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MY EXPERIENCE EMPOWERED ME – IRENE IKAREDE

ITS ALL ABOUT OUR ATTITUDE AND LIVING RIGHT

Irene Ikarede (front right) and her family- photo taken in 1998

     Irene Ikarede (front right) and her family-photo taken in 1998

Growing up as the first born in a family of five children wasn’t a walk in the park for Irene. Having been raised by her grandmother in the village, life was not easy.one had to walk a distance of five kilometers to go get water for both home and domestic use. Getting a basic meal was not a guarantee as other times one went to bed with an empty stomach.

Coming from a community where women position was in the kitchen, Ms. Irene was introduced to manual labor at a tender age of 5 and at age 7 she could cook meals for the entire family. In the year 1998, Irene left the village with her siblings together with her father to seek better pastures in the city of Nairobi. It was a moment of excitement and great expectations for everyone. This was a turnaround for her life and for that of her entire family. She was taken to one of the schools in the city though the greatest challenge that she faced at that time was that of language as she only knew how to speak her mother tongue Ateso

One thing that Irene appreciates was having a supportive father and an understanding young sister who helped her pull through her weaknesses to achieve her potential. This saw her academic performance improve and also learn a new language, English. In the year 2003, Irene sat for her Kenya primary certificate of primary education (KCPE) and her performance was outstanding.

Irene Ikarede (front right) at Butere Girls High School-photo taken in 2004)

Irene Ikarede (front right) at Butere Girls High School-photo taken in 2004)

In the year 2004, Irene was admitted at Butere girl’s high school and this saw her identify her potential in leadership as she was in charge of one of the dormitories that accommodated the largest number of students in   the whole school. Through her leadership, she was able to meet other leaders from different schools in the country and all walks of life. Her leadership inspiration was drawn from her great grandfather who was the leader of the Ikomolo clan in Teso.

After her four years in high school, Irene sat for her Kenya secondary education (KCSE) and her performance made her to be selected in one of the leading universities in Kenya (university of Nairobi) to study food science and technology.

Irene during her graduation at the University of Nairobi (UoN) in 2012

Irene during her graduation at the University of Nairobi (UoN) in 2012

Her journey while pursuing her undergraduate studies at the university was not a bed or Rosses. Getting school fees on time was not easy as she had other siblings who also had fees and more dependents who looked up to one sole bread winner in the family. Due to her entrepreneurial mind, she was able to                   solicit funds which enabled her start a business from which the income she got helped her cater for her other needs .at the end of her for year course, Irene graduated from the university of Nairobi with a bachelor degree in food science second upper division.

This was a major breakthrough in the entire village as she was among the first women to graduate. Her success was celebrated by many and also opened doors for other young women to seek education beyond the primary level .Irene became a role model and her name was now a household name.

Irene (left) washing children infested with jigger’s feet during the anti-jigger campaign at World Vision Angurai ADP Teso

Irene (left) washing children infested with jigger’s feet during the anti-jigger campaign at World Vision Angurai ADP Teso

As  a way of giving back to the  community Irene opted to volunteer her services at World Vision Angurai ADP in Teso through teaching the community and school going children basic hygiene skills, teach women and girls how to make  reusable sanitary towels made from the local available materials within their children in the campaign dubbed “hope for the flowers”.

With the high level of children in the area failing to attend their classes due to jigger infestation, Irene and other volunteers in the ADP carried out an anti-jigger campaign and sensitization program to help address the problem. This campaign bore fruits as many agencies like Kenya Red cross society; the county government of Busia and the other stakeholders supported the initiative which saw many children attended to.

Irene (in a green dress) with other African delegates at the Pan Africa Youth Conference 2017 at Gigiri Nairobi Kenya

   Irene (in a green dress) with other African delegates at the Pan Africa Youth Conference 2017 at Gigiri Nairobi Kenya

2017 was a year of breakthrough for Ms. Irene as she was able to represent the country in many African conferences .on the 19th to the    20th of April 2017; she attended the Pan Africa Youth Conference at Gigiri in Nairobi Kenya. The theme of the conference was “partnership for capacity development on sustainable urbanization, protection against hazardous chemicals and waste towards achieving 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Irene’s area focus was on how to curb the dodder parasitic plant which has destroyed plants and trees in her village and thus she was campaigning on coming up with a control measure that will help reduce its spread in order to save trees and also forest cover.

Irene at the YALI (young African leader’s initiative) East Africa at the Kenyatta University, the regional leadership center)

Irene at the YALI (young African leader’s initiative) East Africa at the Kenyatta University, the regional leadership center)

In the month of October to November 2017, Irene was among the young leaders from east and central Africa who were chosen to attend the young Africa leader’s initiative (YALI) at the Kenyatta University, the regional leadership center.

