Caren Wakoli is well-known for her work to champion youth development and empowerment efforts across Africa. What most don’t know is the journey she took to get there.
In her formative years, Caren and her siblings were often asked to leave school because her family could not afford to pay school fees—a hurdle that impacts many aspiring young people and their families.
A stroke of luck changed the trajectory of Caren’s life, when Ms. Mary Kui, a kind teacher and mentor stepped in to help her and her siblings. Years later, inspired by her own journey, Caren founded Emerging Leaders Foundation (ELF). Through life skills training and mentorship, ELF helps young people achieve their dreams and impact their own communities. Its transformational work creates pathways for girls and women to live dignified lives.
To date, ELF has trained more than 1,000 young people, with half of them being young girls. It is now expanding its work to challenge barriers that keep girls out of school, including societal and cultural barriers such as early marriages, teen pregnancy, the practice of female genital mutilation and more. They also work to ensure that young mothers in their programs are adequately supported through childcare and that their voices are heard.
Our partnership with ELF stems from the belief that young people hold the key to unlocking Africa’s potential and that empowering them to take action and champion change in their communities is critical for their success. Equally important, ELF’s gender-responsive focus aligns with our commitment to supporting an equitable future for girls by empowering them to be leaders in their own lives and within their communities. We know that gender gaps in education widen significantly at the time of adolescence due to the compounding disadvantages faced by girls, including negative gender norms. And while completion of primary education is high amongst girls, it falls to a dismal 39% in upper secondary.
"Supporting girls is critical for Africa’s future and for our global community. Our gender-responsive approach ensures that we support the holistic development of young girls who then become values-based leaders and mentors to more girls in their communities." - Caren Wakoli, Founder and Executive Director, Emerging Leaders Foundation
Our Commitment to Creating a More Equal World for Women and Girls
ELF is one of our many partners working to support women and girls. In the spirit of International Day of the Girl Child, we illuminate the work that our partners are doing to create the future we imagine for girls—one that offers diverse and flexible learning pathways, provides leadership opportunities, develops their agency and supports their well-being.
We are grateful for the opportunity to work with such incredible partners, who envision a world where every girl can not only dream—but she can become her wildest and fullest aspiration. Learn more about our commitment to women and girls, our approach and partnerships and efforts in Kenya and South Africa.