Kyra Turner-Zogbekor: A Champion of Literacy and Education in Africa
In 2015, Bryn Mawr College’s Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research celebrated its 100th anniversary. To mark the occasion, a series of feature stories were written to showcase alumni who embody the school’s mission of “Professionals for Purposeful Action.”
If every child received an education, 171 million people would be lifted out of poverty.
As the girl’s education program advisor for Room to Read, a nonprofit organization that focuses on child literacy and gender equality in education in Asia and Africa, Kyra Turner-Zogbekor, PhD ’13, advises the organization’s strategy in Tanzania. She helps train staff and implement life skills and academic support programs for teenage girls in the country.
“When I applied to Bryn Mawr’s doctoral program in social work, I was very direct with what I wanted to do,” Turner-Zogbekor said. “I wrote that I wanted to work with nonprofit organizations in Africa to build capacity to relieve educational inequality, so everything I set out to do, I’m doing with Room to Read.”
Turner-Zogbekor was uniquely prepared for this position. After earning a master’s degree in social work, she joined the Peace Corps and spent two years volunteering for a girls’ education and empowerment program in the West African nation of Togo.
She is also the executive director and co-founder of Pathways Togo, a nonprofit organization that advocates for girls’ education rights in the country. The organization sponsors scholarships, life skills, leadership development, summer camps and mentoring programs for middle-school through college-aged girls.
As a doctoral student at Bryn Mawr, Turner-Zogbekor received several awards, including a Fulbright to Ghana, to study how adult education benefits women and their communities.
“My full-circle moment happened during my Fulbright trip when I traveled from Ghana back to Togo to visit my old Peace Corps community,” Turner-Zogbekor said. “I saw one of the girls I had worked with more than 10 years ago, and she remembered me and told me what an impact I had on her. She was in middle school then, and here she was, a university scholar.”
Next up for Turner-Zogbekor is building on the work she’s doing now to facilitate multiple organizations working together to improve education for all children.
“Bryn Mawr allowed me to pursue what I was interested in from the very start,” Turner-Zogbekor said. “Through my Fulbright, independent study and dissertation, I found an environment that was incredibly supportive and allowed me to focus on my own personal journey and accomplish exactly what I set out to do.”
Photo credit: Bryn Mawr University