Her volunteer work at world vision Angurai ADP to address malnutrition among the young children, menstrual hygiene management program where she taught young girls how to make reusable sanitary towels and the food and resilience project where farmers were taught on food security gave her an upper hand in the selection process.it was through this leadership initiative that she came up with a wild idea of adding value to the local cereal (millet) grown in her village

Irene (in a green dress –right column) at YEPI (Young Entrepreneurs program initiative) training at Mombasa Kenya

Irene (in a green dress –right column) at YEPI (Young Entrepreneurs program initiative) training at Mombasa Kenya

CAPA (council of the Anglican province of Africa) is a regional faith based organization which was established in 1979 in Chilema Malawi. Its strategic program priorities include economic empowerment, church life and interfaith relations, environmental stewardship, good security, peace and national building

Irene was privileged to be appointed by the bishop of the Anglican Church Katakwa Diocese to represent the province in March this year at the CAPA conference which was held at the multimedia university in Kenya. The theme of the conference was releasing youth potential, realizing possibilities for Africa which was drawn from the book of Matthew 17:20

Six years after graduating from the University of Nairobi (UoN) in 2012irene has been on a job hunt with little luck. With the intervention of her uncle, she opted to go back to the village and give back to the community by volunteering in one of the area development programs by world vision. One of the program that was being run by the ADP was on nutrition and during one of the field visits ,what came out was that there are high numbers of children with malnutrition.

Irene was puzzled by the situation and therefore she decided to make porridge flour made from millet and groundnuts which was then introduced to the mothers who had malnourished children through the PD (positive deviant) Hearth program. Those children who took the porridge were being monitored for three weeks. After which it was found out that their health had improved .this gave Irene a reason to do an assessment to find out what components were found in the flour which had a nutritional value.

Irene (second from right) with other Delegates at the Council of the Anglican province of Africa (CAPA) conference at the Multimedia University in Kenya 2018

Irene (second from right) with other Delegates at the Council of the Anglican province of Africa (CAPA) conference         at the Multimedia University in Kenya 2018

YEPI program whose mission is to build sustainable organization for empowering young people to inspire change in their community has helped transform many women and youths towards achieving their potential and also to be self-sustainable. Since its inception, YEPI has helped in enabling economic opportunities for the youth and women through entrepreneurship, leadership and environmental conservation.

The tasty millet meal bar

The tasty millet meal bar

With the high demand of the product and the feedback she received from her consumers, she had to think wild and come up with a product that one can consume right from the packet without cooking. With the help of her knowledge from the food science and technology course she had completed, Irene came up with a rare snack in the market which is gluten free, made from raw honey and millet which has high contents of iron and calcium.

On the 30th of June 2018, Irene launched her yummy snack which is sold under the brand name “Tasty Millet Meal Bar”. This is a product that has been recommended by various food specialists in the country and also certified by the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) to be healthy and also good for human consumption.

The product is also recommended for people suffering from health conditions such a cancer, diabetes, hypertension, obesity and heart complications. This is a major breakthrough in the area of innovation not just in her home village Amagoro or Busia county but it Africa rising through unleashing the potential of a young African girl whose dream and aspiration was cultivated by great men and women who saw the potential  and helped propel it to higher levels

For Irene her childhood background did not deter her from achieving her potential. At the end of it all, it’s all about our attitude and living right.

Consumers having a bite of the tasty millet meal bar

Consumers having a bite of the tasty millet meal bar

MY EXPERIENCE EMPOWERED ME CAMPAIGN

So, when I was in my early teenage years, I unfortunately experienced the sudden death of a parent, and a grandparent. About a year after this, I developed depression and lost the sense of who I was. I was heavily engaged in school and making new friends, but did not feel like me.

Soon after this, I also developed anorexia nervosa,  and having huge insecurities about my body. This all happened whilst I was trying to achieve high grades in school, and do extracurricular activities.

In the last two years, I have been hospitalised for anorexia many times, which is unfortunate, however, it has never stopped me focusing on my education and my friends and family.

Yes, I have mental health issues and huge physical insecurities, but, I am getting through it and focusing on being successful despite this. I have achieved the grades I wanted, and I am going to another form of education to further this, because I aspire to be a children’s nurse and help others in their time of need.

I believe that, no matter our insecurities or our disabilities, we are still important as people, and we still deserve to have success and happiness. It can sometimes be hard to find, but we can all find it, because we are good enough to have it.

Everyone is beautiful, it doesn’t matter whether they look a specific way, or what clothes size they are, or even their grades at school. We are all good at different things, and we don’t have to be a certain way just to please others or match up to standards.

Amber Richards

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