Leah’s story: Unleashing the power of books

Leah loves to read and write. As part of her scholarship program through Akili Dada, a longtime Global Fund for Women grantee partner, she started a community library in her rural village of Thaba. Akili Dada is a leadership incubator for girls and young women in Kenya, awarding scholarships to girls to finish high school and encourage them to go to college, and providing training and mentorship to empower them to become leaders and advocates for women’s rights. Through this model, Akili Dada is creating a powerful movement of girls and young women leaders. Here, Leah shares more about her community library, which she started as her Akili Dada scholarship project. (Story as told in Wonder Girls: Changing Our World published by powerHouse Books, 2017.)

I started writing novels, plays, and poems when I was 14. I write about my own life, but I put it in fiction form. I try to make my books sound or seem like those I read. I particularly admire Ngugi Wa Thiong’o’s writing; it is so authentic. I love writing, especially when I get emotional. I just write, write, write. That’s how I get rid of my anger, and express my feelings…

The project started with my brother, who’s in class 3 right now. He couldn’t read [English] at all. I thought of buying him a small storybook so he could start to read English. I could see that he was improving. I visited three schools and examined what kind of reading materials they had. They had very few. I thought buying books for the community would help people improve their English skills.

The first fundraiser was a disappointment. We invited very many people from the government, from everywhere. They all promised to come. But only a few turned up. They did what they could: contributed some money, a few promised laptops, a few gave books. The people who came loved my project…

I want to travel the world and meet people everywhere. It’s a passion. [Because of] a book called Air Bridge, I realized flying is adventurous and I love adventures. I will study at Nairobi Aviation College. I want to fly for Kenya Airways. From what I’ve seen in books, Australia seems like a great place. I want to fly there first…

It doesn’t matter how old you are, which background or country you come from. You can definitely make a change in the society you are in, and in the whole world.

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