First Lady Pool Reports of February 25, 2023
Pool Reports by Jada Yuan, The Washington Post
|February 25, 2023
FLOTUS travel pool #1 - departure in Nairobi
Hi everyone, I'll be your pooler for Jill Biden's second day in Kenya, which is the second-to-last day of her Africa tour. Thanks in advance to co-pooler Emily Goodin, TV pool Tara Prindiville, and radio pool Anita Powell.
Skies are clear and a kind of pale blue. It's a pleasant 72 degrees here in Nairobi, where your pooler saw baboons by the side of the road this morning. Also got to see a security dog getting taken for a walk.
Pool has been covid tested. Motorcade left at 11:36am.
We will have a 30-minute drive in a minibus to FLOTUS's first stop in Kenya's capital city. The doors are on the left side of the bus and 100 percent of the time, we Americans walk to the right side, and we all have a laugh.
FLOTUS has a very busy day today. Pool will motorcade to a youth empowerment event with Hello Tractor, also known as "the Uber of tractors," an organization that partners with the U.S. government to provide tractors to small farmers. She'll be learning about food insecurity and farming practices during the drought.
Then she's headed to Kibera, Africa's largest informal settlement, with an estimated population of 1 million, although the population living in informal dwellings within the larger Kibera community is closer to 250,000, according to the US Embassy team. This is Biden's second trip to Kibera; she visited as second lady in 2010. She'll be talking to women who own small businesses and learning about Joyful Women, a program started by Kenyan First Lady Rachel Ruto to help women with economic empowerment.
Third stop will be the Shujaaz Konnect Festival, where she'll learn about a popular comic book that educates youth about things like sexual health and gender-based violence.
Last stop is to the U.S. Embassy and is closed press.
BACKGROUND FROM THE WHITE HOUSE
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2023
Young Entrepreneurs Event with Hello Tractor
In the morning, the First Lady will engage in an entrepreneurship and sustainability event with Hello Tractor, a local company connecting tractor owners and farmers. The First Lady will learn about how the company is improving agricultural practices through technology and entrepreneurship, which benefits livelihoods and food security during the current drought, as well as economically empowers women and young farmers.
The First Lady will be joined by:
About Hello Tractor
Hello Tractor – an organization collaborating with U.S. Government programs and John Deere as it's largest investor – is a tech-enabled tractor contracting company that is working to increase agricultural mechanization levels and improve the productivity of smallholder farmers through its digital tractor sharing app. Known as the "Uber of tractors," Hello Tractor connects tractor owners with famers in need of their services, and supports them to manage their fleets. Since its founding in 2014, the company has grown its contractor customer base to over 2,500 tractor owners who provide services to over 500,000 smallholder farmers across 14 African countries. The service has become impactful for farmers across Kenya as the drought worsens in the area, as it supports in maximizing productivity and increasing production capacity for small farmers who are hit the hardest by drought.
Joyful Women Event with First Lady Ruto
After, the First Lady and First Lady Ruto will visit a community center to meet with local women who are small business owners and part of Joyful Women, an initiative founded by First Lady Ruto in 2009 to promote women's economic empowerment and financial inclusion. The First Ladies will be joined by U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman.
This will be Dr. Biden's second trip to Kibera. In 2010, Dr. Biden visited the nonprofit Carolina for Kibera, and learned about its efforts to empower women and youth in the informal settlement.
About Joyful Women
Founded in 2009 by First Lady of Kenya Rachel Ruto, Joyful Women is an organization that promotes women's economic empowerment and financial inclusion, through the unique model of "table banking" groups, which convene communities of women by pooling their resources to improve livelihoods. Table banking eliminates bank fees, waiting periods for loan approval, and many other obstacles faced by women in Africa who need loans but do not have collateral. The loans can then be used to start revenue-generating projects or for other livelihood needs.
In the afternoon, the First Lady will attend the Shujaaz Konnect Festival, a local youth empowerment event in Nairobi, presented in collaboration with the MTV Staying Alive Foundation. Shujaaz, Inc., is a prominent youth-focused media entity that is well-known throughout Kenya for their popular comic book, starring DJ B, that aims to improve the lives of Kenyans ages 15-24 by promoting storylines that encourage gender equity, entrepreneurship, and sexual and reproductive health.
