Yesterday was International Women's Day! In celebration of women worldwide, we wanted to bring you the following story about how Lydia became an acrobat.
Lydia, 16, found out about Carolina for Kibera’s Daughters United program (Binti Pamoja) through her best friend, who already regularly attended meetings. Having grown up in Kibera in a single-parent household, she had been longing for a place where she could meet friends apart from her siblings - specifically girls.
She quickly discovered and appreciated the sense of community she felt with the other girls in her group. “I like that Binti helps girls to overcome some of the challenges they face in the slum, such as violence, early marriage, and drug abuse, which are really affecting young girls in Kibera.” The program’s activities also help girls to identify and practice their different talents, including creative writing, photography, and—most importantly for Lydia—dance.
Lydia enjoys the program’s dancing sessions more than any other aspect of Daughters United meetings. But she had never dreamed of doing something as daring and unique as acrobatics. At one of these dancing sessions, a representative of Nafsi Africa Acrobats gave a spectacular presentation. Lydia immediately found the sport intriguing and exciting. The representative also took an interest in Lydia, hand-picking her to train with a team from Nafsi.
As Lydia practiced, she improved greatly; before long, Nafsi invited her to Copenhagen, Denmark to perform last December! Rather than being strictly a competition, the event functioned as a cultural exchange, bringing together dancers and acrobats from all over the world to share their heritage, culture, and distinct styles of dance, song, and acrobatics. The last day included a competition with participants from other countries, and Lydia’s group emerged the winners!
Through Daughters United, Lydia discovered her passion for acrobatics, which she plans to continue throughout college and the rest of her life. Perhaps one day, another aspiring acrobat will follow in her footsteps.
Everyone deserves a chance to create change in their own life and community. No one’s potential should be limited by where they live or where they were born.
Kiberan youth are hard at work doing just that—creating change—and they want people to know that the youth of Kibera are resilient and determined. We asked Sheryl (pictured above) what she wished others would know about her community. This is what she said:
"When you tell people about Kibera, they think it is dirty and that people are lazy. That's why people don't have much. But I would like them to know that girls, such as me, who live here have dreams and that we work really hard to change our community and our life to make it better. We just need support and opportunity."
Every day, adolescent girls like Sheryl grapple with complex issues that are unique to their circumstances living in a slum, including early marriage and pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and unequal access to education. But they know that by working together and supporting one another, they can empower themselves and their community.
They have faith in where they're going. They have faith in the future.
In CFK’s Daughters United program (Binti Pamoja in Swahili), girls are given opportunities to practice and develop artistic and professional skills that they wouldn’t have the chance to develop otherwise. These include dance, creative writing, leadership skills, and photography, among others. By practicing and improving these and other skills, girls build confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of community and safety with other girls who face similar challenges from living in Kibera.
Recently, Binti Pamoja held a photography workshop for those interested in learning how to take photos. Many of the girls in the program were very excited, since they don’t own cameras and never had the chance to take photos before.
25 girls between the ages of 12 and 15 participated in the general photography training, while 10 who showed a special interest in the subject got the chance to do a photo shoot at different locations throughout Kibera. Each group was given a different focus. For example, one pair of girls took photos of small businesses throughout Kibera, while other pairs took pictures of children and their surroundings. (You can see their photos below.)
The aim of the photo shoots was for the girls to discover, investigate, and write stories based on their photos. This writing assignment will be completed in November, during another Binti Pamoja workshop focusing on creative storytelling. We’re excited to share the completed stories with you then!
They filed into the Tabitha Medical Clinic, seemingly identical in their school uniforms. Quiet and shy, they crammed close together on the benches of the reception area and spoke softly to one another. An elegant Kenyan woman appeared with a bright smile for all the girls. “Good morning,” she said, clapping her hands together. “My name is Macrine. I’m a nurse here at the Tabitha Clinic and I love myself. Let’s hear who you are,” she said, pointing to the girls to introduce themselves.
One by one, they stood and told the room their name, grade, and what they loved: themselves, their country, their families, their height, their school, recent Academy Award winner Lupita N’yongo (who is Kenyan), dancing, poems, everyone else in the room, their color, their tribe, soccer, smiling, music, the way they are. When the introductions were over, Macrine clapped her hands together and said, “This is good that we love ourselves and each other, and we have to remember to take care of ourselves and our bodies.”
Organized by CFK’s Daughters United (Binti Pamoja) program, around 40 young girls spent the day at the Tabitha Medical Clinic with Macrine to talk about health issues that affect them and to ask any questions they have about their health while in a safe environment. Topics ranged from ways young girls in Kenya should take care of themselves, the importance of taking preventative measures if engaging in sex, and the importance of being screened for cervical and breast cancer.
When the topic of breast cancer came up, one of the girls raised her hand. “What causes breast cancer?” she asked. Macrine turned the question to the group and asked what they had heard were the causes. Another girl raised her hand, “When you sleep on your stomach for too long, the breast doesn’t get enough blood and the result can be cancer.” A few others shared what they had heard about the disease before Macrine gave them new—and correct—information.
In Kibera, there’s an astounding amount of misinformation about important health issues like cancer, HIV/AIDS, STIs, and other medical conditions. Young girls grow up hearing myths that lead to real-life consequences. Regular, open health discussions like these help dispel incorrect information and stigma surrounding these health issues.
80 girls from the Binti Pamoja (Daughter’s United) program packed into the Binti Pamoja Centre to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8). An event organized by CFK and Binti Pamoja participants every year, the staff explained the importance of the annual event saying, “Some may not care to celebrate women, but we can celebrate ourselves, to show that we matter and can motivate one another. We are working with these young girls so they can become so much more than is expected of them, and this event is part of that process.”
In a meeting room decorated with art produced by the girls, the participants of the event took turns showcasing their talents. Starting with dramas about female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriages, the girls illustrated some of what they have learned so far from being in the Binti Pamoja program. Next were speeches by Emily and Jennifer, two young girls (14 and 13 years old) who eloquently spoke about what the past year as a Binti participant has meant to them. Poems, dancing, and a fashion show followed. The day ended with food and drinks as the girls enjoyed being together in celebration of their being women.
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