In October, Global G.L.O.W. and LitWorld had the opportunity to visit HerStory Campaign partners in Kenya where we serve over 1000 girls. Though I have traveled around the world and experienced the tremendous impact of HerStory in many countries, this visit to Kenya was truly the most transformative of my life! The HerStory girls and women of Kisumu, Nakuru and Kibera are so inspiring, smart, powerful and absolutely changing the world with their strong voices! Please read on to learn more about the HerStory Campaign and the innovative programming we provide to help promote girls’ education and well-being through the power of story.
As we traveled through Kenya to various HerStory locations, we facilitated training sessions for mentors and led activities that helped us connect with the strong women and girls enrolled in our transformational programs.
Often barriers to education and success are high for the underserved girls of Kenya. Some of these barriers include strong cultural norms favoring boys’ education, remote school locations and danger en route, lack of access to separate latrines, scarcity of menstrual supplies, gender-based violence and vulnerability to exploitation, early marriage and pregnancy. The dynamic HerStory Campaign programming responds to their young women’s critical challenges and gives them a platform to share their powerful stories while supporting them in creating lives of freedom and fulfillment. HerStory programming is specifically tailored to strengthen confidence, communication and leadership. Girls are provided a safe space to meet their mentors and club members weekly. They grow in confidence, develop strong voices and gain tools and opportunities that can lead to a successful future.
Our convoy of five into Kenya – Kylie Schuyler, Founder and Executive Director of Global G.L.O.W.; Jennifer Estrada, Director of the HerStory Campaign; Ana Stern, International Program Director for LitWorld; Tina Villadolid, HerStory Artist in Residence; and our photographer, Monet Eliastam, spent ten days in three cities near Nairobi, including Kisumu, Nakuru and Kibera.
Our first stop was Kisumu, a six-hour drive from Nairobi, where we visited with Nanga LitClub. A highlight there was reconnecting with Jasmine, who came to New York for the Global HerStory Summit last March. Ready to take on the world, Jasmine will confidently head off to secondary school next year. She reminisced with us about how her involvement in HerStory and participation in the Global HerStory Summit helped realize her dream to continue her education so she can continue advocating for girls’ rights throughout Africa.
In Nakuru, we met the amazing Rift Valley Reading Association Partnership Coordinator, Margaret Muthiga, and over 75 girls. We witnessed the thoughtful care HerStory mentors invest in their mentees on a weekly basis. Questions from the mentors showed a deep desire to do more to support their girls in becoming confident, happy, hopeful young people who are a part of a strong community.
In Nairobi we met HerStory girl Natasha, who was once living on the streets, orphaned, with no support and little prospect for success. After a HerStory Club was launched at the school where she was brought to live, she decided to join the program. She now lives in a safe boarding residence with other girls in the HerStory Campaign, has become more confident and strong and plans to be a lawyer someday.
We spent the last three days in Nairobi co-hosting a National HerStory Summit with our partner, NEWI, in celebration of our Stand Up for Girls Campaign and the International Day of the Girl. The NEWI team worked tirelessly alongside our own to care for the 50 girls and their mentors who came from across the country to share their stories through workshop activities, poetry, and song. Their presentations enlightened us about the serious challenges girls face in their communities and the profound strength of our girls. We heard many harrowing stories of escape from child marriage, rape, danger while traveling to school, and female genital mutilation. We also listened to many powerful spoken word poems from strong girls such as this one from Charity, from Moi Nyabohanse Secondary School. WATCH VIDEO
Our final day in Nairobi was a true tour de force as we helped host a large community event with dignitaries, speeches and a parade through the streets. At the event, Kylie and Jennifer Estrada along with several members of parliament, NEWI and community leaders, addressed the crowd of many government officials and hundreds of girls and mentors. The Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Education delivered a powerful speech in celebration of the United Nations Day of the Girl. In his speech, he made a promise to support girls, to listen and respond to what girls really need, and to help break down the barriers that stand in their way. This declaration was a big step in the progress of Kenyan girls’ education, as it was the first time that a promise to support girls had ever been made in public, with press and Kenyan news channels present.
Mentors, teachers, and community members shared with us how much growth they have seen in our girls; how they are thriving in school; and becoming role models for confidence and kindness for their classmates and in their communities.
As we drove off, our team expressed how incredibly full we all felt – full of stories, friendship, and hope. We are inspired by our partners and communities in Kenya, and proud of the empowering work we are doing together to improve girls’ lives thereby strengthening communities and striving to eliminate gender inequality.
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THE CRY OF THE CHILD
A Poem by Lavender, Attendee of the Nairobi HerStory Summit
They stopped me from being me
And expect me to live the lives of others
I cannot be identified as who I am.
I feel it is unfair, but what next?
If my biological parents call me names
And say I was not their expectation
Am I not just like you?
Where is this inequality from?
Don’t I have hands that
Work like yours or perhaps better?
Don’t I have brains –
That can make better decisions
I am yet to discover
I am who I am and proud of myself
The time has come
To say no to oppression
I shall rise and break the yoke
To liberate myself together with others
For sisterlihood is powerful
And together we can!
Oh! Yes we can.