Leading from the front

Irene Kamanda

My name is Irene Kamanda, and I am a teacher at Kisima Girls’ High School, in Samburu County. This is in the Northern Region of Kenya: an area where security is a far-fetched dream, and cattle rustling and banditry is the order of the day.

The girls themselves do not believe that they deserve to be empowered. I am speaking of girls who are brought up knowing they are worth a few cows since that’s what their dowry is. They are there to be seen, not to be heard.

When I heard about the Award (in Kenya it’s known as The President’s Award), I realised this was what my girls truly needed.

A role in their community

I have seen timid girls improve their self-esteem to levels that are unbelievable because they were given a chance by the Award to make decisions for themselves and organise their own schedule. Students who were truants and had difficulties settling down totally transformed to be responsible young people. I’ve seen leaders being nurtured. I have seen young people leading from the front knowing they have a role to play in their community.

During the Residential Project we chose to have a workshop on the realities of female genital mutilation. We got health personnel to explain to the girls why the practice was more destructive than constructive. It was a real eye opener to them and you should have seen their eyes as they swore to protect their sisters, daughters, and friends from the barbaric act. On the girls’ insistence, we then organised a one week workshop in our school, bringing together over 150 local girls to pass on the message.

I deserve it

The highlight of the Award is that moment the participants receive their Gold Award. They get a chance to visit State House and shake hands with the President. Imagine girls from a marginalised community now getting a chance to dine with the most powerful man in the country, and this is because she was given the platform by the Award. One girl told me, “I now believe I can achieve any goal I set. Because I deserve it.”

In my school, 200 out of 250 students are now participating in the Award. I am proud to deliver The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award! 


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