INEE Member Spotlight: Grace Kiiria Okia

Location: Uganda

Title: Global EiE Advisor War Child UK & Founder Personal Development Initiative Africa (PDIA)

Contact:; Headshot author

Introduce yourself to other members. Tell us who you are and summarize the work you do or interest you have in EiE.

I am the founder for Personal Development Initiative Africa (PDIA), a Community-Based organization focusing on Community led ECD, working with communities in Eastern Uganda affected by natural disasters and abject poverty. We have also worked with communities in Tanzania. 

I believe in the "power of community" when empowered with the right skills, knowledge, values and attitudes, communities have the potential to lead their own development. Through our experience, we have found community led approach very sustainable. And for PDIA, this is the ideal model for localization Agenda, it's a model that is cost effective and replicable in any community globally. 

I have worked with War Child Holland as Education Advisor based in Uganda working with conflict affected children from DRC and South Sudan where among other roles I led EdTech innovations to enhance access to equitable and quality education for conflict affected children and vulnerable children from host communities .

Currently, I am working as the Global Education in Emergency Advisor for War Child UK where we are among other things pioneering evidence based ECD models in Emergency. 

What has been a highlight of your work as a professional in EiE?

At War Child UK, I Provide leadership for EiE and champion Early Childhood Development (ECD) among other roles. One  of our very interesting ECD models is “Factory-based engagement of male caregivers”. It’s a gender transformative model that strives to reach men “where they are” to enhance gender responsive parenting in EiE contexts. This innovative approach brings a shift in the way men think and engage in parenting which has contributed to mitigation in violence and improved well-being for both children and their caregivers. I am proud to be part of a team engaged in further adaptation and scaling of this model across EiE contexts to improve Early Childhood Development.  

Working with War Child Holland my greatest achievement has been providing leadership in the institutionalization of War Child's EdTech innovation (Can't Wait To learn (CWTL) in Uganda to enhance literacy and numeracy skills for refugees and vulnerable children in Uganda. My greatest lesson in this regard is that; integrating innovations/interventions into the national policy frameworks is the ultimate goal for achievement of long term impact and consequently sustainability. The government of Uganda, under the Ministry of Education and Sports, is in the process of adopting CWTL. 

With PDIA, COVID 19 situation, provided an opportunity for me to volunteer my knowledge and skills to support vulnerable communities in Eastern Uganda. With the devastating impact of COVID on Education, especially for vulnerable communities, I started community based and community led learning for the rural community. I spearheaded the value of education and why education should NOT stop even during the pandemic. The result of this sensitization led to the establishment of 20 community-based learning centres. When schools opened in 2022, we had reached 10,500 children. The centres have become ECD centres. Testimonies of parents on the positive impact of the programme on their children's learning and development is the motivating factor for the community to scale the programme further. The community is driving and championing their own development. And I am proud to be part of this transformation. 

When and why did you join INEE, and what is the value of INEE membership to you? 

From INEE, I learn about international good practices in education and in my role as Education in Emergency Advisor, understanding this enables me to align our local approaches with international practices to better address the needs of our beneficiaries at country level. For PDIA, much as I am not directly responsible for implementation, my role is to provide vision for the organization as well as strategic direction, being part of INEE will be fundamental in shaping this vision and strategy. 

How do you currently engage with the INEE network? 

I represent War Child UK in the INEE ECD Working Group

How would you like INEE members to connect and engage with you? What skills, experience and/or technical support would you be willing to share or provide to other members and/or INEE Secretariat? 

INEE will learn a lot from War Child Uk especially on ECD models that War Child UK is pioneering to better address challenges of providing ECD in emergencies but also from experience from War Child Holland, harnessing EdTech to enhance access to education during emergencies as well as  integration of tested and proven innovation into National policy frameworks for greater impact and sustainability. And from PDIA, INEE will learn about the potential of community led models to EiE and how to enhance the power of communities for greater impact and scale up. 

"Imagine if each community was taking the lead in their own development!" Through experience, I do believe, this is achievable if we begin to learn and embrace what works best at the local level and align it to practices at a global level. Working collaboratively with INEE and other platforms provides opportunity to engage in these discussions, generate evidence for such models that can be translated into EiE programming and used by INEE partners to scale up such proven models. 

*Published on July 2023.

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