December 6, 2011

MEET THE CANDIDATE: Beatrice Karore is Inspiring the Women of Starehe to Dream Bigger

Ms. Beatrice Karore Amathi
Candidate for Civic Seat in the County Assembly
Starehe Constituency
Nairobi County

Ms. Beatrice Karore stands with great pride as she gestures across a sea of tin roofs from a hilltop on the far edge of her home village of Mathare.  Although the landscape of tv antennas, clotheslines, and homes of earth & tin sheets in Mathare may not be like the glass and concrete high rises of Nairobi’s business center, like the ocean floor, this informal settlement (more commonly referred to as a slum) of nearly ½ million residents is much more complex and vibrant when one explores what flourishes below the surface.

As we weave our way down into the Mathere Valley, a community of ten distinctive villages defined by tribal origins, Beatrice navigates her way through a maze of small pathways teeming with trash and water runoff. We cross one of only three footbridges that connect the villages together across the Mathere River, as children play and women wait in line with yellow plastic jerry cans to collect water for their homes. At every turn we make, Beatrice encounters familiar faces that are eager to greet her and to share the latest news and community concerns with her.

As I quickly observe, the community has many unique challenges: landlessness, lack of access to clean drinking water & electricity, high youth unemployment, security concerns and higher than normal rates of poverty. During the 35 years that Beatrice has lived and raised her family in Mathere, she has not only experienced many of these challenges, but also found windows of opportunity to overcome them through leadership.

As a recognized leader within the Bunge La Wamama (or Women’s Parliament), Beatrice has empowered local women to stand up for themselves and to think collectively about coming up with solutions to the problems around them.  As a group of about 25 women gather with Beatrice for a meeting to discuss how to recruit women leaders to run for office in 2012, they sip tea and highlight the achievements that women leaders have made so far. A newly opened community resource center has consolidated services to make resources like childcare, health services, and the internet available in one place.  The new resource center also includes a laundry farm and safe baby care service for working mothers; both of these programs have created economic opportunities for underemployed women.  As the meeting comes to a close, the group expresses their excitement for her candidacy for a civic seat on the Nairobi County Assembly by eagerly giving her their names and mobile numbers so that she can mobilize them as members of her campaign team.

Her desire to create positive changes in Kenya may be rooted in the unfortunate injustices and inequity that have and continue to be perpetuated in her community. In the aftermath of the 2007 elections, many vigilante groups and the Mungiki incited violence with police authorities that resulted in widespread destruction of many homes and businesses as well as the killing of 22 men and boys along Biashira Street, a main business corridor that sits at the heart of the community.  In appearance only, you would not detect that such crimes have taken place, but for the mothers and wives who were left widowed by these killings, their struggle to support their families is a constant reminder of an irreplaceable loss in their lives. 

Many widowed women in the Mathere settlement earn their livings as casual workers--day laborers who are hired to wash clothes, clean homes, and sometimes even to prepare dead bodies for funerals by wealthier dwellers in neighboring communities.  A day’s wage for such work may be as little as 100 ksh(about $1.12), and frequently women are denied promised pay and may encounter sexual and physical harassment by clients.  Sexual and physical violations of women are often ignored by local authorities, and Beatrice has worked with the Mathere Gender Defenders to create a safe space for women to find help in the face of adversity--whether legal, financial, medical or emotional support. In her leadership role within the Bunge La Wamama, she has been able to impact great change in her local community.  She is helping casual workers apply for economic development grants for starting their own businesses, as well as working to empower the women to “talk for themselves” by forming women-run union in the slums. 

Beatrice is poised and ready to take her leadership to the next level as a representative to the Nairobi County Assembly.  As the recently elected coordinator for the Bunge La Mwananchi (the People’s Parliament), she has already been planting roots in important grassroots networks, as well as establishing herself as a leader who is capable of creatively solving even greater challenges.  Although there are many male leaders who will vie for the role of the Starehe Civic Seat, as a mother of young children and a venerated community organizer, Beatrice is able to build the trust of women---a key demographic that if educated and mobilized can help her win the election.  She may not have piles of cash at her disposal, but her genuine commitment to empowering her Kenyan sisters and her trustworthiness are attributes that make her a rising star in Nairobi politics.  Her strength may be the catalyst for inspiring other women in the Mathere slums to dream bigger than their imaginations allow.

