Stories and podcasts Spotlight Feature Spotlight Feature: Natalie Robi Tingo Name: Natalie Robi Tingo Age: 25 Country and Location: Kenya, East Africa Area of interest in International Development: Grassroots Social Change Development, Women and girls Sexual Reproductive Health & Rights Twitter Handle/Social Media accounts: Twitter @robi_natalie , Instagram: @saving_her_clitoris Facebook: Natalie Robi Tingo Website: www.msichanaempowermentkuria.co.ke Organisation/affiliations: Msichana Empowerment Kuria Background – Tell us a little about yourself? I am an End Female Genital Mutilation activist, Gender and Youth Advocate, Grassroots social change development expert, social entrepreneur and Economist by profession. Am the founder of Msichana Empowerment Kuria a young women-led grassroots based non-profit organization in rural Kenya making use of education and advocacy as primary tool for social change to End Female Genital Mutilation and other harmful cultural practices, advancement of the rights of the women and girls and access to education. I have been a girl’s right activist for more than 6 years now; a role that was influenced growing up as “Uncut” in my community which meant I was discriminated upon and even abused. Aimed with an idea to provide a safe haven for girls at risk of genital cutting and support them to stay in school during menstruation I founded my organization at 19 which has gone to reach out to more than 30,000 community members in different capacities. Since 2015 I have been a youth accountability advocate with the Youth Power Global campaign by Restless Development a youth-led accountability project. As a youth accountability advocate in Kenya I have been tasked with spearheading youth-led monitoring of the implementation of Sustainable Goal 5 in my country. My innovation in redefining the grassroots End Female Genital Mutilation movement has earned me recognition both locally and internationally; in 2016 I was named a She by Spark Changemaker by Spark International, Ashoka American Emerging Innovator by Ashoka Changemakers and a special feature by Global Citizen as youth Changemaker. I am currently a Vital Voices 2017/2018 Global fellow and spearheading @saving_her_clitoris a campaign on Instagram calling to action to save the more than 3 million girls at risk genital mutilation every year. Tell us about your area of work? I am the Director of Msichana Empowerment Kuria. I have the most exciting job which involves supporting my team in formulating and implementing programs to ensure we meet our organization’s goals of supporting our community to abandon the cut in order to safeguard the future of all our girls. So far we have been able to work with more than 30,000 community member in different capacities with a keen focus on youth; because we believe in the power of youth to end the cut in one generation. What issues do you consider to be the most prevalent to women and young people in your country? As a young woman I represent a demographic that is immensely affected by inequality that leads to high rates of unemployment and poverty, violation of their sexual reproductive health and rights including gender based violence, female genital mutilation/cutting, forced child marriage, and lack of access to reproductive health services leading to increased teenage pregnancies, unsafe abortions, HIV infections. What programmes are currently operational in your country and do you think they are working? If yes why, if no why? And what could be done better? There are numerous programs in my country both at grassroots and national level aimed at end all forms of violence against women and girls; female genital mutilation, forced early child marriage, socioeconomic empowerment of women, access to education of girls, ending teenage pregnancies, HIV prevention and maternal health. Majority of these programs regardless of being the government duty are majorly spearheaded by Non-government organizations, community organizations and International organizations. These groups have been lobbying for formulation of policies and implementation thereof. However, in some cases like lack of political good will has hindered their adoption and implementation for instance although Kenya ratified the Maputo Protocol in 2010 that guarantees a host of rights to Women in Africa including equality and non-discrimination on basis of gender; elimination of harmful cultural practices and domestic violence among others significant challenges and gaps are still a barrier to full implementation of the Protocol. What do you think is the biggest obstacle that needs to be overcome in the field of International Development? I think the biggest obstacle is the disconnect between national, global conversations and grassroots reality. Drawing examples from the End Female Genital Mutilation movement there are great conversations at conferences, workshops and summits with great outcomes and strategies but little implementation of them at the grassroots. In most cases the people who are directly affected rarely get involved in these conversations. What do you think are some solutions to these problems? I believe by moving these conversations out of the conference rooms and facilitating community dialogues down there at the villages where people are directly affected then and only then we see real change. Secondly supporting and strengthening existing informal structures like women groups, youth groups and community organizations will make sure we sustain the change. What makes this sector so special for you? This sector is special for me because I am facilitating the realization of more inclusive, peaceful and just world where no one is left behind. What future progress in International Development – regionally, across the continent, or even for your own personal future – excites you the most about this sector? Am excited the most about the adoption of the 2030 Agenda two years now famously known as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), a new ambitious global sustainable development agenda that aims to address the inadequacies of its predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The 2030 Agenda succeeds the MDGs both in scope and ambition as a universal, indivisible, integrated and interlinked agenda, where cross-cutting principles of Human Rights, gender equality and sustainability are the core of development. To ensure that everyone from the most marginalized groups; women, youth and persons with disability are included so that we will no one behind.