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Activities > Learning About Kenyan Grassroots Efforts
Learning About Kenyan Grassroots Efforts
Sep 26, 2008 -- Dr. Gloria Willingham-Toure', Founder, The Village P.r.o.j.e.c.t.s and Joyce Oneko, Founder of Mama Na DaDa in Kenya, Africa spent a week with each other discussing their respective organizations recently in Paris, France. These two community leaders from different continents, and united by a common desire to inspire the reduction of health and education disparities, were both selected as midday workshop panelists at the 61st Annual UN NGO/DPI Conference. The conference was held at the UNESCO Headquarters, Paris, France. (http://www.un.org/dpi/ngosection/conference/workshwed5.shtml ). Ms. Oneko left her thriving law practice and chose to work with persons in the small Kenyan village she calls home. Realizing that the HIV/AIDS Epidemic was affecting too many, she founded Mama Na Da Da as a way of empowering grassroots villagers to become actively involved in making a difference. Concurrently, Joyce realized that the empowerment of girls in the village was necessary if the women were to ever become empowered. Later, she along with supporters hosted one of the largest gatherings of grassroots Kenya women in the history of the country. According to Ms. Oneko "They did not all speak the same languages, and some had different interests and goals. However, they all were united and empowered by their desire to make a difference. This will not be the last gathering of Kenyan women, this was just the beginning. We are here to stay." Dr. Willingham-Toure' after a successful multi-faceted career in healthcare and education founded "The Village P.r.o.j.e.c.t.s" She became increasingly cognizant that despite increases in African-American educators and health care providers, the population continued to be underserved. She began to contact these persons to assist in strategizing ways to connect/re-connect African-Americans and African Diaspora Immigrants to grassroots communities. She said recently: "As a first step it is important that we become aware of what has brought us away from these populations. We must become more aware of how we are in many ways unintentionally perpetuating health and education disparities. We must be more proactive in informing health care and education systems in that regard." The Village P.r.o.j.e.c.t.s hosted its first annual strategy meeting on September 11, 2008 at the California Endowment Conference Center, Los Angeles. Echoing the sentiment of her colleague in Kenya, Dr. Willingham-Toure' stated: "The Village P.r.o.j.e.c.t.s attendees were not all involved in the same efforts. Some felt that they already had the solutions. However as they talked with and listened to each other the need for new solutions, and reconnections became evident." Dr. Willingham-Toure' pointed out that the conference did not provide the plethora of strategies desired by some. "It is the beginning of coming together, empowering ourselves... and we are in this for the long haul!" These two women are making a difference, one person at a time.