1.) Land Ownership for the People of Mathare
2.) Elevating the Community out of Poverty & Improve the Economic Potential of Women
-Bring more opportunities for youth and women businesses
-Increase access to education
-Bring electricity to community to improve security and safety
3.) Empower Women to take Leadership
-Organize Trainings
-Collect data on issues affecting the community
-Build resource centers

1.) Love Each Other: Recognize the Potential of Young Women
-Find mentor(s) that encourage you to leadership
-Bring strong women to politics that “have what it takes to win”
2.) Network Together
-Create bridges across class and backgrounds
-Problem solve together
-Create round tables for raising funds
-Build support systems that foster each others’ strengths
3.) Empower Women Against Exploitation
-Help women stop rape, gender based violence, pay inequity, etc.
4.) VOTE for Women

October 24, 2011

MEET THE CANDIDATE: Taking the Road Untraveled, Susan Mang’eni wants to become Busia County’s First Senator in 2012

Ms. Susan Mang’eni
Candidate for Senate
Busia County
 Orange Democratic Party (ODM)

The experience of traveling to Maduwa Island---an isolated community that exists with no electricity, limited communications, no flush toilets and the constant threat of flooding, is analogous to the journey that Ms. Susan Mang’eni may face during her 2012 campaign for a seat in the Kenyan Senate.

Reaching Maduwa Island Primary School is not easy.  Propelled only by a small, single motor wooden boat---no life vests, nor safety measures, Susan, members of the Kenyan Youth Development Enterprise Fund team, their guests, and several school children, ride precariously down the River Yala and across Lake Victoria. The trip is not for the faint of heart or for those who cannot swim! As we approach the island, we meander through groves of papyrus trees and marshes, and past small pastures spotted with grass huts made of earth walls and thatch roofing that seems bizarrely out of context when surrounded by floating plants, birds, turtles, and barely discernible channels of water.  As the passageways are too narrow and curvaceous to move a fully occupied boat forward, we evacuate the boat and wade knee deep in sinewy water several times before reaching the island.

The teachers, students and parents of the Maduwa Island Primary School are ecstatic about Susan’s visit to the island---a journey that none of her political opponents have traveled.  Her words of inspiration are embraced with as much gratitude as the solar lamps that she purchased for the school that are enabling students to study after the daylight fades. As we pass a boat of local residents on our departure from the island, the passengers chant “Susan for Senate”,  evidence that small gestures of care can pay big dividends.

During my two day visit shadowing Susan in Busia County as a community leader and candidate for Senate in 2012, I witnessed her strength as a confident, yet responsive leader. She is respectful and humble before community influentials, yet assertive enough to take ownership of her accomplishments in front of audiences that are skeptical of politicians.  With her campaign team in tow, we travelled across her district for campaign engagement opportunities that ranged from a Sunday morning sermon during the weekly youth service at Katoda Kituroi Church in Chakol Parish of the St. Monica Chakol Girls High school that she attended, to field visits to youth agriculture and small-business projects (as diverse as rocket stoves and theater arts), and even impromptu information gathering conversations with fishermen in Port Victoria.  Even in the uncomfortable role of collecting money from strangers at a public Harambee (a traditional Kenyan fundraising drive), Susan remains poised.

Although Susan is one of the strongest, and most strategic organizers I have met, her quest for one of Kenya’s 47 newly created Senate seats in the National Assembly as a young, single, female candidate may be challenged by the social and cultural realities that have historically faced women vying for office in Kenya. Most people expect older, wealthy and well-established male leaders to run for national elected offices, and Susan’s entry into the race breaks many stereotypes and will test the ability of the voters to elect public leaders on their skills and ideas, and not on their gender, family backgrounds, or tribal affiliations.

Susan walks through a residential area during a project visit.

Susan’s roots in public leadership were planted as a child in Funyula in Busia county.  While attending primary school in the Teso District, classmates began calling her by the nickname of “politi” because of her thirst for debating social issues.   Her love for debate and politics grew as she entered the University, where she was soon presented with the opportunity to become actively engaged in politics and to meet women leaders, including Honorable Julia Ojiambo. During the 2007 elections, Susan had the opportunity to travel across Kenya to champion youth issues on the Presidential campaign. She quickly learned the rules of the political game, and begins charting her own pathway to leadership.

