The Education of Girls Changes the World

Practice You Podcast: Episode 26: Eileen Flanigan

On the education and empowerment of adolescent girls as one of the keys to the future of the world.

With results such as improved economic growth, survival rates and health, reductions in population growth, educating and empowering girls and women is now at the forefront of my personal passions. Too often, well-intended charity creates dependence on outside sources. While we cannot solve problems at local levels, we CAN train girls and women in the communities where need is most profound, granting them the opportunity to solve the issues in their regions with integrity.

Girls on Fire Leaders is an organization dedicated to teaching girls to lead innovative social change in their own communities.

The core belief:  solving our biggest problems requires educated girls, building communities of action, bonded to one another based on shared values – rather than based on race, ethnicity or tribe. Education is more empowering when gender equality, social emotional learning and the ability to solve complex social problems are emphasized. This is precisely what Girls on Fire Leaders has learned to do, with girls between the ages of six and sixteen years of age.

In East Africa, where corruption, conflict, rape, disease and abuse are rife, Girls on Fire Leaders is taking the initiative and changing lives, one girl at a time. Mentoring, elevating and inspiring the most vulnerable girls to solve such challenges and activating their community for support, this organization is helping these girls build resilience, empathy, leadership skills so they can navigate their transition into adulthood safely, with confidence and purpose.

The education of girls is about the early and focused nurturing of girls as precious resources, within communities of action that will drive the social change needed for human dignity and flourishing for all.

Who is A Girl On Fire?

We believe every girl can learn to be a leader. Our innate truth is love and service. In selecting girls to take part in the program, we ask three questions.

  1. Is there a spark of self-belief in this girl?
  2. Does she have a burning desire to see her community thrive?
  3. Is her vision is able to fuel her for the long term in the fight against corruption, bureaucracy, complacency, and the status quo?

Girls on Fire Leaders are primarily located in Kenya, living in Kibera and Mathare slums in Nairobi. Seventy percent of the girls are orphaned and/or victims of sexual violence, living with the realities of violence, HIV, early pregnancy, substance abuse and extreme poverty. There are also girls from the major ethnic tribes in rural Kenya and Tanzania, whose major challenges for girls are FGM (female genital mutilation), early child marriage, poverty and no access to quality education.

Meet Makesh. Due to her training with Girls on Fire Leaders, Makesh now teaches hundreds of girls weekly using my journal, Practice You, with writing exercises and yoga practices. True leaders like Makesh are emerging through self-study and girl-led education. We are disrupting the status quo, and as you can see with Makesh, the ripple effect is real.

Founder Eileen Flannigan conducts leadership camps for girls in the slums of Kibera. In order for girls to become women who build solutions for social change, our Healing Hands project in collaboration with doTERRA Healing Hands Foundation raised over $35k in September 2019 to cover the costs of educating and providing the girls with adventures and learning opportunities both at home and abroad. This is just the beginning. Girls on Fire is the only program in Kenya teaching leadership and social justice programs to girls as young as six years old.


How are Girls on Fire Creating The Next Generation of Leaders?  

Together with community partners since 2014, Girls on Fire has delivered seven camps in four ethnic regions of Kenya and Tanzania, serving over 1,000 girls and 2,000 community members trained to catalyze social change.

The model is one of collaboration and interconnectedness.

The solution is to build a movement of girls, co created, co-designed and co-led by girls, uniting their voices across tribal lines, and amplifying the push for a larger and lasting shift in social dynamics and policy.

Girls on Fire runs year-round programming that  works with local partners delivery quality education, such as schools and requires participation from teachers, parents and the entire community, which they do through:

  • Comprehensive Camps (2-3x per year)
  • Monthly leadership workshops
  • Peer mentorship
  • Leaders In Action – community projects
  • School scholarships
  • Innovation workshops
  • Boys’ workshops
  • Parent/ family workshops + home visits

Girls on Fire Leaders began with 23 small girls, and has become a vibrant network of leaders with the following outcomes:

Higher performance in school
Improved grades overall
Improved leadership skills and actively peer-mentor
Indicators such as confidence, self-expression, teamwork
Advancing skills for community organizing

The organization has unlocked global opportunities for the girls, who have now been:

Keynote speakers at United Nations in Kenya
Ambassadors and speakers for major HIV/AIDS Health Conference
Guests of honor at The Obama Foundation Fellowship Awards
Attending summer camps in United States
Attending high school in the United States

Our network of graduates will:

Actively contribute to local female leadership through community teaching, mentoring and organizing
Serve as talent pipelines for global corporations
Effect change locally or globally
Finish higher education to become a positive participant in global society
Offer jobs or opportunities for vulnerable girls
Increase diversity and inclusion throughout different sectors

Educating a girl in urban slums means she will earn more and invest 90% of earnings in her family, be three times less likely to contract HIV, and have fewer, healthier children who are more likely to reach adulthood (Erulkar, A., & Matheka, J. K. (2007), Adolescence in the Kibera Slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Population Council – The World Bank).

What’s been accomplished thus far?


  • Built a library and reading program at an orphanage.
  • Worked with World Wildlife Federation on conservationism of elephants.
  • Adopted a baby elephant named Kamock, who was injured by poachers.


  • Hygiene and wellness program for street kids at risk of disease.
  • Community beautification; clean up and planted 100 trees in the slums.
  • Brought food and a Girls on Fire Leaders workshop in the children’s hospital in Nairobi.


  • Built a school garden out of recycled materials that feeds five needy families per week.
  • Community beautification; cleaned up and planted 100 trees in the slums.
  • Volunteered and saved sea turtles trapped in fisherman nets.


  • Built a dorm for girls to be safe from FGM and early marriage
  • Created peer advocacy groups to teach other girls how to fight for their rights.
  • Planted trees in the rural village in Sambura with the girls running away from female genital mutilation.
  • Community beautification; clean up and planted 100 trees in the slums.


  • Community beautification; clean up and planted 100 trees in the slums.
  • Led equality workshops with adolescent boys.
  • Started a reading (and hugging) program for orphaned kids every Saturday.


  • Led equality workshops with teenage boys in Kibera slum.
  • Launched sanitary pad project for 123 girls in the schools.
  • Launched trauma- informed yoga working with sexual abuse and refugee girls.
  • Wellness + Leadership Camp for girls all over Kenya facing HIV, pregnancy and poor health outcomes.


Vision For The Future

By 2030, we will nurture and empower 10,000 Girls On Fire Leaders and build a movement of global girl leaders with a thriving network of change-makers.

As we scale, we have the opportunity to significantly reduce poor health and well-being outcomes and gender-based violence, while simultaneously massively increasing social and economic mobility and community development from within the 1 million people living in Kibera Slum and the 1.5 million people living in the 3 other communities.

We will do this by investing in early-adolescent girls to be the social change leaders in their communities and collaborating with women leaders to ensure we don’t have to wait for a generational turnover to witness a more just and equitable world.

Is Your Heart On Fire?

  1. DONATE  – Donate anytime to our ongoing campaign to cover the costs of the girls’ educations and supplies.
  2. SPONSORSHIP – Be a Sponsor for our upcoming Wellness + Leadership Camp.
  3. LEADERSHIP COUNCIL – Be on the Girls On Fire Leadership Council; we’re actively gathering men and women from all different sectors and of all forms of leadership.

Please feel free to email me at if you feel called to help.


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