Our mentorship program, launched in 2012, initially admitted four girls who went through a two months training at Solidarity for the Advancement of Womens’ Agenda (SAWA) offices. The activities were both outdoor and indoor and meant to propel individual growth and interaction abilities with other members of the society. Mentors occasionally joined the mentees to offer individual and group mentorship and covered various topical issues like relationships, health and hygiene, careers, businesses and spirituality. Interestingly, the girls also offered peer mentorship which was an unexpected outcome of the project. As they graduated from the program, they had built communication skills, computer skills, business skills as well as interpersonal skills.
SAWA has keenly followed these pioneers of the program to find out what they are doing in their lives and compiled the following individual report:
Kawira is currently in her final year at the university. The concept of community service has become very meaningful to her and she mentors other orphaned girls at the university and beyond to show them that they can still face life successfully. She informs us that the program stimulated her to appreciate people and know that she does not only need to help her siblings and those related to her, as she puts it “ I now look at the world with different lens, that my happiness is not complete until all are happy, especially other girls. My task henceforth will be to preach this hope and inspire others to do something good to someone else. “ She has confessed this since she left SAWA more than two years ago.
Another mentee, Margaret has actively been engaged in community life in all aspects. She got married a year ago and is blessed with their first child. Margaret can now confidently stand and talk in front of a group, something she could not when she joined SAWA. In her own words “When I joined SAWA, my self-esteem was too low having been brought up to believe that as a Maasai girl, my place at family and community level is always second-class and that I do not measure to the standards of girls from other communities”. Margaret does tailoring for a living and organizes a group of girls from Gichagi village where they engage in public health activities as well as business skills training – mainly making baskets and beadwork for sale.
For Caroline, courage and determination are prerequisites to success in life - virtues that brought a lot of meaning in her life. She is currently working in her small business in her rural town as well as doing some hair dressing classes. Caroline confesses that her perspective for life was changed through the SAWA experience and she can now do anything to earn a living as long as it is something ethical. She trains other girls in the community to engage in small businesses rather than be idle and engaging in immoral behavior which leads to unwanted pregnancies and at times exposes them to sexually transmitted infections.
Wairimu is currently in her third year at the university and says her experience with SAWA transformed her thinking and positively shaped her life. She associates her success in school to her experience with us where she learnt the principles of hard work, self-respect and focused life.
Other mentees of the program have been inspired by these four and aspire to get to where they are in their school and careers.
We are thankful to you for enabling us impact on the lives of needy girls in the community.
I would like to tell you about a one-day seminar we ran to train girls from Gichagi slum area of Ngong Division, Kajiado County. The seminar had three objectives:
After a warm welcome and settling down as everything was in order, we participated in the following activities:
Everyone was requested to introduce herself to the group. This offered an opportunity to know the names, age and level of education as well the school. The girls were given the first priority, then trainers and SAWA staff concluded. The main purpose for this was to enhance familiarization and create good rapport.
Margaret spoke about girl-boy relationship, their strengths and weakness and how they should be used to foster education. She also gave the girls tips on how to avoid early pregnancies which would affect their education. There were so many questions which all the other facilitators helped to answer.
I talked about rape which is increasing in Kenya today, particularly where old men are spoiling young girls, mostly their relatives. She stressed on behavior and habit of such people which girls need to be aware of. She also gave tips of how to avoid being victims and advised that should one become a victim they should not hide it but report to the parents, guardians and other grow-ups so that medical attention can be sought and necessary legal action taken. There were so many questions and the topic was not exhausted. It was postponed to April 2015.
The reusable sanitary towel project was revisited where nine of the girls present confirmed that they still make them for their own use though not every month. Our group distributed some sanitary pads packets that. It was a very exciting moment.
It was a wonderful session and the girl articulated ‘life is a learning process and each and every day we learn a new thing’.
Thank you for supporting us in our efforts to mentor young girls and encourage their education and empowerment.