Together, Shujaaz, Inc. and MTV Staying Alive Foundation work in collaboration with USAID and PEPFAR to help educate young Kenyans on safety and prevention efforts to protect and prevent HIV/AIDS. Today's Shujaaz Konnect Festival is the first since prior to the start of the pandemic in 2020.
Upon arrival at Shujaaz Konnect Festival, the First Lady will be greeted and briefed by the following individuals:
After the briefing, the First Lady will visit four stations:
Through a series of short networking-like conversations, Shujaaz helps young people have conversations about their lives, hopes, and dreams; and break down some of the barriers that prevent young girls and boys from supporting each other.
Hela Hela ("Cash!") is a board game, similar to Monopoly where players either as teams or individuals use their financial skills to become the "most successful" entrepreneur. The game was developed to help young Kenyan's strengthen financial literacy and entry-level business skills. It aims to encourage self-knowledge and to nudge unemployed youth to take up opportunities in entrepreneurship.
MTV'sShuga – which partners with Shujaaz – is a television drama, set across multiple countries including Kenya, that focuses on sexual health messaging for young people ages 16-25, with storylines exploring the issues of sexual relationships between young people against a backdrop of continuing HIV infections. The show first aired in 2009 staring actree Lupita Nyong'o, who was raised in Nairobi, Kenya.
Youth share their experiences and speak with each other about how young people can play a meaningful role in the development of their communities. The storylines of Shujaaz comics inspire debates about key issues for young people, which are discussed during Mic Yetu events.
MTV Staying Alive Foundation
Visit to U.S. Embassy Nairobi
|February 25, 2023
FLOTUS travel pool #2 - Hello Tractor visit
Driving to the site of the Hello Tractor visit, a few people seemed like they had paused what they were doing to watch the motorcade pass, including what seemed like all the employees of a gas station, in uniform. But mostly we saw large numbers of motorcyclists and cars patiently waiting.
Vendors were along the side of the road with artful displays of their wares: pottery, baskets, tires, hubcaps, lawn mowers, colorfully painted swing sets.
Pool got to Hello Tractor site at 11:57am. It was outdoors in a big field lined with trees. The grass was yellow, likely due to the drought. Three green John Deere tractors were placed in the field with groups of people FLOTUS would be talking to. See background for what Hello Tractor does, but they're known as the Uber of Tractors and essentially connect tractor owners with the farmers who need them. It's a for profit company that works with USAID.
FLOTUS walked down a hill to the tractors wearing a short sleeved, belted blue dress with an orange and green pattern that looked like a painting of kumquats on the branch. She also had on peach-orange espadrilles. Naomi Biden was with her in a green and white striped belted dress and white sneakers that she wore to the HISA visit in Nairobi. U.S. Ambassador to Kenya Meg Whitman was with them.
FLOTUS stood in front of the tractor and sometimes leaned in it as she spoke to Jehiel Oliver, founder and CEO of Hello Tractor. The exchange was hard to hear. Oliver said he'd founded the company 8 years ago. He said that 80 percent of the food consumed in Africa is produced by smaller farms. Pool's understanding is that Hello Tractor has an app that allows tractor owners to rent out their tractors, a little like Airbnb.
Sometime within this meeting, after the press had taken some photos, Naomi Biden started backing away and eventually was spotted on a hill behind the press. She did not participate in any more of the meetings.
FLOTUS asked Oliver, "How much does something like this cost?" meaning the tractor. He said $25,000
Oliver also talked about community-based booking agents. The ones that have a good track record with the company somehow get an opportunity to get loans to buy a tractor.
"These are made in the United States?" FLOTUS asked.
"How many African countries have this?" She asked. 14 he said.
"Are you from here?" Said FLOTUS
"I'm from Cleveland, OH," said Oliver
At some point she said, "Ok I grew up in Pennsylvania outside of Philly."
She asked the woman Oliver was with where she was from.
Next stop was meeting with the director of USAID in Nairobi. A John Deere representative handed her two John Deere caps, one in bright pink and one in pale pink. A staffer came over and took the hats away
She then met with community booking agents who had become tractor owner. One said: "I humbly request to get more tractors because I only have one."
FLOTUS turned to the press with her arms out, laughing. "I don't think that's my job," she said.
FLOTUS: "If you don't have gas and fuel costs are high why not make them electric? You have electricity." She was told they are "exploring it"
One owner was introduced as a "master booker."
FLOTUS, excitedly: "Do your mechanics get trained by the program? Because that could be a whole program at community colleges." Then she turned to the press. "Not that I'm pushing community colleges."
