Friday, February 25, 2011

Another helping of Oatmeal -- Smells like potential

Ory Okolloh is a Kenyan activist, lawyer, and blogger and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee.
What strikes me most about this remarkable lady is the gleam in her eyes.  You can't fake a sparkle like that -- Look at that optimism and energy!  So her story is another bowl of "oatmeal" for me, a story of triumph, of tenacity.

You don't get initials after your name by osmosis.  And I've never met anyone whose great thought became a reality on accident.  She is an innovator, an entrepreneur, a standard-setter and she has used the gift of advanced education to make a tool that is useful and adaptable.  I'm excited to watch her professional life unfold in the next decade because when I hold up the "bowl of oatmeal-for-my-soul this morning," all I smell is potential. 
In 2006 she co-founded the parliamentary watchdog site Mzalendo (Swahili: "Patriot"). The aim of the website is to increase government transparency and accountability by systematically recording bills, speeches, standing orders.  The beauty about her leaks is that they seem to be empowering people, without leading to anarchy or more violence. 

When Kenya was engulfed in violence following disputed presidential election in 2007, Okolloh helped create another website, Ushahidi (Swahili: "Witness") which collects and records eyewitness reports of violence using text messages and Google maps. The technology has since been adapted for other purposes (including monitoring elections and tracking pharmaceutical availability) and used in a number of other countries. Okolloh also has a personal blog, Kenyan Pundit, which was featured on Global Voices Online.[4] She also works as a legal consultant for NGOs and has worked at Covington and Burling, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, and the World Bank in the past.[5][6]

Do you think her kindergarten teacher saw amazing potential?  Do you think the neighbors took extra time to encourage her?  Makes me think about the potential in each child.  I doubt that someone thought "hmmm, that young girl will grow up with a desire to change the world and be a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee."  A child of modest upbringing, Okolloh's  parents sent her to a private elementary school that they could "barely afford, "which "set the foundation for what ended up being my career."[8] Sadly, like many children from Africa, her father also died of AIDS. She went on to earn an undergraduate degree in Political Science from the University of Pittsburgh and graduated from Harvard Law School in 2005 and now lives in Johannesburg, South Africa.  And oh yeah...during in her "free time" she is raising two children, probably her most important work.  

So off I go to do glamorous things like wash the dishes and shovel my walkway...againBut after another helping of "oatmal-for-my-soul" I feel warm and full.