December is a month of celebrations! And visits to families, friends, and homes of less fortunate and other groups are usually common. It is a time to remember those who ‘touched us’ in whatever way and having reflections together. SAWA visited the family of Josephine, who was a beneficiary of the Gender Based Violence training, and who from the training became an advocate of the rights of women in her village in Ntugi, Meru County. Josephine narrated to us how she mobilized the community to recover the only cow of her neighbor, a friend, which had been sold without her consent. And the story goes ….
‘Mama Mercy, a housewife aged 32, lives a few meters from my home. She is a hard working lady who feds for her family composed of four – two children 2 and 4 years, and a husband who runs a second-hand clothes at the nearby market. The husband has been harsh to her and abuses her both physically and mentally. He uses all the proceeds from his business on drinking alcohol and gets home in the evening to demand for food and other provisions from her jobless wife. The family one cow has been the sole source of the wife’s income and food – they consume the milk and sell two liters daily for Kshs.95 (nearly a dollar). On the fateful morning, she woke up in the morning and took the bowl as usual and headed to the cow shed to milk her cow. To a surprise, the cow was not there. The husband had sold it during the night at a throw away price to get money to enjoy during this festive season. In tears, Mama Mercy went to Josephine her neighbor and shared the sad story. Josephine took her to the area Chief to report and within a few hours mobilization was done to help reclaim the cow since the buyer was already identified. In short, Mama Mercy got her cow back – courtesy of Josephine who is a Gender Equity advocate in her community. The man was warned of severe communal consequences if he ever interfered with family property without consulting the wife. Women in this community are thus gaining power and I pride myself for having been able to provide education – that you SAWA for training me”
Such stories are very common where women are demanding to be involved in decision making at the family level. SAWA’s programs recognize this and give priority to sensitization and education to give women a voice particularly at the family level.
With gratitude and best wishes for the new year,
We look back to count our achievements for the year almost coming to the end with humility as we highlight key areas that we have made impact.
We are preparing for a conference in December where all the direct beneficiaries come together to celebrate their successes, encourage each other in case of things that never worked as planned and chart a way forward for better participation in the project in the coming years. We are thankful to our supporters who have seen us through this far and continue asking for continued partnership to accomplish bigger plans.
Nairobi and surrounding rural areas
The quarter that has just ended was so significant to SAWA, Solidarity for the Advancement of Women's Agenda, when one of our beneficiaries got married to start her family. When she called me to break the news, she was excited to share how her experience with SAWA enriched her courtship and eventually guided her into marriage negotiations. In her new experience, she will be using the business skills acquired during her time at SAWA to manage her tailoring and beadwork shop. She was only sad that her new home is deep in the interior of Kenya with very poor internet network and no electricity to allow her regular communication with us. I paraphrase her telephone communication here below:-
“Today marks a very important day in my life, the day that I tie knot with the love of my heart. I get into this phase of life with confidence because of the lessons that SAWA gave me. I well remember the topic of women’s human rights, gender equity, women and property ownership; things that will practically make sense in my marriage life. I will forever remember the lesson on hygiene and nutrition by Mrs. Kiberenge, the mentor I acquired from SAWA, a lesson that will indeed help me in matters relating to health and nutrition in my new home. I am not sure how I would have faced this life without such knowledge. Mrs. Kiberenge has been key in the marriage preparations, both morally and even financially and I am happy to have her as my mentor. Although we have not organized a formal celebration for a wedding, I do know the importance of formalizing my marriage and will do it as soon as possible. Knowledge is power, and I feel it within me – thanks to SAWA.”
We continue exposing young needy girls in primary schools to computers, writing and offering career guidance. On Sunday afternoons, we have meeting where they come to interact with one another, share experiences and meet with their mentors. They get to have their questions answered and so motivated and inspired to face life with more confidence. The concept of mentorship is eventually being understood, it is not a typical or familiar concept in Kenya, and many women are volunteering to take the role. When we started, very few were offering to be mentors because they did not know what is expected, but currently, I am happy to report that we have some pending, waiting for us to get more girls that they can mentor.
We are forever grateful to our well wishers and sponsors for taking us this far.
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