PHOTO STORY: ROSE ODHIAMBO
Another medium that I greatly enjoy for its ability to create visual stories is photography. Below is a short photo story that I created about a woman named Rose Odhiambo. Odhiambo is the CEO/Commission Secretary of the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC), a Kenya based organization that aims to effectively and efficiently promote gender equality and freedom from discrimination.
As someone who is very passionate about the rights of women and girls abroad, it was my pleasure to photograph Odhiambo while she attended the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the United Nations in New York City.
Below is a group of photos that I took of Odhiambo during that time as well as a short article about how she came to be the leader of NGEC after growing up in a world that she describes as, "a very marginalized community where girls' education was not a priority."
By Ashley Thompson
On March 4, 2013, the United Nations began the 57th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). It is the principal global policy-making body dedicated exclusively to gender equality and advancement of women. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and women's empowerment worldwide.
This year, one of the representatives was Rose Odhiambo. Odhiambo is a part of an organization called the National Gender and Equality Commission (NGEC). Based in Kenya, NGEC was established in August 2011 with the goal of promoting gender equality and freedom from discrimination in the country. “This is a very new commission that was formed after the promulgation of our Kenyan constitution in 2010,” says Odhiambo who was recently promoted to Commission Secretary/CEO of the organization. “It's a very new position. I'm barely six months old in the office.”
Odhiambo was born to a polygamist family in Kenya. Her father had five wives, including her mother, and with these women he had 54 children in total. “I was born in a very marginalized community where girls' education was not a priority and I fought all the obstacles to be able to rise and go to school.” Although she was the seventh born of her mother's 13 children, Odhiambo became the first of her siblings to attend university. She described her challenges as a young women born into a community where female genital mutilation and child marriages were being practiced. “Most of my siblings got married at primary level so it was a real struggle to be able to go up and reach a national level where I could be able to get my degree, go on to my graduate studies and then go for my doctoral studies. I had a passion for changing my community. What really prompted me were my connections and relations with like-minded institutions.”
Odhiambo now has a long history with these institutions. Previously, she worked with Duke University in order to establish a school in her own community. Today, along with her position at NGEC, Odhiambo is also the Chair of two secondary schools in Kenya, the Director of the Egerton University Institute of Women, Gender and Development Studies, and is the co-founder of another organization called the Women's Institute of Secondary Education and Research (WISER). “My strength actually lies in my students. We work together and form a strong network to be able to face the issues that cause inequality, issues of early marriage, issues of violence against women and girls. Even issues of access to education.”
The CSW ended on March 15, 2013 and Odhiambo believes that at this conference resolutions to be adopted by countries around the world will come out. As a self-described “watchdog” for her country's government, she believes that what's truly important is whether the issues discussed at this conference will actually be implemented through legislation back in Kenya. “I'm here to see how it will be implemented for the benefit of the many girls and women who are not able to come here from my country.”