As an example of Ontario in the World, I would like to highlight some of the excellent work currently being done in Kenya. Kenya is an economic hub in East Africa and home to a wide variety of leading development and sustainability initiatives. Having lived in Nairobi during my time as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Head of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), I am always inspired by the excellent examples of growth and collaboration that can be found throughout the country – many of which feature a connection to Ontario.

While by no means an exhaustive list of the partnerships Ontario has formed with Kenya throughout the duration of our relationship, here are a few examples of Ontarians leading the way to build a future that works for everyone.

Mathare Youth Sports Association

With over 900,000 residents, Mathare is the largest slum in Nairobi. For many people, growing up in Mathare means experiencing limited access to basic necessities such as healthcare, education, and economic opportunity. As a result, it can be especially hard for young people to be optimistic about their future.

The Mathare Youth Sports Association (MYSA) was founded by Ontarian Bob Munro in 1987. MYSA is a community development association that uses sport to encourage positive social change, as well as to provide skills and training for socio-economic development.

Over 30,000 youth around Nairobi play on MYSA football teams and participate in various community activities. Each team gains additional points and standing in its league by participating in community cleanup projects, AIDS prevention courses, leadership training, and classes in photography and music.

These activities encourage youth to take pride in themselves and in their communities, and equip them with skills to strive for more. Those who take on the most active leadership roles are also offered scholarships and employment opportunities as coaches and leaders within the organization.

MYSA is an excellent example of using sport to bring people together, encouraging pride in community, and providing skills-building to create opportunities for a better future.

Her Honour participates in a MYSA community cleanup in 1992

Learn more about MYSA here:

Equality Effect

The Equality Effect is a non-profit charity and advocacy group fighting for the rights of women and girls around the world and for laws protecting women to be upheld. This small team of legal experts, based in Toronto, conducts research, facilitates training, and takes on governments in cases of human rights violations.

In Kenya, their work has been far-reaching and has resulted in tremendous change. Their project 160 Girls has sought justice for 160 girls who are victims of rape. These girls had been denied access to justice because police in their villages refused to enforce the law and to investigate the crimes against them. By advocating for their rights, the Equality Effect was successful in having a Kenyan High Court rule in favour of these girls, providing a necessary and welcome avenue to justice.

In addition to this, the Equality Effect has used lessons learned from Canadian human rights cases to inform their advocacy strategy in Kenyan cases. However, their work in Kenya goes beyond the courtroom. In consultation with Toronto-based police, they have successfully provided training programs to Kenyan police, regularly provide assistance in navigating the justice system for victims, and have developed education and public awareness campaigns.

Participants at a 160 Girls Project event

Learn more about the Equality Effect and their projects here:

Metipso Portal and Metipso TV

The Metipso Portal is a two-way cultural bridge between Metipso, Kenya, and urban and rural locations in Ontario. The portal was founded in 2017 by Ontario resident Joel Richardson and his long-time friend Mathew Birir in Metipso. Through technology, this small village has been connected to the world.

Built in the style of a traditional mud hut, the portal allows the whole community access to new skills, talents, and friends. Through the portal, students participate in online lessons and word exchanges with schools in Ontario. People in the community are also able to take online courses and job training, and regularly showcase their own talents and skills through Metipso LIVE and Metipso TV.

Founder Joel Richardson and Metipso students stand outside of the portal

I recently had the privilege of taking part in one of these online word exchanges between Metipso and Chippewas of Nawash First Nation’s Kikendaasogamin Elementary School located on the Bruce Peninsula, Ontario, and was delighted to see so many students learning from one another.

Joel and his team are an excellent example of how new relationships and partnerships can be built through a bold idea and thoughtful innovation!

Her Honour participates in a video conference and word exchange facilitated by the Metipso Portal, January 2019

You can learn more about the Metipso Portal here:

Kidogo Innovations

 Access to quality daycare can be a major challenge in any large city. When paired with life in an informal settlement or slum and limited economic opportunity, it can be even harder to find and afford. Often older children will be tasked with staying home from school, disrupting their education to watch younger siblings so that parents can work. In some cases, in order to work, parents will either leave children home alone, or at over-crowded and unlicensed daycares. Kidogo Innovations was founded by two Canadians as a solution to this problem, and provides low-cost, quality daycare spaces for children in Nairobi.

This Canadian team has devised a model that not only allows parents to seek work and enable older children to continue with schooling, but also provides early childhood education programs and economic opportunities for the community.

Kidogo’s main programming takes place at a series of hub centres, where daycare and education are provided for less than $1 per day. They also support a series of spokes, or individual centres, managed by “mamapreneurs”. These are mothers that see an economic opportunity in opening their own daycare centres, and they are empowered to do so with the support of Kidogo programming.

All of this enables sustainable community building, economic opportunity, and education throughout low-income communities in Nairobi – an excellent example of a creative solution and partnerships.

A Kidogo Innovations location in Nairobi

You can learn more about Kidogo Innovations at

WE Villages

Founded by Craig and Marc Kielburger, WE Villages is part of the WE global movement. As part of the WE Charity, WE Villages aims to drive international change through a holistic development model. This model builds inclusive, sustainable communities in order to create positive change for generations to come.

Students at a WE School in Narok County

In Kenya, WE Villages has been working since 2002 to provide primary education to all children throughout the Masaai Mara region in Narok County.

