On International Youth Day on August 12th, we'll be reminding the world that women are girls first. Our Girl Heroes series, which shines a spotlight on remarkable girls who are making the girl effect a reality, demonstrates why global development policy must reflect that…
With the right support and mentoring, girls from the most challenging backgrounds can excel academically, become leaders and inspire others.
Faith Nyakundi is living proof of that.
She grew up in one of the poorest slums in Kenya, where many families can't afford the fees for their children's education and the schools are often vastly under-resourced.
Faith did well at primary school and a local sponsor pledged to support her through one of the most prestigious high schools in the country.
In her first year, her sponsor realised he could not keep paying the fees. Undeterred, Faith applied for assistance from Akili Dada, a leadership incubator supporting talented young African women. They offer financial assistance, mentoring and skills-based training for girls and women aged 13-35.
Getting on to the programme meant that Faith was able to stay on in school where she did well academically, became the head girl at her school, captained the rugby team, sung in the school choir and taught herself to play piano.
She also wanted to help others, so she set up Reaching The Needy, a club which raises money to provide school supplies, food and assistance to poor children in the community.
And to help others set up similar projects, she co-founded AZMA, a social networking initiative to help coordinate community service efforts in high schools around Kenya.
"I do not like to see a child suffering just because they are from a poor family," she says.
"Some of those children have big potential that goes unrealised. I always feel for the people who suffer because I know what it means to suffer and it feels good to help."
Encouragement and support
Faith has now graduated from high school and is doing an internship at Akili Dada. In August she will start studying international relations in the US, on a full scholarship obtained through the Zawadi Africa programme.
But she's still committed to helping others. Alongside her studies, she mentors both primary school and secondary school-aged girls, encouraging them to stay in school and follow in her footsteps.
You can help create a whole world full of Faiths by supporting the Girl Declaration