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Apr 11, 2017

NIGEE is home away from home

NIGEE beneficiaries' children enjoying Porridge
NIGEE beneficiaries' children enjoying Porridge

“I like staying at the GEC [Girls' Empowerment Centre] because I do not have many chores to do. I can now concentrate on my studies and I do not doze off in class because I am not hungry. I can play with friends in school and during the weekends I can relax and study. It feels good.” - 'Jane', rescued by NIGEE in January 2017.

It has been an incredible quarter with many more beneficiaries accessing training at the GEC, bringing with them vibrancy to our activities and classes. Our girls’ babies are especially happy as they enjoy nutritious porridge provided daily, thanks to our donors!

During the period of January to March 2017 NIGEE continued to advance the Girls’ Empowerment Centre (GEC) located within Kisumu City:

  • So far we have reached 142 girls with the skills training since the inception of the program. In the period under review, we were able to enroll 68 new girls.
  • Presently, 72 girls (68 new & 4 from the previous period) are registered at GEC for vocational training. Furthermore, we had new girls coming to the centre throughout March asking to be included in the courses; as a result, we have taken on another location where additional temporary classrooms will be put up and a make-shift hostel established.
  • Currently there are 12 girls enrolled in computer classes, 44 girls in hairdressing and 16 girls in tailoring. We are in the process of purchasing two tents to accommodate the large number of girls enrolling for hairdressing; an additional room has been vacated by staff for use as a tailoring class, and new sewing machines have been procured; and we plan to add more computers to the lab to accommodate more girls.
  • In March, 5 girls completed their computer packages training and are awaiting graduation and certificates of completion.
  • Our porridge program is an important part of our activities. Currently we have 15 toddlers benefitting from the daily porridge offered at 10am. Knowing that their children are close at hand and are being cared for enables our beneficiaries to concentrate on their studies.  
  • Our dedicated matron cares for the children while their mothers attend classes and we now have an allocated room for the toddlers where they take naps and play; however, we still need playing materials such as toys and a mat for the room.
  • There are 12 girls at present boarding at our hostel which has a total capacity for 14 girls (three of the girls have their children with them)
  • The girls at the hostel continue to pool their resources to shop for groceries, to cook their meals together and support one another, so that none is left out
  • NIGEE rescued two girls who are currently being hosted at our safe space while issues of family dysfunction at home are being sorted out; both girls continue going to school from the centre, with one is in primary school and the other in secondary school. The story of one of the girls is featured below.
  • The GEC Coordinator and Training Coordinator are working towards expanding our training capacity by engaging additional 2 tutors to cope with the growth in enrollees.
  •  We prepared 29 girls for the job market through CV and cover letter writing, and interview techniques
  • Our 3 dedicated volunteer tutors for computer, tailoring and hairdressing courses, continue to give quality lessons by extending their hours of work and placing the girls in classes of different levels of competency so individual needs are met.

Other achievements during the quarter:

  • During International Women’s Day on March 8, NIGEE joined with a partner organization, Plan Kenya, to celebrate the day guided by the theme: Bold for Change
  • Two of our volunteers participated in an interview with Radio Dala FM; the 15 minute interview focused on the challenges of teenage pregnancy and provided an opportunity for the girls to tell their stories to a wider audience and encourage girls in similar situations to never give up.
  • In our Kuria FGM (female genital mutilation) project, the field coordinator visited all the 16 schools where 60 beneficiaries are studying to check school retention/address challenges. 
  • NIGEE participated in the March 1st – 15th Girl Fund Campaign and through the generosity of our supporters and staff, raised US$2,732.92

NIGEE is proud to share a success story of one of the beneficiaries:

Jane’s Story

Jane does not hesitate - she says “Journalist,” when asked what profession she envisions for herself. It’s in this moment that it dawns on her how far she has come and how far she still has to go to achieve her dream of becoming a journalist.

