The following essay is part of a series in which dozens of women will reveal what women they most admire. The series is part of “Women Rule,” a unique effort this fall by POLITICO, Google and The Tory Burch Foundation exploring how women are leading change in politics, policy and their communities. See more essays here.
When I first met Jane Otai, she was my guide in Kenya. I was visiting a slum outside of Nairobi, where she is a senior program adviser for Jhpiego, one of our partner organizations that bring quality health care to women and their families.
Since then, Jane has become my friend. When POLITICO asked me to write about a woman who inspires me, I realized she’s also one of my heroes. Over the years, she has taught me that the most powerful resource in poor communities around the world is the women who live there.
Jane runs a mothers’ group in which women who have every excuse to give up give one another reasons to keep fighting. They talk about how hard it is to make ends meet. They talk about their dreams for their children. During my first visit to Jane’s group, I asked them (through Jane, who was interpreting between Swahili and English) about family planning. Did they want to use contraceptives? If so, why did they want to space their pregnancies? One woman said something I’ll never forget: “I want to give every good thing to one child before I have another.”
Afterward, Jane told me her own story…