Meet the Match

A Kenyan Woman Inspires Others to Punch above Their Weight

Unlike the girls that participate in her programs, Cynthia Coredo is not a boxer. But, she may have the hardest chin in the gym. Born in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya, Cynthia has taken life’s jabs and uppercuts since she was 11, but has powered through to emerge on the other side of the chaos.

“I was very young, and one day my older sister and I were on the way to the market to buy milk and bread, when we saw a crowd surrounding the street,” Cynthia recalls. “And the crowd was saying, ‘Look, this man is dead.’ And from that moment everything changed. It was my father.”

One of four siblings, with another on the way, her mother sent her and her older sister from Nairobi to live with their grandmother in a small village. Cynthia attended an orphan’s school where she was a star pupil, earning a scholarship to study in secondary school. However, her mother soon passed away from depression, and in 2006 her sister also died from tuberculosis. It seemed that whenever her circumstances improved, another unexpected punch hit her hard. But, none were strong enough to shake her faith and determination.

“I had to work very hard and depend on myself,” Cynthia says. “But, I remember at one point I was sweeping our school compound and I said to myself, ‘Cynthia, one day you’re going to be a global woman for global works and you will touch the lives of young women the way your life is being touched now.’”

In 2008, Cynthia began working as a volunteer tutor with Boxgirls Kenya, a startup organization created to engage women and girls from marginalized areas in boxing programs and equip them with the leadership skills and confidence needed to create positive social change. One year later, Cynthia joined full-time as the program manager to support the underfunded organization, which has since reached more than one thousand girls and young women around Nairobi through the sport of boxing.

In her current position, Cynthia coordinates sport and leadership programs aimed at making girls stronger, more confident, and goal-oriented inside and outside of the ring. Her daily schedule is a vast mix of communicating with donors, evaluating and managing resources, organizing staff trainings, developing curriculum and writing grants.

In order to prioritize schooling for her brother and younger sister, who she has looked after since her mother’s death, Cynthia was not able to attend university on a regular basis (although she has earned certificates in business management and public relations from the University of Nairobi). On top of her work with Boxgirls, she now attends classes part-time in pursuit of a degree in gender, women and development studies.

“I learned that being somebody that can instill something positive into somebody else’s life is so much greater than any other success,” Cynthia says. “Somebody believed in me when I was young, and now my goal is to invest in girls and young women in our community to stand and be role models.”

Cynthia also recently served as a motivational speaker for the UNESCO World Youth Forum on Sport, Culture and Peace in Nanjing, China, and was named a featured social innovator by the Ogunte Network in the United Kingdom.

Through this program, Cynthia hopes to learn how to couple sports programs with entrepreneurial skills that can help the women and girls of Kenya gain economic independence. She also hopes to gain skills in mentoring and consulting so that she can train other women to become leaders in sport and society.

We believe Gwen Conley, Group Media Director, and her team at Saatchi will be just the innovative thinkers Cynthia needs to accomplish these goals. Gwen’s curiosity and ability to combine different mediums to achieve integrated solutions will be perfect in helping Cynthia develop her entrepreneurial model. Saatchi’s four-year investment in the program and also in Kenya uniquely positions them to help Cynthia create a mentoring program for other Kenyan women. We are excited to watch the Kenyan forces collide for the betterment of women in their society and the power they all derive from Saatchi’s support and guidance.

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