Deciding to run for office in Kenya takes tenacity, but this decision seems like an inevitable one for a bold and visionary leader like Susan, who is comfortable traveling on a road that has never been travelled before. The 2012 elections present an opportunity for Susan to leverage the networks she has created as the Director of the Youth Enterprise Development Fund to “give back” to her community and to become a positive agent for change in government. Although Susan is passionate about mobilizing young people in Busia County and across Kenya with the skills and opportunities they need to find economic independence, she recognizes many challenges in the community that could be solved by good leadership in government.  As we drive through Busia County, Susan keenly observes the fertility of the land and waterways, and how small investments in greenhouses, irrigation systems, cultivation training for farmers, and better market opportunities could help increase agricultural productivity.  With so much richness in her community, she knows that no person in Busia County, or anywhere in Kenya should go hungry or be living in poverty.

Unlike many of her predecessors, who have perpetuated practices that contribute to Kenya’s corrupt political system, Susan hopes to win genuine support and votes for her election through grassroots civic engagement and the economic empowerment of young people. Even though the 2012 elections are over a year away, she is beginning to build community visibility early and making herself accessible through direct interaction with the voters of Busia County---a county in Western Kenya that borders Uganda. With a background as a national youth organizer, and extensive leadership and campaign training through organizations that include the United States International Leaders’ Visitor Program (IVLP 2011) and the Women’s Democracy Network, Susan is preparing a far-reaching campaign that includes building a strong network of on-the-ground ombudsman that will help her progress towards a win next year.

I am confident that Susan will be a wonderful Kenyan political leader, and I am eager to follow her candidacy as it evolves.  She is “following her heart”, and I hope that many more young women will find inspiration in her journey.

1.) Development of Human Capital
  • Kick out child labour that is rampant owing to cross border trade activities and the fishing activities on Lake Victoria and drive the children back to school by making primary and secondary education accessible to children of Busia County
  • Busia County was once a home to some of the country’s first “professionals”, but has more recently fallen behind in education.
  •  Empower people to utilize their existing skills in new capacities
2.) Increase Agricultural Productivity in the county by giving farming a commercial perspective.
  • 98% of land in Busia County is fertile with a population close to 500,000 (2009 Kenya National Census report) out of which 70% are young people aged below 35 years.
  • The county also has three official border exits for trade to ten other countries
  •  There’s therefore a need to Change the attitudes of youth towards agriculture, get them from the street and take them back to farms which are now lying fallows
  • Create access to credit facilities to young entrepreneurs for agri-business enterprises
  • Establish both local and international market linkages for the agricultural produces from the Busia County
  • Transform Busia County into a trading hub –‘Dubai’ of East African region
 3.  Health and Sanitation conditions
  • Reduce malaria and the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the region.  Being a border town, Busia is said to be the entry point for many diseases to Kenya. For instance HIV/AIDS in East Africa was first diagnosed in Uganda and  later on in Kenya  in Busia District.
  • HIV/AIDS pandemic has visited a myriad of challenges upon many households in Busia. Nearly every homestead has lost at least a person to the scourge. Worse still the region continues to loose its youthful people as majority of the person who succumb to AIDs age below 35 years , leaving behind not only young widows and orphans but  also with no wealth or property to rely on for basic needs. Due to this there’s always exodus of orphans dropping out of school and widows to fishing islands within the vast Lake Victoria also to the trading centres where prostitution is too high and hence becoming so difficult to control the spread of the deadly disease.
  • The rampant Child labour in the County is a consequence of so many child led households. 

1.) Come Out to Participate in Politics

2.) Quality matters over Quantity
Make contributions to your community based on personal experience

  • Focus on the changes that will make a direct impact

3.) Use Your Intuition & Experiences as a Young Women to Create Solutions
Achieving development goals needs the ideas of smart young people

  • Be vocal in the community, and collaborate with other young leaders to make your voice and vision stronger

August 27, 2011

Hundreds of Kenyan Women March to Parliament to Secure 2/3rds Rule

A police officer guards the doors of parliament, as Kenyan women
activists demand access to their legislators.

August 25, 2011

Bunge La Mwananchi: The People’s Parliament

Ms. Beatrice Karore shows her Voter ID Card before
voting at the 2011 Bunge La Mwananchi elections.
To vote in Kenya, every voter must possess one.
Kenya is a country that until recently, has had no formal local governments---only a national  government with  positions  frequently filled with people of power, money, and political party influence.  Involvement in governance by ordinary members of the community has been limited, and the Bunge La Mwananchi or People’s Parliament evolved in 2008 as an alternative citizen governance body to unite together members of every tribe and regional community of Kenya in shadow parliaments.  As past president, Samson Owimba Ojiayo noted, “Bunge La Mwananchi is a platform which was started to discuss the social, political, and economic status of the citizens of this country, in Africa and the world at large.”

