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Dispatches from the Moth · Posted On: Mar 27, 2018

A Look at Global Stories of Women and Girls

by Diane Cardoso

Sandra Kimokoti_Nairobi

Sandra Kimokoti on the Moth stage in Nairobi. Photo by Emma Nzioka.

In 2014, the Moth Community Program began conducting workshops with global health and development experts through a partnership with the Aspen Institute’s New Voices Fellowship. This led to the establishment later that year of the Moth Global Community Program, with a mission to help develop and elevate true, personal stories from extraordinary individuals in the Global South.

By honoring a broad range of individual experience, the Global Community Program seeks to challenge dominant narratives, deepen connection, and create a more productive dialogue around the world. Since the first workshop in 2014, the Global Community Program has worked with 155 participants representing 34 countries, and has presented live showcases to approximately 3,000 people.

“The Moth Global Community Program develops and elevates true, personal stories from extraordinary individuals in the Global South.”

This past January, six storytellers from a previous workshop were selected to tell their stories in front of an audience in Nairobi at the very first Moth show in Kenya, titled Global Stories of Women and Girls. Presented in partnership with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the public showcase drew an audience of 350 and was attended by Her Excellency, Mrs. Margaret Kenyatta, First Lady of the Republic of Kenya.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation provided integral support for the Nairobi showcase, as well as for the workshop that preceded it. Thanks to their ongoing support, The Moth continues to work with storytellers who represent 34 countries, including Uganda, Zimbabwe, Nigeria and Ethiopia—and thanks to the foundation's dedication and funding, The Moth has been able to travel to new countries, take on more applicants, and put on these showcases to reach new audiences.

Flok Melinda Gates 2

Margaret Kenyatta, The First Lady of the Republic of Kenya and Melinda Gates. Photo by Emma Nzioka.

Global producer Lola Okusami recalled the highlights (and challenges) of the showcase. "These storytellers came from four different African countries, each with a profound and sensitive story related to the lives of women and girls. I couldn't wait for the world to hear these stories, and since this was our first showcase in Nairobi, I wanted it to be perfect!"

But despite the Moth's careful preparation, and the on-site support of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, a challenge arose on the day of the the show—namely, bad weather. "The sun shone brightly all day, but at 5:00 PM, it started to pour heavily," said Lola. "We started to panic, but we were told Kenyans consider rain to be a blessing, and who are we to argue with that! Thankfully it ended quickly and soon our guests were enjoying a pre-show cocktail reception under the Kenya National Theatre's Mutunguru tree."

Lola worked alongside the rest of the production team and crew right up until the last minute to ensure all the show's elements were perfectly in place, including arrivals and seating arrangements for all 350 guests. It paid off: "We had students from nearby universities help us as ushers and parking attendants. They played a big role in ensuring that our audience was seated and ready when the show started," said Lola. "It was very exciting to look out into the theatre and watch people spellbound by these extraordinary stories."

“What I love about Moth storytelling is that it opens our hearts so we can hear and it opens our minds to new possibilities.”
— Melinda Gates, The Moth Showcase, Nairobi, January 2018. —

At the opening of the show’s second half, Melinda Gates spoke about the impact of her Foundation’s work with The Moth, praising the storytellers as “economic engines of transformation."

"I've come to realize that one of the most important topics—one of the things we don't talk about very much—is the plight of women and girls. And yet women and girls are the economic engines of transformation. They are the ones that lift up their families and lift up themselves often in very difficult circumstances. So what I love about Moth storytelling is that it opens our hearts so we can hear and it opens our minds to new possibilities."
Melinda Gates

Melinda Gates addressing the audience. Photo by Andrew Anjuguna.

"In the end, all the months of planning, curation and development culminated in a remarkable and impactful night of stories," says Lola. "Stories of a blind college student taking mobility into her own hands; a young politician discovering the power of citizenship; a Masai girl escaping an arranged marriage; a Kenyan man reinterpreting gender roles; an athlete learning to accept her body; and a filmmaker awakening to the realities of women and violence."

To hear some of the stories told in Nairobi, check out The Moth's recent podcast. You can also hear more stories told by Global Community Program workshop graduates in the recent Radio Hour “Global Stories of Women and Girls” hosted by Global Program graduate Fatou Wurie, and on The Moth's YouTube channel


Diane is the digital media intern at The Moth. She aspires to be a playwright and full-time pug mother. She hopes the stories she tells on stage will inspire others to create story-worthy art of their own.

180125 Nairobi Global Sc Women And Girls 50

The night's storytellers, with Melinda Gates and Margaret Kenyatta, The First Lady of the Republic of Kenya. Photo by Emma Nzioka.

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