabina Tumeki Siankoi
Sabina Tumeki Siankoi

Sabina is seventeen years old, but like many rural Maasai does not know her exact date of birth. She was born to an illiterate mother who was ostracized because she was unable to conceive a boy. When her father died in 2000, his parents expelled Sabina and her mother from their land and threatened to marry-off the six year-old girl. In Maasai culture, only men can purchase land, and Sabina’s mother was forced to build a house on her brothers’ property. She currently supports Sabina and herself from the earnings of her small bead-working business.

Sabina enjoys Biology, Agriculture, History, and "even English" courses at her school. She is determined to finish her schooling, and laments the lack of educated female role models in her culture. When she finishes her secondary education, she plans to become a doctor and improve the rural healthcare system in her community, as well as be a mentor for Maasai girls. She is currently in Form Four at the P.C.E.A. Kimuka Secondary School.

Elizabeth Kironua Sakuda
Elizabeth Kironua Sakuda

Elizabeth is seventeen years old and was orphaned at a young age when both her parents died. She was raised by a foster family that continues to care for her today. Growing up in a rural area, Elizabeth walked three kilometers every day to school, and was the only child in her family to receive an education. As an orphan, she was ostracized from her community and underwent circumcision at a young age, an event that she recalls as highly traumatizing.

Despite these significant challenges, Elizabeth excels at school, and wants to become a surgeon or an accountant. Her favorite subjects in school are Chemistry and Mathematics. She is currently in Form Four at Baraka Ontoyie Secondary School, a Maasai school that is considered a safe haven for girls in the community.

Peninah Yolamu Andra
Peninah Yolamu Andra

Peninah is eighteen years old and the firstborn of six, raised by her grandparents after her father abandoned the family and her mother passed away. Her father returned several years later, and now supports the family with his three cows, their sole property and source of income. Peninah comes from a Maasai community in Tanzania where education is regarded as a luxury, particularly with respect to female children. Her father, uncle, and grandparents pool their earnings in order to send her and her siblings to school. However, regional drought threatens her family’s livelihood and ability to afford education.

Peninah is a very determined student, and takes extra English lessons so that she can communicate with her Kenyan peers. She would like to be an English teacher when she finishes school, and plans to use her new skills to help support her siblings. She is currently studying at Dr. Mezger Secondary School.

Rehema Emnuel Hotee
Rehema Emnuel Hotee

Rehema is from a Maasai community in Tanzani and is seventeen years old. Her mother is sick with TB, and her father does not help to support his family. Her family depends on pastoralism as a livelihood, and in times of drought she and her siblings have had to rely on donations of food for survival.

Rehema is delighted to be learning English, and considers herself fortunate to have funding for her education. But she faces significant obstacles: a lack of electricity at home, and time-consuming tasks such as fetching water, both of which limit the hours she can spend on her schoolwork. Nonetheless, she is determined to finish school. She recently convinced a parent in her village to not marry-off her young daughter. Rehema wants to become a teacher and return to her village to educate her pastoralist community about alternatives sources of income. She is currently studying at Dr. Mezger Secondary School.

Martha Lazaro Rokonga
Martha Lazaro Rokonga

Martha is eighteen years old and one of five children. Her family is unable to afford school fees for all their children, and they have married off two of her sisters for their dowries. Maasai who own property are typically able to afford education, but Martha’s parents own only two cows and three goats, and struggle to provide for the family.

Like many Maasai girls, Martha has been circumcised, and believes that the decision to circumcise one’s daughter lies with the husband. Both of her parents are illiterate, and Martha is very grateful for the opportunity to continue her studies. She plans to teach once she finishes her schooling. She is currently studying at Dr. Mezger Secondary School.

Mary Saidi Ngobei
Mary Saidi Ngobei

Mary is the only child in her family of seven who attends school. All of her siblings have been married-off to support her family, and Mary has been pulled out of school twice when her parents were unable to afford the school fees. A former teacher acknowledged Mary as a strong student who should be in school, and coordinated funding for her education.

Mary is delighted to be able to continue her schooling, though she laments the fact that her siblings have not had similar opportunities.

Sophia Somei Sirau
Sophia Somei Sirau

Sophia is twenty years old and the oldest of seven children. Her four younger sisters have already been married-off to help support the family. Her mother supports the family with a small bead-work business, and is unable to perform any strenuous tasks because of ill health.

Like many of the other girls, Sophia yearns for an educated female role model whom she can emulate. After she finishes school, Sophia wants to teach and work to improve her family’s situation. She is currently studying at Dr. Mezger Secondary School.

Why this initiative?
  • Most Maasai girls don’t receive the benefits of formal education. Less than 1% complete secondary school, or a higher level of education.
  • Across the developing world, schooling to a higher grade is often the crucial factor in changing the course of an individual’s life, opening up new opportunities and avenues for action otherwise unavailable.
  • The program’s intent is to invest deeply in a small number of girls with significant potential but who are trapped by their families’ poverty.
  • While the entry point is education—scholarships to support schooling—the girls in the program will also participate in rights training sessions, experiential learning visits, and receive mentoring from indigenous leaders.

In implementing this initiative, Brighter Green is partnering with the Parakuiyo Pastoralists Indigenous Community Development Organization (PAICODEO) in Tanzania, and SIMOO (Simba Maasai Outreach Organization) and the Indigenous Information Network (IIN), both based in Kenya. Internationally, the project is co-facilitated with Tribal Link Foundation, a U.S.-based NGO. The five collaborating NGOs have long-standing ties and a record of successful collaboration.