Featured Participant: Grace KiraguriJune 04, 2014
The GSMP was a very positive platform for me. Before coming, I looked at sports as a money-making engine and I never thought it was possible for me to do anything for my country that wasn’t about making money. The GSMP challenged me to write an action plan, but just writing it wasn’t enough. When I returned home, I wasn’t making time to achieve it. But I knew I owed it to my nation, to the U.S. embassy, to the GSMP, and to my global sisters to do it. ‘Why did I attend a program and then sit down?’ I am a beneficiary of this investment and it worked for me in two ways – it changed me personally and professionally. It made me believe that I could do it. It made me feel different and it gave me the confidence to carry out my action plan. Despite the fact that I am a business person, I do have what it takes to change my community.
Grace successfully completed the first phase of her action plan, Step Up! Kenya in April of 2014. With the support and backing of the U.S. Embassy Nairobi and local partner, Mathare Youth and Sports Association (MYSA), the program was a great success. Thirty-two girls, ages 11-14, participated in this two-week program. The purpose of this soccer program was to mentor girls from disadvantaged communities in the areas of confidence, self-esteem, leadership, hygiene, education, entrepreneurship, and healthy decision-making.
Grace’s ultimate goal was to empower the girls to see themselves as future leaders. As one of the only female entrepreneurs in the country, Grace wanted to share the lessons she had learned in leadership and management and inspire other females to pursue their educational and athletic dreams with passion, poise, and professionalism. Grace worked diligently to ensure this message was spread not only through the two-week camp, but also through media and social media avenues. Ultimately, Grace’s project was selected by the U.S. Embassy to represent the U.S.-Kenya 50 year partnership.
As part of Phase II of her action plan, Grace has teamed with GSMP 2013 alumna Barbara Kokonya to establish a foundation, More Than Sports. This newly launched foundation will allow Grace and Barbara to fundraise and secure sponsorships for future sport and life skills programs. The paperwork for the foundation has been submitted and by December of 2014 More Than Sports should be recognized as an official nongovernmental organization.
Together, Grace and Barbara have also teamed with their Ugandan GSMP 2013 sisters Majidah Nantanda and Aisha Nassanga to submit a joint grant proposal for the Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF). Their proposal, Girls in Sport Connect, was designed to use their combined strengths in football, entrepreneurship, administration, and journalism to empower girls in Kenya and Uganda through sports. Winners of the AEIF funding will be announced in July of 2014.
In addition to Grace’s full-time role as founder and president of her sports marketing firm, Icon Sports, and her newly developed Step Up! program, she has also traveled throughout the country leading seminars on women’s empowerment. Grace’s most unique speaking engagement was with a group of approximately 100 female convicts sponsored by the USAID Women’s EX Convicts Forum. Grace discussed with them the importance of self-worth and the ways in which education and entrepreneurship can offer freedom and social mobility. This invitation from USAID was one of many in which Grace has been asked to speak on important women’s issues. Using her GSMP platform, Grace continues to be an inspiration and to spread the message of women’s empowerment through sport throughout the country.