“It would take the children in my neighborhood forever to find me,” Linda Chepkwony says, recalling the many times she played hide-and-seek as a kid in rural Kenya.
“Then later in the evening we would light a bonfire, telling stories and folk tales late into the night,” she said, recalling the sense of community the experience fostered.
Linda’s interest in connecting with others and in community-building came to a head when, years later, she learned more about the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and the economic resources available to her peers, namely women.
“Not many Kenyan women and youth were taking full advantage of AGOA,” Linda says. “I decided that I needed to plan an empowerment program to teach them about trade opportunities and how they can take advantage of them.”
It was then that Linda decided to host a YALILearns session on the YALI Network Online Course “Understanding the Rights of Women and Girls.” In it, Linda wove information on important AGOA standards and underlined for participants what they could do to not only take advantage of the initiative but also to achieve financial independence.
“Women are the backbone of our community,” Linda says. “When a woman is educated and empowered, her family will be empowered, her children will go to school, and she can mentor other women in her community.”
Linda advises young leaders planning YALILearns sessions to take advantage of social media platforms to get their message across.
“One challenge I faced in organizing my session was participant turnout,” Linda says. “I overcame it by not relying solely on face-to-face interactions but also on social media posts to create awareness and to share information about women’s role in the future of international trade.”
When planning her session felt overwhelming, Linda reminded herself to take everything in stride and to focus on the far-reaching benefits of her advocacy work.
“Changing minds requires patience and persistence,” Linda says. “Women’s empowerment is a journey, not a one-day conference or seminar.”
Linda also urges young leaders to take the first step toward their goals, irrespective of the support they’ve garnered.
“Don’t wait for others,” Linda says. “Look for opportunities to solve problems in your society; that is where you can make a breakthrough.”
It’s that insistence on addressing issues in her community that colors Linda’s work and lends it an urgency.
“I want to be remembered as a champion of women’s empowerment,” Linda says, “as someone who encouraged women to venture into international markets, as someone who did commendable work in her community.”
Interested in Linda’s work? Learn how you can organize your own session on women’s empowerment on our YALILearns page.