As pool was pulled, we spotted Naomi Biden up the hill, watching FLOTUS. She was wearing the hot pink John Deere cap.
Press loaded in vans 12:32pm
Rolled out of site 12:37pm
|February 25, 2023
FLOTUS travel pool #3 - Kibera
Pool arrived at 12:47pm and ran across a red clay dirt parking lot into the Kibera informal settlement and down a street that seemed to be lined with businesses. Many hundreds of people were waiting and ululated as the press ran into the site.
Pool was set up deep inside the compound (the government center in Kibera) and far down a street from the entrance gate. Pool had no eyes on FLOTUS until she arrived at 13:01 on foot, walking with a group. The pool was hidden behind a palm tree and had no eyes on the principal as she was interacting with locals and walked through the slum. Pool also did not see her exit her car. CNN was given access for exclusive footage of her interactions. The rest of the US and Kenyan pool missed at least four minutes of her visit because, again, we were being held at least a hundred feet away and behind several trees. Pool vehemently objected. The pool had also asked to send two representatives, one US and one from Kenya, to witness the movement and were told no.
Pool saw her at 13:05. She was talking to a woman with a pink headwrap and carry a baby. When she said goodbye, FLOTUS hugged the woman. She then walked to a white tent that seemed to contain good and white chairs and met the Kenyan First Lady Rachel Ruto.
The third setup was in a church, as FLOTUS walked in at 13:10, she said to Ruto, "You know where you're going," and gestured for her to go first. Ruto then wrapped a cloth known as a leso or a kanga around FLOTUS's waist. It is white, green, and orange and says Joyful Women.
"Goes with my shoes," Biden said.
Ruto's chief of staff Nancy Salamba took the mic: "Thank you very much to our first ladies for that amazing exchange of one of our traditional pieces. We call it a leso or a kanga and us women we mostly tie it around ourselves when we are in the house doing the work. And also when visitors come and we need to host them. It's a good sign, in terms of how we host.
Salamba also did introductions including this one: "We want to have a special welcome to Miss Naomi Biden, the granddaughter of Dr. Jill Biden."
Naomi stood up and gave a little wave. She's sitting to the stage right of the room in a cluster of four chairs that also contains Ambassador Whitman.
Salamba said these women meet every 25th of the month.
The women started introducing themselves. They are seated at a long rectangular table. There are 12 women and two men. One of the men is a reverend who is translating.
One woman explained table banking, which is essentially a system of community loans, kind of like a community bank. The woman said it's been around since 2012. FLOTUS said, "wow"
The woman said that meetings are mandatory. "If you come in late, there is a fine." FLOTUS made a big surprised expression. "They pay up to $20 for missing a meeting," said the woman.
Ruto took the mic at 13:28 to explain Joyful Women, which she founded. FLOTUS is sitting to her right and turned her head toward her and actively listened. Ruto also mentioned that she used to be a travel agent and a teacher.
The idea came in 1997 when Ruto husband was running for parliament for the first time. She was going to villages to campaign for votes and says she'll never forget meeting a young woman in one village.
"I noticed one woman that was seated right in front of me. She looked like she had not had breakfast. She looked emaciated. She didn't have shoes. And yet what caught my attention was a broad smile that she had. And when I looked at them and I looked at her I made a prayer to God and I said if my husband makes it to Parliament, I would like to come back and do something with this women. Because what I saw was not very acceptable. Because I was wondering if a mother can leave her house without shoes to come for that kind of a meeting. Then what was the situation at home? What about her children?"
Then Biden was invited to speak. Ask me for Otter if you need.
FLOTUS: "Well, I love seeing this program Rachel started because I think one of the things that I've done since I came to Kenya, I came to work on girls' education, women's empowerment, and you are doing exactly that. And I've always taught my own daughter and my granddaughters the importance of being financially independent. And so now here, you found a way to do your own banking system, which is pretty incredible, Rachel."
FLOTUS then asked the women to talk.
FLOTUS: "So I'd love to hear what some of you are doing, you know, with the money that you're getting from the table banking. And it's pretty ingenious that women found a way to support other women, to lift them up, and to increase economic prosperity for the families, right?"
She reached her arms toward the woman closest to her. "It's not just for you, you do it to support your families. So I wondered if anybody would tell me you know what you're doing with the money? What businesses did you start? How do you feel?"
