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Jan 17, 2020

When Tireless Preparation Pays Off

For many of us, stressing over a test is something we remember all too well. I know that I have friends in their 40s who still wake up in the middle of the night, having just jumped out of a nightmare in which they forgot to study for a quiz. It's something nearly all former (and current) students are familiar with - the desire to do well, mixed with the fear of what might happen if we don't.

Now imagine sitting for a single test that had seemingly everything riding on it.

The WISER girls, just over a month ago, finished their KCSE national exams. The KCSE is daunting; a three-week long test with as many as 11 different subjects administered for as many as 6 hours per day. To make matters more intense, the results determine not just your final grades in Kenya, but whether or not you graduate from high school, whether or not you are eligible for college, whether or not you can receive scholarships, and even what you are allowed to study

The levels of mental fortitude, practice, dedication, and preparation needed to thrive in those conditions are nothing short of jaw-droppingly impressive. And every single WISER girl is up to the task. 

For the seventh year in a row, 100% of WISER girls have passed the KCSE in an area where fewer than 10% of girls do so. 

You read it right–all members of the Class of 2019 passed their exams with flying colors. The scores of every student qualified them not just to graduate from high school, but to attend higher education programs, which means that all students graduating WISER this year have the opportunity to enter a certificate program, a professional course, or a four-year university degree.

Of those students, 55% of them scored highly enough on the KCSE to earn full university scholarships from the Kenyan government. That's over three times the rate of success across the rest of the country. Plus, for the fourth consecutive year, physics was one of WISER's top 5 highest-scoring subjects - which is not the case for the average girls' school results nationwide.

And where is all of this success coming from? From girls who live in one of Kenya's most remote fishing villages. From girls who are the first in their family to even enter secondary education. 

From girls who have been tirelessly putting in the work needed to succeed. 

Our mission at WISER has always been to establish an environment where girls can thrive - free from limitations based on their gender, poverty, disease, and more. But establishing the environment, offering support, providing resources, etc. only goes as far as the students are willing to go. And wow, the WISER Girls sure are willing to go as far as they can. Our team in Kenya and in the US often returns to the metaphor of a door - our job is to open a door for these gifted, brilliant young women. But we don't have to lead them through the door. We only have to get out of the way. 

These young women have been tirelessly preparing to seize opportunity their entire lives. And for the past four years, the girls in WISER's class of 2019 have been doing just that. Last month was the ultimate example to date - but more is on the horizon. Soon, these same young women will enroll in college, they'll begin their professional lives, and they'll serve as mentors, beacons of success for girls that come after them. 

It's safe to say that the hard work has paid off.

Oct 24, 2019

Unscripted & Unstoppable: WISER Girls Rally on IDG

There is an infectious joy in the air when WISER gathers together to celebrate. Whether it’s graduation day, a national holiday, or even when WISER girls dance and sing their hearts out simplify for the joy of it on a weekend, the community takes notice. So when the entire school population took to streets for International Day of the Girl this month, the community took notice! 

Equipped with banners loudly and proudly announcing the power of the girl child (GIRLS ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD!), WISER marched through Muhuru Bay on October 11th to remind everyone that girls are a force to be reckoned with. And while we've made tremendous progress in recent years, there is still work to be done. 

International Day of the Girl began as part of the United Nations’ renewed commitment to women and girls under the 2015 Sustainable Development Goals. This means not only keeping girls in school, increasing access to reproductive healthcare and menstrual hygiene products, ending child marriages and all forms of sexual violence, and making sure women are in leadership roles at every level of society. This commitment also recognizes how investing in women and girls around the world is the key to solving other complex global issues, from ending poverty and hunger to making political and social institutions more just and equitable.

WISER girls have learned that when women and girls succeed, our world succeeds. When they were entering primary school, girls in their community faced insurmountable odds. Sexual violence, lack of access to sanitary products, early pregnancy and marriage, and economic hardship meant that girls rarely finished secondary school, and almost never made it to college.

Almost a decade later, WISER’s investment in the education, healthcare, and wellbeing of girls has meant hundreds of girls with secondary school diplomas, clean water for a whole community, sexual and reproductive health education for thousands of primary schoolers, sustainable energy and farming on campus and beyond, and greater economic potential for women and their families.

But while these are the most visible ways that WISER girls have changed their community for the better, even more importantly, WISER girls have changed how women and girls are valued in their community.

Women and girls used to be expected to stay in the home, with little control over the economic and healthcare choices of themselves and their families. Now, girls are marching through the streets, making their voices heard.

The theme for this year’s International Day of the Girl was “Unscripted and Unstoppable" - an effort to highlight how girls rewrite the scripts of gender-based bias and violence that are present throughout the world and use their power to make unstoppable, vital, and extraordinary changes in their communities.

WISER girls are doing just that, not just by sitting in classrooms, but by showing the girls younger than them growing up in Muhuru Bay that they have potential to be unscripted and unstoppable, too.

In these girls’ lifetimes, they have seen a cosmic shift in the roles of girls in their community. WISER girls are here to celebrate all that girls are and all that they can be, as all of us, our staff, our supporters, our volunteers, and our students, work together to build a future where every girl is educated, well, and able to follow her dreams.Together, we're going to flip the script of gender roles and gender violence and see girls become unstoppable forces for change in the world.

What a reason to celebrate.

Jul 29, 2019

"I Want to Be One of Them"

New WISER alum Linah fights for representation
New WISER alum Linah fights for representation

The year is 2013. The sun is high over the brightly-colored tents at the center of WISER’s campus and WISER’s very first graduating class is sitting up straight in their chairs - proud, confident, and ready to be among the first women in their community to pursue a university education.

In one of the back rows, still just a little too short to see over the heads of parents, grandparents, and community members, sat a girl at the top of her primary school class. Linah was one of three students from her local school chosen to attend WISER’s first graduation ceremony. Despite excelling at her schoolwork, poverty made her feel uncertain about her odds for continuing on to high school.

But Linah was certain of one thing: she wanted to be in those chairs - to be like those WISER girls who were graduating and on their way to university.

The year is 2019. That same bright sun shines over those same bright tents. A crowd of WISER students, families, guests, and primary schoolers gather around another group of WISER graduates, and Linah is there again. Only, now, she sits in a different place.

“Now, I’m done with secondary school and yes, I'm going to university.”

Linah is a member of the class of 2018, which recently celebrated their graduation from WISER. She and every other girl in her graduating class beat the odds for their community and qualified for admission to university. WISER’s class of 2018 is brilliant and powerful, and Linah is no exception.

The determination and grit that Linah has put into her studies has inspired her to not only pursue a degree in medicine, but to transform the face of that field for future generations.

“I want to specialize mainly in surgery, because it’s not something a normal doctor does. It’s something you have to study. And only a few surgeons are women, so I want to be one of them.”

There are hundreds of girls that will look up to Linah as an example now. And at her graduation ceremony this year, Linah kept an eye out for some of the girls who are just like the little girl she used to be - craning their necks to get a glimpse of WISER’s class of 2018, to see themselves reflected in an image of success.

They were there. And thanks to Linah's trailblazing and the dedication of supporters just like yourself, those little girls are going to have a chance to become WISER girls themselves. And who knows? They might even join Linah in the operating room one day.

Thank you for creating these moments that demonstrate not just the power of lifting up young women, but the power of generational change. This work is not possible without you!

Linah at her WISER graduation ceremony this year
Linah at her WISER graduation ceremony this year
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