When I arrived at the Bunge La Mwananchi elections at JeeVanGee Park in central Nairobi on the August 17th, 2011, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I had been invited to witness the election process, which happens  every two years, by Ms. Beatrice Karore, a Nairobi resident who was running to become Coordinator of the Bunge La Mwananchi. 

Unlike most elections that I have witnessed, the Bunge La Mwananchi elections were held outdoors in the center of JeVanGee park, one of Nairobi’s public park.  No campaign signs, nor campaigning (contestants vying for seats were required to end campaigning  the day before, and I was kindly reminded not to mention any names , as it could be inferred as support for specific candidates), or protests of any sort.  Instead, I found an orderly process that appeared to be held to high accountability standards.  As I traced the long line of voters to the front of the line, I found an election chairman overseeing a voting process that included signing in, showing your voter card, filling out ballots for each of the seven positions being contested, depositing your votes into the appropriate buckets, and receiving a purple stamp that indicated that you had voted.  The entire process was monitored by a row of election observers who seemed to be quite diligent. With 450 members expected to cast their ballots, the voting process really could take all day!

The absence of women members was disconcerting to me; during the time I was there, I counted over sixty male participants and only six women participants.  Male members noted that there organization was inclusive and open to women, but enough did not come out and participate---placing much blame on the Kenyan culture, which has marginalized women in the political arena.   Some noted that the Bunge may implement the new Constitution’s rules on gender(no more than 2/3rds of an elected body can be of a single gender) to reflect the new rules of the land.

From the experience of watching the Bunge La Mwananchi elections, I can say that I am impressed by the level of civic participation in some circles of Kenya.  Beyond shadow parliaments, you can find political forums in local vernacular languages on street corners of central Nairobi on a daily basis.  I am curious to learn about political activism in other parts of Kenya and to compare and contrast civic involvement across the country.

The photo essay below illustrates the Bunge La Mwananchi process.  Hope you enjoy!

Voters---mostly men, wait in an orderly line to vote for new Bunge La  Mwananchi  leadership at the JeeVan Gee Park in Central Nairobi on August 17, 2011.

Ms. Beatrice Karore, a candidate for the seat of Coordinator, stands at the front of the line to vote at the 2011 Bunge La Mwananchi elections.

"People's Parliament" member, Florence Kanyua, prepares to vote.

Voters mark their candidate choice for each position on paper ballots.

Ms. Beatrice Karore casts her ballot into a plastic bucket.

Vigilant election observers watch as Ms. Beatrice Karore cast her ballot.

After casting her ballot, Ms. Beatrice Karore receives a purple stamp to show that she has voted.

After voting, members of the Bunge La Mwananchi greet one another and talk politics.

Mr. Otieno Cidi David, a candidate for president of the Bunge La Mwananchi, proudly shows the purple stamp that has been placed on his palm.

August 23, 2011

MEET THE CANDIDATE: Ms. Cathy Wanjiku Irungu: Candidate for County Assembly Representative in Nairobi County

Catherine “Cathy” Wanjiku Irungu

                        Age 27
 Candidate for Women Representative
             Mathira Constituency
                    Nyeri County

“Women need to have synergy in what they are doing….so that as we try to address challenges and we try to make Kenya a better place, we do it has one.”

When I first met Cathy Irungu in passing on the street, I could feel her wave of confidence and self-assurance from a mile away.  Business owner, second-time candidate, ngo-founder, and citizen mobilizer; these could be the job titles of many people, but Cathy, at only the age of 27 embodies each and every one of these roles.

Starting her first business as the age of 17, Cathy followed in the footsteps of her father who was a farmer and entrepreneur in Nyeri County in Central Kenya.  The lessons she learned as the eldest child in her family translated into skills that she would utilize as a class prefect and later head girl during her early education at D.E.B. Ndimaini Primary School and Muruguru Girls High School.

When she left her village to study biochemistry and molecular biology at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology(JKUAT), she subsequently discovered her intuitive talent for political engagement when she became a student leader in university government.  It was also during her formidable period in her life that she became involved in national political campaigning and the party system. Unlike many of her peers, who saw their university educations as a ticket for finding a job to work for someone else, Cathy challenged the norm by forging her own pathway as an entrepreneur, problem solver and candidate for office.

