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.
Dear Global Giving Friends,
The last quarter has witnessed the coming in of Rhoda Galo as a powerful mentor in SAWA. When Rhoda developed interest in the mentorship program, we took her through our training to familiarize her with the mission of SAWA before assigning her duties and responsibilities to coach and mentor the girls. Being a professional teacher she is able to integrate well with the girls and is a very good motivational speaker. She is particularly instrumental in working with the rural girls because of her extensive experience in teaching in rural areas.
We visited a Children’s Home run by Kenya Connection Ministries located in rural Chuka, Tharaka Nithi county to talk to the children as we gave hope and had fun with them. The home houses 28 children aged between five and twenty, and in extension supports a total of 160 orphan and very needy children and young adults in primary and high schools within the community. It was exciting to see them talk of careers they would like to engage in, most of them admiring teaching, banking, businesses, legal as well as farming. We discussed what each of the jobs entails and what they needed to do to achieve their goals. We agreed to be meeting regularly to talk more about school and careers and answer the many questions they seemed to have.
SAWA is working on a deeper partnership with the Home so that the girls particularly in high school and those who have cleared can benefit from our programs. During this April – June quarter, we will also be training more women mentors some of who will be matched with the children to see them grow to take the careers they dream of. We are glad that Rhoda is promising to be key in this new partnership
A visit to Kibiku, the locality of Margaret's shop last month revealed that SAWA’s mentees continue to uplift their lives as well as those of their communities tremendously. Margaret does her tailoring as well as beadwork in a small shop rented near her home. She works in partnership with Hellen, who is slightly younger than her. Margaret is happy that she is also mentoring someone. During our visit we found Margaret showing Hellen how to fix buttons using the machine. The main challenge the shop is experiencing is limited market because the community is generally home to the pastoral Maasai without stable income.
We are forever grateful to our well wishers for the continued support which is changing the lives of young Kenyans, in particular girls in the country.
The year 2014 opens with celebrations for our nonprofit Solidarity for the Advancement of Women's Agenda (SAWA) as we count the number of girls joining high school with confidence – thanks to the mentorship program. The role of mentorship in this case has been:
All the girls who are direct beneficiaries of our program started such mentorship projects in their respective villages and in total we have, from those groups, 13 girls aged 13-14 years who scored between 285 and 395 marks out of the possible 500 and have invitation letters to join various high schools. They are reporting to school this month.
The month of January also saw the launch of a mini-project at the SAWA office where girls come to the office to do practice/practicals on areas of their potential careers on Sunday afternoons. For example those interested in journalism like the 10 year old Catherine will write articles, peruse National Newspapers to indentify current themes and practice taking photos using our cameras. Others would model bank cashiers/tellers and spend time counting dummy notes and balancing accounts. SAWA office is thus busier on Sundays than any other day of the week. It is such an amazing scenario to watch and marvel at what young girls can do given opportunities.
Last week we visited a group composed of both primary and secondary school girls (aged 10 – 17) which works with Margaret, one of our direct beneficiaries. Although Margaret is busy in her tailoring shop that she started after the business skills acquired at SAWA, she meets the group on the afternoon of the last Sunday of the month to give inspirational talks and give girls an opportunity to communicate and so build their confidence. The encouraging story I gathered from this meeting was from Dorcas, an 11 year old class 6 pupil whose parents Margaret has convinced not to take through female genital mutilation (FGM). Margaret and the group comes from the Maasai community which is very well known to engage in FGM, early forced marriages and not keen to educate girls.
Since December last year, SAWA is collaborating with the Methodist church where we are training women to become mentors. This follows the realization that although the church is able to provide spiritual nurture, there is a social and enterprising component lacking, a gap which can be filled through mentorship. Most of the women in this church are well educated with good careers and businesses and have been very receptive of our training.
We are grateful to all well wishers who have facilitated us to empower girls in Kenya and give them an opportunity to achieve their dreams.
Wairimu attended our mentorship program before joining Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. The skills she acquired particularly in computer and social interaction were to later shape both her academic and social life in the university and more importantly help other girls. In her own words, Wairimu narrated the impacts of her two months encounter with SAWA:
“When I joined college, I was the best among my friends who was competent in computer applications. Most of the others came from the rural areas and were using the computer for the first time. Majority did not have an email. The culture shock at the university was great to many, particularly those who had schooled in day high school without boarding experiences. Since I was ahead of them having shared with other girls at SAWA, where we used shared accommodation, I took the responsibility to show them around and train them on how to live with one another. I opened email accounts for them. All class assignments are supposed to be typed, so I helped them learn how to type. I also showed them how to prepare slides for Powerpoint presentation, using the skills acquired at SAWA. As a result I became their automatic mentor. We formed a group of 12 girls with me a their obvious leader. In this group, we discuss issues of career and even challenges facing girls in education. One time, we invited Winnie, one of the women who used to give us counseling at SAWA. She came to the university and gave us a talk on balancing academics with Social life. 80 girls attended the talk which was conducted at Auditorium II.”
The story of such impacts is similar to all those who have passed through the mentorship program.
This program has not only benefited the individual girls, but also has benefited many other girls through them. We are mentoring girls and training mentors for girls.
Thank you for helping us!
The girls who have passed through the program have continued to inspire others in their communities in a great way. The more exciting bit is the multiplier effect because peer mentorship seems to be gaining momentum even faster than what we thought when we conceived the project. Our visit to Meru community where Caroline, our project officer and beneficiary of the project comes from revealed that already 18 girls have formed a group where they meet to have talks on business and careers (some are students others have just completed high school and want to venture in business). They are then facilitating girls seminars at the church under their group theme "Mentor a Girl, save the Nation". I attended part of their seminar on July 21st 2013 and impressed by the talks the girls had organized. they concluded the seminar with a drama titled 'The journey from Ignorance to Empowerment" where they showed how a girl (caroline) chosen from the village to participate in the intensive SAWA mentorship program has 'opened' their eyes and empowered them. The parents, most of them mothers requested SAWA to consider training at least two more girls for greater impacts.
So far we have had 15 girls graduate from the program and many more have benefited from the direct mentorship of each of the girls trained by SAWA.
With my sincere gratitude for your support in this effort to improve the opportunities for young girls,
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PATHWAYS Leadership for Progress