FLOTUS then asked her staff if they had time for this and was told they did. One woman spoke in Swahili and was translated. She supplies vegetables three times a week and she's been able to open a daycare with the funds she gets from the group. Daycare was inspired because many Kenyan women leave their children unattended in order to go to work.
"First lady of the United States, you are very welcome to the Ladies of Peace"
FLOTUS said an enthusiastic, "Thank you."
Pool was pulled from the room at 14:09 while the participants were doing a demonstration of table banking. We sat in the van until it rolled at 14:27.
Here's the background, also in pool report #1
|February 25, 2023
FLOTUS travel pool #4 - Shujaaz Konnect Festival and talk about safe sex and condoms
NOTE: this stop was very chaotic. There was a moment when FLOTUS spoke with a group of young Kenyans about safe sex and their experiences with covid (stop #3) and press was moved to the next location three or four minutes before FLOTUS finished speaking with the students. Print pool stayed behind, but the audio is garbled. Thank you to radio pooler Anita Powell and co-pooler Emily Goodin for their help.
This report contains several conversations FLOTUS had with young Kenyans about safe sex, condoms, and PrEP.
Pool arrived at the next site after a 12-minute drive. FLOTUS arrived around 14:41. This is an event for Shujaaz, which uses a comic book, social media, events, a game, etc. to reach young Kenyans and educate them about issues like safe sex through the media they consume. Naomi Biden was not with her.
FLOTUS moved around the venue, called Village Creative. It's a beautiful lawn but challenging pool circumstances. Four tents were set up for four programs and she was shown around. Each had 20-25 young adult Kenyans in them, usually sitting on bales of hay, each bale wrapped with a patterned Kenyan cloth. Her movements around the space were uncoordinated and pool had to hustle around in a circle, without being able to get close enough to hear the conversations with Shujaaz's head of partnership and programs of the USAID deputy mission director for Kenya and East Africa.
Print pool couldn't hear the interactions at the first two stops. Thanks to radio pooler Anita Powell of VOA for providing this. First stop was about getting young Africans to talk about their lives through small networking conversations and conversational tools. We can provide a photo of the questionnaire
From Anita and me:
They showed her a questionnaire tool they use to get youths to talk about issues, and the first question on the questionnaire is "what would you say if I told you I had a condom in my pocket right now?"
She laughed. "And this is the first time they're meeting?!"
The Shujaaz representative said yes, this is a way for them to overcome their shyness because sometimes it's easier to ask a stranger those type of questionsd because you feel like you won't be judged.
"I'm surprised you don't start with like, what's your biggest achievement rather than, 'I have a condom in my pocket,'" she said.
Back to me:
Stop two was about a comic book that teaches young people about things like sex ed, finances. Pool couldn't hear anything. Comic book is written in Swahili. Please refer to background.
Stop three was an MTV Shuga watch party. It's a TV show about young people and the issues they're facing, basically a promo show about young South Africans dealing with issues of sexual politics. Started in 2009. The representative said they were now looking into streaming options because thats how young people consume media now.
FLOTUS asked for a moment put on her aviator sunglasses.
The youths told her their impressions of the show — this is a discussion group they have regularly.
"So they watch a video and then they discuss it?" FLOTUS asked at the stop about MTV Shuga.
She was shown a clip of people talking about the show. A woman being interviewed said it was aimed at young girls who don't really know the consequences of getting into dating and sexual relationships until it's too late or they're too deep in or they don't know how to get out.
She was being shuffled to the final site when she said, "Wait, let's hear what they have to say about it. Do you have any reactions." Went into full teacher mode.
"Shuga is all about love, sex and money," said Zena Baraza, 23, who's studying to be a water engineer at the technical university. "These are some of the activities that take place in Nairobi and Kenya. She said it also talks about covid, HIV prevention, and money.
"I must have missed the money part," said FLOTUS laughing. One young woman said there's a character who goes to parties and has intergenerational sex, and that they'll watch that and discuss.
A female participant: "We talk about solutions. We talk about how when you're having that sex, you should protect yourself by using a condom. What happens when you don't use a condom? That's when you go to the facility, and you get the PrEP. But what happens when you are interacting with someone that you don't know their status? You can also use PrEP. With that we discuss all of it together. We have the same viewpoint. We relate to the Shuga."
"Besides condoms, does it promote birth control pills or anything like that, another type of prevention for safe sex?" FLOTUS asked.
