YALI Voices: Sharon’s Story

The shaping of tomorrow’s female leaders begins with providing the necessary resources to increase their skills. That’s what Sharon Jesscah, a YALI Network member from Kisumu City, Kenya, had in mind when she began her organization, Peperusha BINTI. After taking the YALI Network Online Course Understanding the Rights of Women and Girls, Sharon began hosting menstrual education events to provide hygiene products to local schoolgirls to help them remain in school during their menstrual cycles. Sharon’s goal is to supply the means for schoolgirls to remain in school year-round by coaching them on methods of self-care and self-confidence.

Check out this video to hear how Sharon invests her passion and resources in the future of young women and read the interview with Sharon below to learn more about her work.

YALI Network Interview with Sharon Jesscah

What process did you use to prioritize a particular issue in your community? What actions did you initially see as feasible? Can you personally relate to this issue as a member of the community?

Sharon: At first, it was very difficult to get project supporters. Over time, I learned a new way to climb the ladder and push through dwelling on the initial lack of donations. I realized that a lot of the young girls and their families could only afford the basics of food and shelter. So I had sympathy for them and compassion to help the girls benefit in the long run through keeping them in school.

Can you share the marketing tools that have proved to be the most successful in notifying locals about Peperusha BINTI? What YALI Network materials were the most beneficial?

Sharon: The YALI Network Online Courses helped me with gaining leadership skills and starting projects. Outside of the YALI Network, I make posters that advertise the importance of keeping girls in school and my event information, but not too much information in order to have people seek more about the subject by attending the event itself. I also post this information on social media, such as Facebook.

How were you able to effectively utilize your resources to gather donations?

Sharon: I give donors, usually friends and family, a time duration for when I’m accepting donations. I then set the official date of the event that I have planned and begin the marketing portion. I have to wait for all donations to come in before hosting an event, which is usually a period of two months to give people time. As of late, we have been providing more than menstrual hygiene products, but also clothes for the girls who need them. I typically receive two to three large boxes of maxi pads, which is the equivalent of 800–1,000 value of Kenyan shillings, or $17 USD per box.

What is the general structure of one of your program events?

Sharon: The events are usually hosted in a community hall, or sometimes school classrooms in rural areas. We begin by discussing personal hygiene and with a Q&A session. Then we move to distributing donations and end with a group photo.

What advice can you give to people who are looking to change aspects in their community but lack experience in organizing events?

Sharon: It doesn’t matter who you are, the changes you can make in you community matter more than the individual. You need to have heart even if you have nothing. You need to have an idea before you have the cash because people will be blessed in the long run.

Do you have strategies for handling last-minute changes or unexpected/difficult situations?

Sharon: I don’t believe that ‘last-minute’ is ideal, but there are times when you have to adapt to it regardless. If things don’t work out the first time, make necessary changes for the next event to run smoother and learn from your mistakes; don’t dwell on them.

How do you measure an event’s success?

Sharon: I use social media to receive feedback from girls who have attended my events, and they are always very pleased. I also rely on other local YALI leaders who encourage me to keep my initiatives going. I believe that life and legacy are measured by what you do for others, not just who you are.

Since you joined the YALI Network in 2016, what have you learned that has improved your event planning skills for the future? Do you have any new projects in the making? Do men and boys have any involvement in your events and overall goals?

Sharon: I have learned through the teachings of other YALI Network members, as well as through the completion of YALI Network courses. The courses that have proven the most pivotal for my journey are Understanding the Rights of Women and Girls and Servant Leadership. So far, I am still accepting donations before the end of November to host at least one more big event for this year. Next year, I hope to partner with Footprints for Change to begin some larger initiatives. In addition to educating women and girls, I teach men and boys about hygiene as well. They too must understand the needs of women and girls in order to be of better service to them, as well as know how to conduct individual self-care.

Have you partnered with other YALI Network members on any projects or events? If so, how?

Sharon: I have not partnered directly with them yet, but as a future goal, I want to partner with the YALI Network to further promote my program, as well as UNICEF Kenya because they can provide strong support for the girls. Maxi Pad would also be a very helpful third party because their products have been very helpful.

Have you taught any YALI Network courses? How were they received? What worked best? What last words of advice can you give to aspiring leaders and those with the heart to change their community?

Sharon: Yes, I have taught three courses so far on the topic of gender-based violence. I was also invited for a radio interview, where I discussed what I’ve learned from the Understanding the Rights of Women and Girls, Servant Leadership and Entrepreneurship courses. My advice is to never give up, no matter how down or little you feel. With that, the smaller you are, the bigger a future you can make for yourself and others. A lot of youth want things to happen fast, but some things take more time than others to make the most effective impact.

Interested in Sharon’s story? Learn how you can support the rights of women and girls on our Africa4Her page.

The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government. YALI Voices is a series of podcasts, videos and blogs contributed by members of the YALI Network.

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