PAULINE MWANGI – KENYA
Leading Young Women to Produce Economic and Social Change
YOUNG WOMEN IN ENTERPRISE
Pauline Mwangi leads the Young Women in Enterprise (YWE) initiative in Nairobi’s Kawangware and Mathare slums, which contain almost 1 million people, about 25 percent of the whole city. Pauline is a role model for young Kenyan women, demonstrating that anything is possible with education and determination.
Pauline grew up in a family of 10 children in a small rural village in Thika, Kenya. Through her own motivation and her parents’ encouragement, Pauline not only completed high school, but attended university and continued on to earn a masters degree in entrepreneurship.
In 1999 Pauline became a Business Advisor in the Nairobi office of TechnoServe, a nonprofit organization that helps men and women living in poor areas to build businesses and create sustainable incomes. Targeting young Kenyan women from the Nairobi slums who face poverty and deeply entrenched gender-based hurdles, Pauline led a partnership between the Nike Foundation and TechnoServe to establish the YWE model to help these women achieve economic freedom. She brought together members of the private sector, government agencies, microfinance and higher education institutions to create YWE’s entrepreneurial training program.
Under Pauline’s leadership at TechnoServe Kenya, YWE launched a three-year project in April 2009 to socially and economically empower 3,000 girls from Nairobi’s slums. Her program formalizes groups of girls into social networks and teaches them practical life skills such as health (including HIV/AIDS) and relationships. They are also introduced to entrepreneurship, financial literacy and employability with hands-on training to start their own businesses. The entrepreneurial training program provides them with access to savings products in a microfinance institution, experiential business support, training in computer skills, and linkages to internships and employment.
Pauline believes, “I want young girls to mature knowing they are important, they count and they can be their best with no apologies. One can never achieve anything in life without confidence and the right opportunities. I will do my best to influence both individuals and institutions to have an exponential impact of my efforts.”