Narok County is home of the Masaai Mara National Park, and the Maasai, Kipsigis, and Kisii communities. Despite living in an important tourist destination, people in the region still face economic hardship.

The WE Villages in Narok offer a development model that takes into consideration education, clean water, health, food, and access to opportunity. New schools and WE College buildings are being built, providing access to education for girls and young adults. Homesteading is encouraged, providing training opportunities and sustainable food sources. Hospitals ensure that communities have access to health care, and small businesses are encouraged through financial literacy workshops and vocational training.The ultimate goal is to provide whole communities the tools and training to build capacity and implement sustainable solutions and growth.

To date, WE Villages in Narok County have provided over 11,500 children the opportunity to attend a WE-supported school, have built two all-girls secondary schools and one all-boys secondary school, and opened two health centres.

Also of note is the Women’s Economic Centre, which offers a dedicated workspace for women to create beading and artwork, which is then sold here in North America. Participation in the Centre has grown continuously since it opened in 2014, and today over 200 women use the space to work. The creation of this dedicated space and avenue for women to create and sell their artwork has enabled access to a sustainable income and employment opportunity for many families in the community.

Her Honour meets with the Hon. Samuel Tunai, Governor of Narok County (fourth from left), Marc Kielburger (left), and members of Governor Tunai’s delegation in September 2018

This work in Narok County is a wonderful example of Ontario in the world. The WE Villages are based in partnership and collaboration, and are focused on building the capacity and resilience of the communities they are working with.

Learn more about WE Villages here:

Mastercard Foundation

 The Mastercard Foundation was created in 2006 with the aim of funding projects to increase financial literacy and access to education throughout Africa. To date, the foundation has committed over $2.9 billion CAD to 130 organizations across the continent, and programming has improved the lives of over 27 million people. Its goal is to provide 30 million young people with dignified and fulfilling employment opportunities by 2030.

The Mastercard Foundation’s work in Kenya, all managed from its headquarters in Toronto, is making a truly remarkable difference in the lives of so many, and contributing to sustainable economic opportunities for people across the country.

In Kenya, the Foundation has three different projects that I have had the opportunity to interact with:

Mercy Corps AgriFin Accelerate

The first of these projects is the Mercy Corps AgriFin Accelerate. This program uses telecommunications infrastructure to provide access to financial services and training for small holder farmers living in rural areas.

Farmers gain access to new markets and training through telecommunications infrastructure

Across sub-Saharan Africa, there are over 70 million smallholder farmers growing over 70% of the region’s food. However, due to their rural nature and lack of access to resources, these farms face productivity challenges and limited income. Their location also means that they are often disconnected from banks and financial services, making it more difficult for them to access markets or grow their businesses.

The AgriFin Accelerate program was launched in 2015, and provides access to affordable financial products and services for farmers, enabling them to increase their income and productivity. Farmers are given financial literacy and skills training, and provided digital access to connect with mobile networks. This enables them to access previously unavailable banking opportunities, as well as digital information on new farming technologies and productivity tools.

Through the AgriFin Accelerate, farmers are being given the tools to build a sustainable and productive future for their families and communities.

Discover more about this project here:

CAP Youth Empowerment Institute

The second Mastercard Foundation project I would like to shine a light on is the CAP Youth Empowerment Institute (CAP YEI). CAP YEI was founded in 2011 and provides education and skills training to young adults in order to increase their access to employment opportunities. The organization focuses on youth just out of school looking to transition into the work force.

CAP YEI Students attend an automobile repair class

By partnering with various employers, CAP YEI provides training and internship opportunities enabling youth to build the skills they need to gain lasting and meaningful employment. They specifically focus on the needs of disadvantaged youth living in many of Nairobi’s informal settlements who often lack the same level of access to quality education and opportunity.

Training courses offered are varied and include customer service, information technology and repairs, various trades and skilled work, to entrepreneurial skills-building. Through this work, CAP YEI has enrolled and trained almost 9,000 youth, 83% of whom have succeeded in finding meaningful employment or starting their own businesses.

Students receive hands-on training through site visits with partner organizations

You can learn more about CAP YEI’s great work here:

Shining Hope for Communities

The third project to explore is Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO). SHOFCO takes a true community-wide approach to increasing opportunity for those living in Nairobi’s informal settlements.

SHOFCO began in 2004 when Kennedy Odede, a resident in Nairobi’s Kibera slum, decided to focus on the hope that persists through the challenges faced in informal settlements in order to drive change from within. The organization aims to build healthy communities by filling the gaps where services are often lacking. SHOFCO has opened healthcare centres that offer primary and preventative care, family planning services, HIV care, and more. In addition, they have built water and sanitation infrastructure, and developed networks of community social groups in order to advocate for better opportunities.

Girls attend a SHOFCO School in Nairobi

One of SHOFCO’s largest areas of focus is on education and protection for women and girls. In Nairobi’s Kibera slum, only 25% of girls have a place outside of their home or school where they feel safe. SHOFCO’s solution has been to build two leadership academies for girls. These academies provide a space for women and girls to come together to receive additional education and skills training, and provides them with an opportunity to be advocates for a safer and more vibrant community. They are building a whole new generation of young, female leaders.

You can explore more of what SHOFCO has to offer here: