A discussion with Knight Muteti, an NGO founder empowering vulnerable girls and young mothers in Kenya to realize their full potential

Knight Muteti is the Founder, and Executive Director at Daughters of Kenya (DoK), a National Trust Organization in Kenya focused on empowering vulnerable girls and young mothers in Kenya under the Mantra; RESCUE – EDUCATE – EMPOWER. Established in 2016, DoK is run by an able staff team of five (5) professionals, twelve (12) community champions, and an advisory panel of seven (7) with a vision is to have a society where vulnerable girls and young mothers are empowered, and able realize their full potential.

Knight Muteti, Founder, and Executive Director at Daughters of Kenya (DoK)

Knight is a Global Citizen and Ashoka Visionary Leader who has also participated in leadership Training, Forums, Workshops, Conferences and Global Meetings across East Africa, Rwanda, Nigeria, South Africa, Italy, Norway and Malaysia. She was conferred the Award of ICONIC WOMEN CREATING A BETTER WORLD FOR ALL at the Global Women Economic Forum 2017 held on May 8 -13, 2017, in New Delhi, India.

Below is her interview with Business Insider Africa

BI Africa: Who is Knight Muteti? And what does she stand for?

Knight: Knight Muteti is an educated, dedicated, experienced Professional Social Worker, Founder and Executive Director at Daughters of Kenya (DoK). She is also a trained Social Entrepreneur under the Ashoka Visionary Leaders Program. Knight has a strong passion for alleviating the suffering of vulnerable girls and young women around the world, and she desires to play an integral part in enacting this. She has been at the forefront of empowering vulnerable girls and young mothers in Kenya under the Mantra; RESCUE – EDUCATE – EMPOWER, representing the four (4) Pillars of Daughters of Kenya. She believes that the empowerment of women and girls makes them catalysts of change.

BI Africa: What inspired you to start the Daughters of Kenya?

Knight: My late Father inspired me to start Daughters of Kenya (DoK). Growing up in rural Eastern Kenya, my father was a Politician and Human Rights Defender, whereas my mother was and is still a teacher. I witnessed many vulnerable children come to our home to seek refuge from my father due to lack of food or school fees; I also witnessed children walk to school barefooted and without school uniforms and food. The most vulnerable were the girls, who had no one to go to, especially during their periods. I made a vow to myself that after my University education, I would be a voice for the voiceless girls and a role model; little did I know that this would be my full-time career. Today, DoK is a National Trust Organization here in Kenya guided by Christian Values working towards improving and changing the lives of vulnerable girls and young mothers in Kenya.

BI Africa: You partnered with the Founder and author of SMARTWAYTOSTART.com, Dr Mara Harvey, to create a new version of her book in Swahili and English. Can you explain a little how you did that?

Knight: Dr. Mara Catherine Harvey is special to me and a dear friend to Daughters of Kenya as an organization. DoK was a few months old when I first met Dr. Mara in Rome, Italy, at the Women's International Networking (WIN) Conference. I requested her to attend the "Young Leader" Forum workshop session, where I was one of the speakers. We later had lunch together; since then, the rest is history as she has often supported DoK in numerous projects. During the International Day of the Girl Child 2020, Dr. Mara presented this special gift to us. The management team identified SDGs Kenya Forum as a strategic partner with whom we worked together to illustrate the book to African set-up as well as translate the book into Swahili.

BI Africa: On a broader scale, then, in terms of the general public – how did you think Kenyan parents would welcome the book?

Knight: Well, the current Government of Kenya has already created awareness around the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through its big four agenda (pillars) / SDGs, i.e. Infrastructure, Affordable Housing, Universal Health Care and Agriculture/ Climate Change. This way, parents have familiarized themselves with the Sustainable Development Goals and will be optimistic about the SDGs Children's book, which will be a big plus to train the children as they grow. To accelerate the process, Daughters of Kenya is collaborating with the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) to ensure that the book for children is absorbed as a learning instrument in the Kenyan syllabus. By so doing, parents and the government will ensure every child has the book.

BI Africa: Access to education seems to be a common problem for both genders in developing countries. Why girls? Why not children in remote areas generally?

Knight: Sure, I agree with you that access to education seems to be a common problem for both genders in developing countries, but girls are majorly the most vulnerable in cases of poverty. Generally, boys are seen as assets to the family and therefore educated to uplift and bring fortune to the family in future. In contrast, girls are seen as useless who will be married off and probably be forgotten. In some African countries, Kenya being one of them, there are tribes that practice Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), which acts as a rite of passage to become women and potential wives from the age of five (5) to nine (9). This deprives the girl of her rights, and her education is terminated, leading to Child Marriage. Some girls become mothers, others die during the FGM process, and the poverty circle continues. Another reason that makes girls not progress with education is Teenage Pregnancy.

Daughters of Kenya Education Program has instituted an intervention focusing on Mentorship, Counseling, Motivational Speaking, Sponsorship and Referral as part of a strategy to raise girls' educational standards in Kenya. In our counselling interventions, we enlist professional counsellors to support young girls in trauma to gain courage and return to school. DoK also uses peer education approaches to implement its school-based life skills and child protection programs. We also work with Mentors who are successful women from different locations to motivate young girls in schools to pursue education as the ultimate alternative to ending poverty among women in Kenya. Our referral program seeks to link distressed young women to relevant service providers, including counsellors and mentors, to help them overcome existing life challenges and pursue more fulfilling life engagements, particularly those touching on education. For the Sponsorship project, we have partnered with the Kenya Institute of Social Work and Community Development, where we sponsor 5girls for either Diploma or Certificate course every two years. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Children's Book introduced in Kenya by Daughters of Kenya targets all the children in Kenya and beyond. The 2030 Agenda for the Sustainable Development adopted by all United Nations members provides a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for them and the planet, now and into the future.

BI Africa: What are some initiatives you are doing as a leader? Tell us about the Daughters of Kenya's plans for the future. What campaigns, programmes, or projects do you have coming up in the next five years?

Knight: As an Ashoka Visionary leader and to ensure the Sustainability of DoK, I have established Uzima Livelihood Kenya, a Social Enterprise initiated under the Livelihood and Economic Empowerment for Sustainability Program. "Uzima" is a Swahili word meaning "Life", as I believe that we are giving Life to vulnerable girls and young mothers and sustaining the organization. The Social Enterprise (UZIMA) serves as our point of contact with the community and a Vocational training and Resource Centre for the vulnerable girls and young mothers. The centre will aim to provide essential health services, education and economic empowerment opportunities to vulnerable girls and women with the support of their local community.

Currently, DoK is implementing the Chanua Dada Project. "Chanua" is a Swahili word to mean "Flourish", hence, "Flourish a Daughter". The goal of the project is to enhance the development of the skills of vulnerable teenage girls and young mothers so that they can manage their well-being and the stability of their households, participate in the social and economic development of their communities, and live in the shelter of hope.

In future, DoK envisions having an Educational Institute called Daughters of Kenya Institute of Entrepreneurship (DOKIE), which we have already registered with relevant government authorities. DoK will ensure that there are Artisan Certificate courses in DOKIE that will allow these young women to access learning opportunities, gain transferable skills and transition from school to work. DOKIE Artisan Certificate courses will focus on sectors that do not require high educational requirements, namely, Catering, Hairdressing and Beauty Therapy, Dressmaking and Fashion Design, Basic Digital Literacy and Agribusiness. The project will also integrate the self-help concept where vulnerable girls and young mothers are formally registered into Self-Help Groups where they can access the National Government Affirmative Action Funds (NGAAF).


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