Her life-long observation of the environmental, social and cultural barriers that challenged farmers in her village of Ndimaini from reaching their greatest economic potential lead her to start the African Food Security & Environmental Program (AFSEP).  Cathy also saw the need for educated young people to have a platform for connecting their ideas to those who could fund and implement them, and become the Kenya representative for Infospring---an online resource for development professionals and members of the community to exchange solutions for complex challenges. With a strong business background and a desire to help other women, she co-founded the Kenyan Women Chamber of Commerce (KWCC).

When Cathy began her quest for office as a candidate for Parliament in 2007, she saw it as a starting point for her role in governance----the place where she could bring the greatest positive change for her village and the people of Nyeri County that she cared so much about.  Although she knew she was young, she embraced the call to office:  “I’ll start right now. I’ll go for it!  I will not wait until I’m 30.  I will not wait until I’m 35.” 

Cathy is among the many women in Kenya who tirelessly campaigned for the implementation of Kenya’s new constitution in 2010.  Among other rights such as landownership, women gained access to political leadership in the New Constitution by way of a new rule that says that no more than any gender can occupy more than 2/3rds of elected or appointed office and new Women Representative seats in each county.  In light of these positive changes, Cathy has found a window of opportunity to run for county Women Representative in her home of Nyeri County.  This time around she is not only trusted more in her community, but also has a more mature understanding of how to operate her campaign in the context of a the new constitution which encourages women like Cathy to participate in governance.  Cathy’s commitment to engaging other women in leadership and community engagement is evident through the robust Nakuru County Women’s Network and the Nairobi County Women’s Forum , which she regularly mobilizes through civic engagement on issues affecting girls and women in governance. Her grassroots relationships are sure to become a cornerstone of support for her candidacy.

Here are some quick notes from Cathy’s formal video interview (to be posted soon):

1.) Agriculture
      a. Food Security
            i. Need to increase food production in Nyeri County.
            ii. Improvement of coffee, tea and Dairy sectors.
            iii. Improved market access for agricultural produce.
            iv. Farmers training on new farming techniques.
            v. Policies that address food security in the region.
            vi. Poverty alleviation
2.) Environment/Climate Change is endangering lifestyles
             i. Need to address climate change and environmental degradation sustainably.
             ii. Plant more trees.
             iii. Green businesses.
3.) Education
             i. Employing measures that uplift education standards for both genders.

4.) Women's Empowerment
             i. Through Agriculture, Trainings, Improved health and trade.
             ii. Representing women at the National Assembly.

5.) Enterprise Development
            i. Enhance development of small and Micro enterprises.

6.) Creation of Employment opportunities for the local Youths
           i. Through design and implementation of job creation strategies such as addition and trade.
           Industrialization, ICT, Value
7.) Enhance Good Governance
          i. Through accountability, transparency, Integrity and Gender mainstreaming.

1.) Perceptions as a young, single candidate
         i. Gaining acceptance on the ground
2.) Encouraging women to vote for other women
3.) Finding resources for running a campaign
         i. “Vote Buying” is common
4.) Historically, the nomination process by parties has not been“Free & Fair”

1.)  Build a network of other women running for office
         i. There is power in numbers
2.)  Encourage women to support other women…even if in other provinces
3.)  Start Now!!!  Don’t wait to run for office.
3.)  Work with men in your campaign and networks.
5.)  Address real issues affecting your constituents.

August 17, 2011

WEEK 1 in Kenya

When I came to Kenya a week ago, I never imagined that my kinship to the 2012 elections and the women candidates running would grow as quickly as it has.  With every new phone conversation, coffee meeting, or impromptu introduction, I become more intrigued by the election process in Kenya and the prospects for women, youth and disability candidates’ inclusion in the government under the new constitution.

My vocabulary is quickly expanding---Merry-Go-Rounds(a common way to pool resources to fund initiatives/projects), Flashing(in reference to how people in Kenya give each other their cell phone numbers), and the intriguing concept of Devolution.  Devolution, or the move from only federal government to one in which 47 new county governments in Kenya will play equally important roles as the parliament, has become the everyday conversation in the news and on the streets.  Not only will Kenya expand the number of elected seats it needs to fill in 2011, but will also be expected to meet the mandates of a  new Constitution.

What is unique about the new Kenyan constitution is the special emphasis that it places on ensuring that no gender occupies more than 2/3rds of county or parliamentary seats.  Stipulations in the Constitution create special seats for women, youth and disability candidates.  From the perspective of a young American, this is quite astounding.  These special positions, along with the 2/3rds gender limit, are mobilizing many more women candidates to consider running for office.  