"They are also thinking about abstaining. You can also use condoms and we have available the female condoms. We talk that and how to access them," said a female particpant.
"How to access them," FLOTUS repeated.
"So contraception for unintended pregnancy prevention and PrEP for HIV prevention," said a male participant.
"Then so do you go into your neighborhoods or your churches or your schools and then do you spread the word further?" FLOTUS asked. There was a chorus of yeses. "So you're sort of ambassadors for this program?" Yeses. "Okay, that gives me a better picture."
"That is also because we are going through the same sort of thing -- we are also experiencing this, so we are part of the beneficiaries of the thing, because we are young people," said a male participant.
"So do most of you know one another, or are you all strangers?" FLOTUS asked.
They said they knew each other. She asked if this was the first one since Covid. It was.
"So, you haven't seen each other in a while? What's that like?" Biden asked.
Press got moved to the next location, but print pool stayed a little longer. One young man said that people have changed. "What do you mean by that?" FLOTUS asked. And he said they'd gotten beards or now they don't have beards, and everyone laughed.
She also asked them about mental health and mentioned that as a teacher she'd seen her students struggling.
At the fourth stop, she watched a game called Hela Hela (Cash) which is like Monopoly, but it teaches financial literacy. She asked who was the champion and who was the biggest risk taker.
Then she gave brief remarks.
HERE IS A TRANSCRIPT OF HER BRIEF REMARKS
I'm Jill Biden and I just want to say thank you to all of you here for coming. And really applaud you for wanting to learn more about PEPFAR and HIV /AIDS and financial literacy and safe dating and safe sex. You know, these are issues that really all people need to talk about them. Yet, somehow, they don't, and the consequences of not talking about it are so dire. So, I love seeing the young people here. I'm a teacher. I teach first year college English in the United States. I'll be there in two days [laughs], teaching actually an essay called, "This I believe," where they talk about their core values, you know, what they really believe in. So, certainly, you know, we're so supportive of these programs, and I know I'm stand between everybody and their music [laughed, gestured toward the DJ at a table on the lawn behind her] so I just want to say thank you again for having me here and now I'll let them turn on the music.
FLOTUS walked away at 15:05. Pool held in a van while FLOTUS gave an interview to CNN. We were told it was a lunch stop. We left the site at 16:06 to go to the U.S. embassy.
|February 25, 2023
FLOTUS travel pool #5 — unscheduled trip to war memorial
After leaving the youth event site, pool arrived at the U.S. embassy at 16:30. Large crowds had gathered to watch the motorcade. FLOTUS was greeting embassy employees and it was closed press, but pool saw her meeting what looked like 50 Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, as well as a row of Marines in khaki uniforms.
Pool was pulled into a pen and paper briefing, on background, about tomorrow's visit to a drought-stricken area to talk about food insecurity. The briefing had barely begun when pool was pulled at 16:56 because FLOTUS was making an unscheduled movement to lay a wreath at the August 7th Memorial Park, which she'd visited in 2010 with President Biden when he was vice president. The pool continued the briefing on the bus.
FLOTUS arrived at 17:17pm and waited in the SUV for a couple minutes. She walked across a brick courtyard to a white flower wreath decorated in red and blue ribbons and placed on a wire stand in front of the memorial. She placed her right hand on the wreath and stood there having a quiet moment for 28 seconds, in which she seemed to be reading some names on the memorial. She walked back to the motorcade and pool went out a different entrance and saw what looked like two crowds measuring a total of about 600 across the street, trying to figure out what the commotion was about. She was back in the motorcade at 17:23, but her visit to the memorial was just 55 seconds, according to pool's video.
We came back to the hotel. That's a wrap for today.
Background about the stop from the White House.
The First Lady will visit the August 7th Memorial Park to honor the lives lost at the 1988 embassy bombing in Nairobi, and their families.
On August 7, 1998, terrorists detonated bombs next to the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The attacks killed over 200 men, women, and children, and injured over 4,000 others. With support from U.S. Embassy Nairobi, the August 7th Memorial Park opened on August 7, 2001, to offer a refuge to remember the victims of the bombing and to educate the public on terrorism and violence.
In 2010, Dr. Biden and then-Vice President Biden visited Nairobi, Kenya, where they laid a wreath at the August 7th Memorial Park.
Jill Biden, First Lady Pool Reports of February 25, 2023 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/359846