Think Creative - Issue 1

Creative Life a mission-driven community 26 | Think Creative | Issue 1 Raised in a small village among the Kisii people of southwest Kenya, Jackie Ogega witnessed discrimination and violence against women and girls firsthand. Those early experiences were formative, setting her on a path that would change the lives of thousands of men, women and children across the globe. “We were not supposed to be educated because we were girls,” she says. “Living that expe- rience, shaped my understanding of gender barriers around the world.” Despite gender norms, Ogega’s mother was de- termined for Jackie and her siblings–who were all girls–to attend high school and university. “My mother made it clear to us that as women, we had a right to speak on the podium,” says Ogega. “Her support for receiving an education laid the foundation for me to explore new ways on how to promote gender equality.” For about two decades, Ogega has poured her energy and time into academic and profession- al research on gender and peacebuilding initia- tives, to better understand the components of a gender transformative approach. Her first degree was in education, and then she received a master’s in gender and devel- opment and a doctorate in peace and conflict studies with a focus on gender equality, all very much grounded in her personal story and life experience. “I was fascinated by theories of freedom and agency, and keenly aware of what gender dis- crimination involved,” she says. Ogega’s passion for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls has taken her to 40 countries around the world. Now a Senior Associate at Creative, she is lead- ing the organization’s strategic direction on a Gender Transformative Approach. Creative’s Gender Transformative Approach engages both males and females to tackle the gender barriers that are present in communi- ties to ensure our world is much more equita- ble, says Ogega. “We are not talking only about the theoretical, we are talking about very practical and real application in the lives of people,” she says. Applying a Gender Transformative Approach in development initiatives helps to overcome restrictive gender norms, improve project results and promote equitable progress that improves the lives of all. “To look at a problem through a gender lens means that we are able to analyze the prob- lem based on the particular circumstances, positions, roles and needs of men, boys, women and girls,” explains Ogega. “Then we can tailor solutions to address structural barriers and change attitudes and perceptions of the community, resulting in a much more effective development intervention.” Fromworkforce development in Nicaragua to education in Nigeria, Creative’s gender-inte- grated programs have fostered safe schools, supported women’s leadership and entrepre- neurship, and reduced gender-based violence. Ogega believes that sustainable development depends on women and men having equal economic opportunities and an enabling environment to develop their full potential and contribute to their communities and societies. To Ogega, there is no greater accomplishment than touching the lives of real people, and empowering them to lead their own positive transformations. “It is possible to bring equitable change for both males and females and to live in more cohesive, inclusive and resilient communities,” she says. “I have seen women’s lives—and the lives of their families and communities— change for the better.” n Photo by Skip Brown Jackie Ogega A champion for gender equality Staff Spotlight