With great opportunity, also comes great challenge.  Even with designated seats, women face deceptively difficult cultural and social barriers to getting elected to office in Kenya.  In conversation with both men and women, currently elected and potential candidates, I have learned that winning a seat in parliament or in one of the many new seats created at the county level will take party participation, money and resources, passion for issues that will mobilize voters, and the resilience to weather through the turbulence of the “rough and tumble” campaigns that have in the past rigged candidates out of nominations, inflicted physical violence, and resulted in the “buying of votes”.

Although the above aforementioned challenges are unique, they are not so different from the ones that withhold women in the United States from choosing to run for office.  As caregivers and mothers, we often leave the “dirty” world of politics to the men.  As I have heard repeated many times this week and in other forums, “elected women care about issues and elected men care about power and money.”  If more women were involved in governance in a place in Kenya, perhaps more rural villages would have clean drinking water (the number one priority of rural women), and the halls of Parliament held more accountable to the promises its leaders make to people it is intended to serve.

Over the next five weeks, my journey continues.  More formal video interviews with my initial group of women candidates, a training for young women leaders, as well as a criss-crossing journey across Kenya to visit and photograph the candidates in their  the diverse constituencies.  

August 4, 2011

Running Start: Planting the Seeds of Inspiration for the Next Generation of Women Political Leaders

Running Start is the perfect name for an organization that empowers girls and young women with the confidence, leadership, and political skills they need to have a “head start” as they become change makers, candidates for office, and eventually elected representatives.  Although I have followed and participated in the work of Running Start since its founding in 2007, I had the unique opportunity to document their Young Women’s Political Leadership Program several weeks ago. 
Unlike the perceptions one may may infer when they think of a “political training”, the Young Women’s Political Leadership Program was dynamic, engaging, real and inspirational---in fact the diverse gathering of participants were all under the age of 20.  Although the girls expressed the maturity, communications skills and focus of individuals far beyond their age in years, their choruses of conversation and attachment to mobile phones were reminders of their youthfulness. 

The girls were not afraid of stating their political ambitions----perhaps reflecting a changing societal attitude towards women’s leadership in elected bodies in the United States.  They were confident of their skills and seemed to embrace the training challenges with audacity. I watched as the girls competitively role-played candidates and donors to raise money, and participated in mock elections with the seriousness of actual candidates----real budgets, consultants, and time constraints.  During their on-camera media trainings, the young leaders faced tough critiques of their interviewing skills as they answered questions from guest communications experts.

I am optimistic that their energy and commitment to following their passion will spread to you as you check out the above photo slideshow.

If you are a young women or a mentor to a young women interested in politics, I encourage you to learn more about Running Start at

June 30, 2011

Her Story Wins Begins NOW....

Jambo Rafiki!

My name is Ellie Van Houtte, and I am a young female photographer and creative communications professional from Washington, DC in the United States.

I first became interested in increasing women’s political participation while interning with Congresswomen Marcy Kaptur, the longest serving female representative in the US Congress. Her dedication to her community and addressing the needs of working families inspired me to lead a career focused on finding ways to support women in political and community leadership.

During my early career, I worked on the campaigns of many women candidates, including Hillary Clinton’s 2008 Presidential Campaign. I witnessed the challenges that women candidates faced---including stereotypes about their capabilities, stigmatizing perceptions of how they would balance their political responsibilities with their family and personal life, lack of fundraising skills, and less media coverage than male counterparts. As a photographer, women’s advocate, and creative storyteller, I thought there was something I could do to change the picture.

After meeting Jared Ondieki, the founder of CEPACET (The Center for Partnership and Civic Engagement), an organization that creates programs that help bring social justice, democracy, and peace to vulnerable Kenyan citizens, the Her Story Wins project emerged as a creative way to raise awareness of courageous women running for office and to connect women candidates in the US and Kenya together. The Her Story Wins project will tell the stories of women candidates in a way that dispels the myths associated with political power and highlights the positive influence that women candidates have on their communities. If voters see women candidates first as mothers, caregivers, volunteers and local community leaders---roles that reflect themselves, I am confident that more women will make the decision to vote for female candidates, as well as run for political office themselves.

I hope you will follow the "Her Story Wins" project by email updates from the blog and on twitter.  Beginning in July of 2011, I will be posting regular video interviews and photo slideshows.
Her Story Wins is an independent project and is not affiliated with or funded by any organization, or government.