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Poker Power Partners with Global Give Back Circle to Empower Young Women in Kenya

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Poker Power is taking gameplay international as they partner with Global Give Back Circle to provide girls and young women in Kenya with skills taught through poker to build confidence, leadership abilities, and strategic decision-making skills. The supportive, community-based program kicked off this summer with weekly virtual lessons and culminates with an in-person tournament in October.

“We are honored to partner with Global Give Back Circle. It is an incredible opportunity to expand our international footprint by bringing the game-changing skills of thinking like a poker player to young women staking their place of influence in the world,” says Erin Lydon, General Manager of Poker Power. “I have lived in Africa, and I know that Kenya is a country where many women lack access to educational and career-building programs – especially ones that can best position them for the future. It is a privilege for us to mentor and empower the GGBC participants and help impact their growth and success.”

Poker Power is a company founded and led by women with a mission to teach a million women how to play the game–the game of poker and the game of life. Global Give Back Circle (GGBC) is Kenya’s largest gender-based mentorship, education, and employment readiness program that has scaled to Rwanda, South Africa, China, Uganda, Ghana, and India impacting over 4,600 once-at-risk girls. Together, Poker Power and GGBC aim to empower girls and young women in Kenya with skills men are taught early on, so they are confident in taking their seat at the table, regardless of where they might be in the world.

Linda Lockhart, founder and executive director of GGBC, remembers first hearing about Poker Power’s programs at the Forbes 30/50 Summit. She recalls, “As I listened to Jenny Just, Co-Founder PEAK6 Investments, I could feel her passion about the impact poker skills can have on a woman’s confidence, risk-taking prowess, ability to read others, and ability to bluff. The bluffing part really caught my attention, because, as she pointed out, women just don’t bluff as often as men. I immediately wrote four words in my notebook, ‘Bring Poker to Kenya’. Over the past fifteen years, we have tried multiple leadership programs to help our young women take their rightful place in society and the workforce. Nothing really stuck. Until now. Poker Power doesn’t teach leadership behaviors, it embeds them.”

Young women participating in the Poker Power program are all beneficiaries of GGBC and applied to partake in the training. There are currently three cohorts going through training: (1) 60 young women currently attending college in Kenya, (2) 30 young women attending a 1-year economic empowerment program in Kenya called HER Lab, and (3) 20 high school girls from the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy located in the Kibera slum. The cohorts meet weekly for 12 weeks before the program concludes in October with a play tournament for the students to demonstrate their new skills. The lessons are taught using Poker Power Play, a proprietary app developed and launched by Poker Power which is the first of its kind in the marketplace. Poker Power Play is a gender-neutral, inclusive teaching space to learn and play the game under the attentive eye of skilled female poker experts.

“Playing poker has helped me improve my decision-making skills, and it’s helped me understand the purpose of risk taking, even though I have always been afraid of taking risks,” says HER Lab Participant, Jane Kebo. “Learning how to play poker has taught me that you can’t make great leaps in life without taking some risks.”

To track results and improve the partnership for future women, GGBC is using a comprehensive evaluation process to show the impact gameplay has on the enrolled students. The monitoring, evaluation, and learning process used for this project analyzes the impact of participation in Poker Power on young Kenyan women from marginalized circumstances and their attitudes towards, and confidence in, the different professional skills developed through Poker Power including leadership, confidence, negotiation and strategic decision-making. Using a series of data collection tools designed to assess this impact, they will evaluate four things:

  • Gendered attitudes towards poker-playing and business-minded characteristics
  • Self-confidence and self-image in core poker and business skills
  • Change in basic poker knowledge
  • Change in poker-specific strategic thinking

Analysis will enable GGBC and Poker Power to assess any direct association between learning to play poker and changes in attitudes and skills that benefit participants in their working lives. Preliminary data shows the students are ambitious and confident in their abilities – but feel less strong about their interpersonal skills, emotional intelligence, decision making skills, and strategic thinking. Early findings indicate a great need for Poker Power among participants, who will be able to build these concrete skills, to enhance their work-readiness.

“It’s been an amazing journey to learn poker,” shares Tracy Atieno, a nursing student at Moi University in Nairobi, Kenya. “The skills I have gained help suppress the inner voice of fear that sometimes overwhelms me when making decisions. I now live with the mindset of ‘doing it anyway’ even knowing I might fail at first.”

Instructing the Kenyan women are Dr. Alexandra Chauran, a lead poker teacher with Poker Power, and professional poker player and Poker Power instructor Lisa Pickell. As mentors, they are teaching these girls more than just playing a game of cards. They’re guiding them to find the confidence to become the best version of themselves and providing tools to negotiate and speak up when they would have previously held back.

“I love this game and leading the Global Give Back Circle sessions makes me hopeful that we will be able to help empower these young women,” says Dr. Chauran. “Poker helped me through a dark time in my life and I can’t imagine the struggles our young women in Kenya experience every day from minor internet problems to political unrest. If even one young woman finds that poker sets her soul on fire, I’ll know that I’ve done some small part of passing along the power this game has given to me.”

When asked about one of her favorite moments working with the women so far, Lisa Pickell shared, “Seeing them grow from being shy and not wanting to be on camera to offering up answers and participating with smiles on their faces. It’s exciting to see their confidence grow and watch as they become more bold.”

The inaugural training program with Poker Power will conclude in October 2022 with a competition among all three cohorts for the young women to demonstrate the skills they have learned over the twelve-week experience. The program will continue on a rolling three month cadence with future cohorts taking the learnings from this first program to benefit thousands of GGBC young women. Poker Power’s and GGBC’s commitment to preparing young women to lead and succeed through this innovative program is a game changer in the empowerment discourse.

Poker Power is a company founded and led by women and for women of all ages. Poker Power teaches women how to play poker, giving them the confidence, strategic thinking, decision-making, computation, negotiation, capital allocation, and risk management skills they need to compete and succeed in business, finance, and other areas of life. We flip the table on the gender status quo by empowering women with high-value skills often taught only to men through a supportive, community-based network of poker-playing workshops across 40 countries and with over 125 corporate, higher-education and non-profit partners… For more information, visit

Since 2006, the Global Give Back Circle has supported adolescent girls and young women in East Africa and Asia, through the implementation of a holistic process to a girl’s transitioning from a mindset of marginalization to that of economic empowerment. 4,600+ once-at-risk girls have gained access to digital skills, life skills, workforce-readiness skills, and one-to-one mentorship. Girls enter the program in high school and continue to various forms of higher education then into jobs or entrepreneurship. Mentors from all corners of the world give back in time and talent. Private and public sector organizations give back in scholarships, internships, and employment. In return, the girls implement measurable give back projects in their communities and mentor the next generation of girls. Today, the program is managed out of Nairobi, Kenya, led by a team of passionate alumni.


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