Judith is from Siaya County, Kenya. Her parents died from HIV/AIDS when she was young, and she and her siblings grew up as outcasts in a community that feared getting infected. After receiving a scholarship through the U.S. Department of State, Judy became devoted to supporting girls’ education to keep them from the same negative experiences that she went through earlier in her life. She is currently working to support St. Alice Angel’s Academy, a community-based primary school that educates girls between 3 and 13 who have been orphaned, especially by HIV and AIDS. Read her story here.

 What made you decide you wanted to work with girls and education?

I believe the most important gift I can give girls in my community in order to prevent them from early marriages is education since it’s the key to resolving most problems they are facing. When girls are supported to acquire education, they will be in a position to secure employment and be independent in life, make their own decisions and be able to break the cycle of poverty in their homes by helping their parents and siblings. Any assistance these girls can receive in pursuing their education will create a ripple effect. It will not just improve their living standards, but it will enhance the living situation of everyone around them and even Kenya as a nation. There is a lot of poverty and desperation in my country, the rare privilege of furthering one’s education goes a long way in Kenya

Judith Ochola had a tough childhood, and is fighting so that no girl ever has to go through what she did.

You said in your article that your personal experiences have caused you to see the world differently.

There was a time in my life that I thought the world was so cruel and that people were so inhuman due to the rejection my siblings and I went through in our community. However, I have come to realize that there are some people who care. I now know that everybody has a right to a healthy and better life and that everyone should be treated equally irrespective of gender and financial status

How do you see your future? What plans do you have for it?

I see a bright future ahead. I have come a long way and I believe I will soon reach there. I am hoping to continue to further pursue my studies and get a Master’s degree in business administration though I was not able to pursue law as I desired. I would like to help more girls, not only from my community but from Kenya as a whole to acquire quality education in the future and to be successful in life. The gift of education is what I can give back to society, considering what I went through in life.

What do you want women around the world to know about you and what you’re doing?

Everything is possible through hard work and determination. Sometimes things might seem very difficult and one might think that there is no way out. My message is that we should not give up, no matter the situation. I also urge women to work toward empowering girls so that we can build a stronger nation and eliminate poverty and ignorance. I have come to realize that the only thing in life that is permanent is change, and therefore women should know that, no matter what they are undergoing, things will change for the better if they work hard and never give up in life.