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African Girl Rises To Become Global Leader
You never know when the poor child in Africa you help to educate might grow up to be the next Nelson Mandela, Bill Gates or Mother Teresa. Vivian Onano is living that story.
Raised in rural Kenya, she joined Africa 2.0 and has become a major player in international circles at a young age. Last year, she was invited to address the United Nations General Assembly. She is an activist working for the rights of women and girls around the world.
Understating things a bit, she says, “I grew up with so little and many people have contributed to my journey, granted me opportunities that have ended up transforming my life in major ways. As a result, I have decided that my purpose in life is to give hope and enable others to have similar opportunities.”
She sees the plight of others as her primary cause. “I have seen women all over the world continue to fall victim to: gender violence, lack of access to education, inequality and discrimination at work, female genital mutilation, and lack of economic empowerment–among many others.”
To better understand her story, I asked about the challenges she’s faced. “Having been born in a community that did not value girls education was a major challenge. This, coupled with coming from a family that had so little, it was almost a given that I was going to be married off like many other girls that I saw.”
“Luckily, that did not happen. My mother strived to make sure I had access to quality education that has enabled me to grow into a global citizen. It was really tough for a girl from an impoverished family to make it, for a girl from the village without an education and I am so thankful that I am no longer a statistic,” she added.
As a result of her good fortune, Vivian feels an obligation to help others. “Having been given that opportunity, I strive every day to pay it forward and enable many other girls to have access to this basic human right of education .”
“I have taken it upon myself to be an agent of change,” she says. “I have been doing this through lending my voice and time to these causes that I am passionate of. Also, now I have the opportunity to interact with top leaders and government officials, thus lobbying them to give these issues major attention. Every change starts with a simple action.
As I tried to understand her remarkable story, I asked to what she credits her success.
I attribute my success to my strong educational foundation, hard work, determination, family support, access to the right network and steadfast faith. Education has enabled me to develop a voice of my own and be a role model for many young girls from my village and even globally. I am a resilient person who constantly dreams big and because of my dreams, I have an action plan and direction in my life. To be honest, sometimes I do feel like my dreams are just too grandiose but I am also of the firm belief that with hard work everything is possible. Since birth, I have been of strong faith and so is my entire family, and that keeps us going even during tough times.
Vivian is optimistic, despite the horrors she works to address every day. “I believe soon all these issues will be a myth,” she concluded.
Vivian will join me for a live discussion about her work in Africa and around the world. Due to technical difficulties, we’ve had to postpone the live interview. When we reschedule we’ll update this page and alert you via social media. Tune in here then to watch the interview live. Post questions in the comments below or tweet questions before the interview to @devindthorpe.
[At the time of the interview, I will insert a video player here. Bookmark this page and come back then to watch the interview live. Replays will be available here thereafter. If you have a question you’d like asked tweet me (@devindthorpe).]
More about Africa 2.0 Foundation:
Africa 2.0 is a Pan-African civil society organized that has footprints across the African continent and into the diaspora. The organization has been in existence in just over 5 years and so far we have managed to create a reputation as the leading institution in bringing together young and promising Africans. We are also known as the D-Think-tank, a Think-Tank that does things. We are very action oriented around advocacy such as Re-branding Africa by Africans and empowering young people through access to entrepreneurship training and mentorship.
Vivian Onano, courtesy of Africa 2.0
Vivian Onano is a women and girls’ advocate and youth leader who was born and raised in rural Kenya. Her arduous upbringing has forged her strong commitment to education, to women, and to leadership. Vivian has a deep interest in re-defining Africa’s growth and development. A Moremi fellow, she is recognized as one the top 25 emerging women leaders with the courage to lead change on the African continent.
Vivian recently graduated Carthage College and currently is the Community and Partnerships Manager at Africa 2.0 Foundation. She is a Youth Advisor to the UN Women Global Civil Society Advisory Group, Women Deliver Young Leader and a Global Youth Advocate for the Mara Mentor Program.
Vivian has held various leadership positions, including serving as a Congressional District Leader for ONE Campaign in Wisconsin, a campus advocate for the United Nations Association-USA, and a Half the Sky Movement community ambassador. She is also the Education Spokesperson for Moremi Africa, a Global Youth Ambassador for A World At School, and a 2014 Change Maker Fellow with the Nantucket Project.
Vivian has a diverse background working with a variety of organizations, including the MasterCard Foundation, where she served as an external reviewer for their scholarship program in Sub-Saharan Africa. As a blogger for Huffington Post, she uses her oral and written communication skills in service of her passion –– providing holistic and innovative approaches to solving community problems. Vivian actively advocates for women and girls’ issues and youth entrepreneurship in Africa.
Vivian is a respected speaker who often speaks on global education, finding one’s passion and purpose, gender equality, youth entrepreneurship/empowerment, and international development. She has presented at the United Nations General Assembly, Nexus Global Youth Summit, and the Clinton Global Initiative, among others. She also served as a United Nations Youth Representative and was profiled as one of the 70 outstanding leaders of United Nations Association -USA. Intel featured Vivian as a Girl Rising hero. Vivian has a vision and dream to help create an inclusive world for everyone. She can be reached via Twitter (@vivianonano).