Ashoka’s Youth Venture is teaming up with the Malala Fund to profile stories of young changemakers around the world as part of the Stand #withMalala campaign surrounding the release of the film, HE NAMED ME MALALA.

Ashoka interviewed 21-year-old youth venturer and changemaker Christine Gatwiri (CG), who founded ‘Soh Wiki/1 Bob’ in Kenya at the age of 19. Soh Wiki & 1 Bob Initiative promotes basic financial education and academic mentorship to children from disadvantaged kids especially in homes and schools.

Youth Venture: “There is a moment where you have to choose, whether to be silent, or stand up,” says Malala. How do you feel when you hear these words?
CG: It’s true that it is a choice you make of whether to be silent or stand up. While growing up, especially in the African culture, young people and women are encouraged to stay silent rather than stand up especially to their elders. You just had to listen and not always express your opinion on things, so we tend to be silent and let the elders/leaders make decisions for us. This, I think, explains leadership in Africa and other social issues, but with time though and modern norms, we’ve become more aware and responsible for our own choices. Being silent holds one back from expressing themselves and tapping into their potential and learning.
Standing up especially to your beliefs, to societal issues gives one an opportunity to share their ideas, make a difference, create change or simply be heard. I choose to always stand up for myself, for my community so as to have that opportunity to be heard…to bring positive change… and do something without waiting for ‘someone else’ to do it.
I encourage the youth and women especially to stand up and create the future they want now rather than later.

YV: “I tell my story, not because it is unique, but because it is the story of many girls,” Malala says. What is your story for change-making and how do you feel it is tied to Malala or a broader movement for girls’ rights globally?
CG: When in high school, I used to collect 1 shilling coins as a hobby since many people easily disregarded it or used. Everyone knew that I collected them and would give me the coins. I had so much of it that it filled a bucket! Because I didn’t want to take it to the bank nor give it to a supermarket to use as change, I decided to use it to help out students from under-privileged schools to get stationery and food as they sat for their national final exams. This was my first project in 2013 which I had intended to do it once and that was it. However, after interacting with the kids and seeing how that made them happy and eager to study and work hard, I was inspired to make it something that I could always be doing. It was then that I realized I could be an agent of change, just by ensuring at least one person has been elevated in one way or another in their life. The matter of education and saving (hence 1 bob initiative) became important to me as I wanted to see that every child has an enabling environment as they pursue education, especially under-privileged schools.
Malala ensures that every girl child is able to go to school and learn, and I believe the same. Apart from promoting education we mentor the kids especially the girl child and encourage them to pursue their dreams, support their dreams as we are all equal.

YV: Share three words to describe how you feel about the world today. Then share three words to describe the state of the world in the future, as you would like to see it.
CG: Today: Innovative. Individualistic. Growth. Future: Peaceful. Equitable. Poverty-free.

YV: There are so many problems in the world. To any young person reading this that has not yet started their changemaker journey, what would you want them to learn and take-away from your personal efforts to be a changemaker?
CG: All it takes is your determination, eagerness and have passion for what you do.

YV: To any adult reading this, what would you want them to be aware of when it comes to gender equality, education and the role of young girls in the world today?
CG: For us to achieve world peace and prosperity, these issues need to be addressed and each one of us know that we are all equal. We need to eliminate gender disparity in all sectors of the economy especially education.

Every child has the right to access education and everyone is entitled to the same rights, men and women. Stand #withMalala and take action to achieve equality and support the girl child!

This article was originally published on 5 April 2017

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