There is no doubt that 2020 has been a year filled with challenge and for many it hasn’t exactly been one filled with good news stories. As such, when we hear some positive and uplifting news from one of our students it’s well worth sharing!
And so, we introduce you to Master of Social Work student Maurine Kiplagat, who recently received the Edified Energiser Grant for 2020 to support the development and growth of her Women and Gender Equity project. This $5,000 grant is awarded to assist with supporting unique projects designed to improve the education of a nominated community and increase social change through education.
I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Maurine and hearing about the journey that led her to UNE, the incredible work she is doing for her community in her home country of Kenya and how the grant money is going to be used to help young girls in need.
Maurine is fairly new to Australia, having only arrived in March of this year. A unique time to be departing her home country and leaving her three young children and spouse behind to pursue her passion in social work and community development at UNE. Knowing that she would be faced with technology challenges and limited access to resources if she stayed at home, Maurine bravely took a leap of faith and chose Armidale as her new home for the foreseeable future.
“I didn’t know anybody before I arrived, but I had prepared myself psychologically for that and I was so determined to make it here. Once my decision had been made I felt a calmness about it, a peace of mind, knowing that I was making the right decision, however hard it was to leave my family behind.”
The passion for education that Maurine possesses is clear as I discover more about the project that she was awarded the Edified Energiser grant for.
Aimed at enhancing management of menstrual hygiene towards improved education standards for secondary school girls in Kenya, the goal is to provide 120 girls across two schools in Nandi County, Kenya with enough sanitary items to last a full year.
“There is a lack of support and awareness, deeply influenced by cultural issues on female hygiene. On average girls are missing 4 days of school in Kenya because of their menstrual cycle often accompanied by feelings of shame. It’s so important that we educate and empower these girls so they can continue their studies and be supported. It’s also critical that we educate the staff in these schools as well so the cycle can continue. They too need support and resources so that they can continue the work in educating young girls and the community about these issues.”
This clear passion for affording young girls an opportunity to be educated and empowered comes from a lived experience for Maurine.
“I’m motivated by my own childhood experience. Where I come from is a society full of challenges; there’s issues with poverty, lack of water and electricity, things are difficult there that we can take for granted here and it all leads to creating a vulnerable community, particularly for young women.
Self-belief is so important and I really believe in the words of Nelson Mandela, that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. For me personally it has brought so much opportunity so it’s the best thing I can pass on to others and hopefully touch their lives in some way.”
If it’s not enough that Maurine is facilitating this project remotely, she spends much of her free time in Armidale volunteering at the local Vinnies and working part-time as a community support worker providing empowering young people with life skills. She is also currently completing a 500-hour placement with the Armidale Women’s Shelter as part of her Masters of Social Work.
“I’m learning every day, it’s great exposure for me and I’m getting a lot of experiences, building my skills across a range of different issues. I love studying here and the town itself is quiet and easy to move around in…and the people are very friendly!”
In the final moments of our chat Maurine referred to one of her favourite quotes, from Jim Carrey; ‘I cannot be contained because I am the container.’ I asked her about what that meant to her and to close, I’ll leave you with her final, and indeed inspiring remarks.
“There will be challenges but with resilience, persistence and determination you can overcome them and be the person you want to be. Transcend those limitations and remember you are not limited by your circumstance. Challenge those perceptions and never settle.”
For more information on the Edified Energiser Grants you can visit their website here.
Author: Alexandra Cook, International Student Engagement Coordinator