(l-r) Kathy Calvin (President & CEO, United Nations Foundation), First Lady Gertrude Mutharika of the Republic of Malawi, and First Lady Penehupifo Pohamba of Namibia discuss Government’s Role in Empowering Girls and Women Entrepreneurs
(photo by Charlene Muhammad)
Mama Sarah Obama, President Barack Obama’s 94-year-old Kenyan grandmother pictured here with Oscar-nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis at the United Nations in New York City.
(Photo by Charlene Muhammad)
UNITED NATIONS – Mama Sarah Obama, the sole living grandparent of U.S. President Barack Obama, has created a legacy all her own.
The 94-year-old has launched the Mama Sarah Obama Foundation (MSOF) in Kenya after a lifetime of feeding and sheltering orphaned children and impoverished families. Now, she’s expanding her mission to educate women and children, particularly the “girl child,” as she says, through her Legacy Plan.
It features a school campus and hospital project for her community in Kogelo, Kenya, as well as an early childhood development center, a primary and secondary school, a vocational training school—all on one campus.
Mama Sarah told the very attentive gathering of female entrepreneurs during the Nov. 19 Global Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (WED) that school fees for women and girls are a major barrier to education for her community.
“The biggest challenge is because their parents died, especially from her country, their parents died from HIV/AIDS, so these kids are orphans. There’s really nobody to take care of them,” she stated through her translator, Debra Akello, executive director of the MSOF’s U.S. office.
“That’s what she’s saying. She picked up that task of getting these girls, these young women, education. [Through] the Mama Sarah Obama scholarship funds, she’s saying that some of these girls now, some of them are doctors. Some of them are engineers. There are some who are in the university so that’s the biggest challenge,” she continued.
While in the U.S., she visited schools in New York and Washington, D.C. and spoke on the importance of education as a speaker on WED’s “The Importance of Education for Entrepreneurs of the Future” panel.
Oscar-nominated actress Quvenzhané Wallis presented the elder education advocate with the Education Pioneer Award.WED, a celebration of female entrepreneurs, was founded by animal advocate Wendy Diamond. Day-long activities helped to launch its ‘Global Movement to Celebrate, Empower, and Support Women Entrepreneurs Worldwide.”
Other panels focused on how celebrity entrepreneurs can advance social good, the importance of education for entrepreneurs of the future, and government’s role in empowering girls and women entrepreneurs.
Her Excellency Madame Gertrude Mutharika, First Lady of the Republic of Malawi and Her Excellency Penehupifo Pohamba, First Lady of Namibia, also graced the celebration as panelists.
First Lady Pohamba gave a report on her country’s efforts to achieve economic development for women and girls, where the empowerment of women and girls is a constitutional right, she said.
She defined women empowerment as the ability of women to access health, education, employment, technology, access to land, and political participation.
“In this regard, it is imperative of governments to devote targeted programs aimed at empowering women and girls in order to improve their own life situations and enhance their potential for sustainable development and poverty alleviation,” First Lady Pohamba said.
She called on the private sectors and women entrepreneurs to support her government’s efforts in dealing with the plight of women and girls.
First Lady Pohamba congratulated Diamond and WED’s board for hosting the successful event, and she expressed gratitude to Reverend Marcia Dyson, founder and CEO of Women’s Global Initiative (a for-profit entity to enhance the lives of women via wealth, education and civil participation), who extended the invitation and helped to facilitate Mama Sarah Obama’s, First Lady Mutharika’s and her visit to the U.S.