Meet The Founder

Kellen Msseemmaa

I was born and raised in Uganda, the first born of six children. My mother got pregnant while in secondary school and because of that she could not go on with her education and that meant the end of her dreams. While growing up my mother reminded me everyday of taking education seriously as it is the only way I could live my dream life. I did not want to live the life my mother lived.

 

My father had a decent job and we went to school without problems. But things turned around when my father lost his job and could not secure another one. I was in Class 5. After that, my mother would wake up early in the morning before dawn to prepare bites to sell at a nearby school so as to get money to pay for school fees and take care of the family, then we would go to the shamba to farm. Still, even at harvest time, the food was not enough to feed the family three meals a day.

 

While in school I faced the obstacles, hindrances, and challenges that so many of the girls we now work with face: lack of school fees, lack of scholastic materials, lack of personal needs like sanitary pads, men trying to take advantage of me because of the economic situation, gender violence and discouraging words from people who didn’t believe in me. But I trusted in God, kept a positive attitude and worked hard because I knew the best weapon against poverty is education.

When there was no money and school fees were due, my father sold pieces of his land to pay. Through a series of miracles I managed to finish school and in 2008 I graduated from Makerere University and was soon employed as an economics teacher.

 

From the very first salary I received, I started taking care of school fees for my siblings and some relatives, and helping my family with basic needs. Now, all my siblings have degrees and contribute to economic growth and development. This is the ripple effect of educating a girl.

 

As a teacher, I noticed that nearly all of my students were boys. The girls rarely participated during lessons and whenever girls scored the lowest marks on exams. The number of school dropouts due to unwanted pregnancy and forced marriage was high and most of those girls who stayed in school didn’t put in effort to do well.

 

I started taking extra time to get to know the girls, counsel them, and give them advice, I shared with them my struggles and how I overcame them to live my dream. As their discipline and academic performance improved, I wanted every girl to have the same opportunity to be mentored to success hence the idea of Empowered Girls clubs in schools.

 

I looked deeper into the causes of poor academic performance, school dropout, unwanted pregnancy and low self-esteem. I worked and lived with girls who had dropped out to understand them better. I came to see the underlying problems are girls’ self-esteem, and there are cultural forces that cause this problem. The results led me to organize programs in two schools in northern Tanzania and one school in southern Tanzania in 2011 that came to be called Empowered Girls.

 

In 2014 an American NGO embraced the Empowered Girls program, providing funding and administrative support. I was the Empowered Girls director. The program grew and we reached girls in many schools. In 2019 Empowered Girls became independent and now it is expanding to more government and private schools in rural communities where the need is high.