Coming from a family of five, she cannot tell exactly when she became the breadwinner of her family, but she knows it was after her mother passed away (her father passed away earlier) and her uncle was ailing. She was fourteen and would walk to the nearest town, source for sukumawiki (kales) from a farmer’s group and then travel almost 15 kilometres to Kisumu to sell them at the market. She would give the farmers their share of the profits and use what was left of her earnings to buy a few household items. She did this every weekend when she was not in school. Their humble home was in a sorry state of disrepair and offered no security and little comfort; it was the path of motorbike riders who are known for sexual abuse of young girls they transport to/from school.

Her two elder sisters were married but their living conditions could not enable them to sustain Jane and two younger siblings. Being a total orphan coupled with the fact that their home was now left to her and her two siblings, Jane would wake up every school day at 4am, do all the household chores: fetch water from the nearby stream, prepare her brother and sister for school, and prepare packed lunch for her siblings, if available, before they all left for school.

It was when her uncle who was partially supported them passed away that her head teacher contacted NIGEE.  Following discussions with her aunt, siblings, and school community, it was agreed that Jane would be hosted at the GEC hostel - a safe space for her where she is able her concentrate on her studies. Her aunt agreed to take in the two smaller siblings despite also caring for 11 other children.

Jane is looking forward to sitting for her Kenya Certificate of Primary Examinations at the end of this year. She attends the nearest public primary school which is within walking distance of the GEC. NIGEE provided her with all the necessary items for her to be in school.

She says “I like staying at the GEC because I do not have many chores to do. I can now concentrate on my studies and I do not doze off in class because I am not hungry. I can play with friends in school and during the weekends I can relax and study. It feels good.”

She now wakes up at 5am and with the support of the GEC Matron and another beneficiary, they prepare for school and make it on time. She has friends now and can play during games time without worrying about rushing home to take care of her siblings. They prepare their own food and do the dishes and laundry.

She also receives help with her homework, making it easier for her to understand what she is taught at school.  Now that schools have closed, she would like to go home and visit her brother and sister because she misses them. She knows that she has to work hard so she can take care of them.

At this point she says that she was hesitant to leave her home when NIGEE agreed to have her at the hostel because they had made a promise to their mother before she died that they would not leave their home. She fears that some of her relatives might take their land, but refuses to dwell on the thought: “I hope they do not, because that is our home. Our parents left it to us.”

Despite her worry for her home, her eyes light up and she says, “I forgot something…” she stretches her hands out and then says “the other important reason why I love being here is that we have electricity, at the switch of a button, I can sit down to do my homework and even polish my shoes and prepare for school. It’s good to have electricity.”

Hairdressing practical classes in progress
Hairdressing practical classes in progress
Practical session on hair treatment and care
Practical session on hair treatment and care
Beneficiary at the dressmaking class
Beneficiary at the dressmaking class
NIGEE beneficiary learning new technique
NIGEE beneficiary learning new technique
Beneficiaries learning garment designing
Beneficiaries learning garment designing
Children enjoying nutritious Porridge
Children enjoying nutritious Porridge
NIGEE beneficiary at the GEC going to school
NIGEE beneficiary at the GEC going to school
Beneficiary preparing a meal at the GEC
Beneficiary preparing a meal at the GEC
Beneficiary washing dishes at the GEC after meal
Beneficiary washing dishes at the GEC after meal
Jan 8, 2017

"I was sinking. You know.....but NIGEE cared"

NIGEE beneficiaries and staffs at the GEC
NIGEE beneficiaries and staffs at the GEC

“I was sinking. You know…I was, I mean my family was sinking and there was nothing I could do to save everyone but NIGEE cared and they listened and helped. They really helped and it was a relief.” Says Marissa

The success and gratitude of our beneficiaries is all the reward and motivation NIGEE staff needs to continue their work to empower the girl child. Join us to promote many more girls and see their lives transform and their dreams come to life. NIGEE is proud to share their success thus far:

During the period November – December 2016 NIGEE continued to advance the Girls’ Empowerment Centre (GEC) within Kisumu:

  • Presently, 61 girls have been registered at GEC for vocational training and out of these, 38 were new recruits during this reporting period. Mobilization has improved as a result of our revamped approach with more girls being reached
  • Currently there are 18 girls enrolled in computer classes, 10 girls in hairdressing and 10 girls in tailoring; meaning classes now are at maximum capacity 
  • There are 10 girls who have completed their computer packages training and are to be issued with certificates
  • Of the girls who completed their training, 4 have been absorbed by NIGEE as volunteers who receive a stipend
  • There are 7 girls and their children presently boarding at our hostel which has a total capacity for 14 girls
  • The girls at the hostel have now pooled their resources to shop for groceries, to cook their meals together and support one another, so that no person would be left out
  • There were an additional 2 girls who were hosted at the hostel while issues at home were being dealt with such as sexual exploitation and family conflict; family counseling was done with meaningful reconciliation so the girls were able to return home for Christmas to an improved and safer environment; both girls will return to school in 2017
  • The Community Mobilizer, using a peer to peer approach, has mobilized 103 girls within the catchment area and they await enrollment in 2017
  • The GEC Coordinator and Training Coordinator work towards expanding our training capacity, identify employment and internship opportunities in Kisumu County, and prepare the girls for the job market.
  • Our 3 dedicated volunteer tutors for computer, tailoring and hairdressing courses, continue to give quality lessons
  • An exchange program at Spring Ministries in Kisumu, who work with young women to develop IGAs in tailoring, exposed the girls to new ideas regarding tailoring and how to market their products. A total of 9 girls from the GEC dressmaking class gained valuable experience from this exchange program
  • As part of an effort to showcase our girls’ talent and nurture them so that they explore their potential to the fullest, a football match was held. Seven staff of NIGEE challenged 10 beneficiaries to a fierce and competitive football match, which was approached with enthusiasm and a very competitive sense of camaraderie. The teams were mixed and it served to create a strong bond between all participants.
  • The Training Coordinator took part in training the GEC girls in production of liquid washing detergent. A practical demonstration was given within the GEC with 20 litres of detergent produced, which is now being used at the GEC. The 25 girls who attended the demonstration are encouraged to start an IGA on liquid detergent and marketing the product is now in discussion
  • Life skills classes are offered to the girls who register for our GEC courses as a form of psychosocial support, empowerment and for the girls to face the challenges they meet in their day-to-day life with confidence; a total of 20 girls attended the sessions 
  • All our GEC girls participated in the World Aids Day procession on 1ST December 2016
  • A girl’s forum was conducted in Kuria west at Ikerege Secondary School. A total of 150 participants (66 students ,70 parents ,2 school principals ,1 head teacher, 5 teachers, 4 NIGEE staffs, Minister for Education Migori County, HR Officer Migori County Government and 2 area chiefs) were reached with messages on the importance of educating a girl child, ending female genital mutilation and early marriage.The girls benefited from a mentorship session as well.

Marissa’s Story 

She joined secondary school in 2010 and studied for two years where she was forced to drop out because of lack of school fees. She says “I could not stay home because seeing other people go to school while I stayed at home depressed me. It was very painful seeing their life continue while mine stopped because I used to attend a day school, so they would go in the morning and come back in the evening.”

She decided to relocate to Kisumu to stay with a relative and it is during her stay there that she got pregnant. She returned home and when her Father saw her, he was so angry that she had to run away and seek shelter at NIGEE’s offices. She says “I feared for my life.” It was then that NIGEE offered to pay her school fees so she could resume studies after having her child. However, her mother got involved in a car accident just as she had resumed school and had to be hospitalized for three months.

“So, I was in form three by then and I would go and be by her side at the hospital and take care of my child, and then to make things worse, I had to move my siblings to my Uncle’s home because there was no one to look after them when I spent at the hospital. After doing all this I would return to school.”

She says that her visit to the hospital depended on her mother’s condition. She would wake up feeling much better on some days while on some she would be in so much pain and this meant that Mary had to stay with her. So she would wait for her to fall asleep then study. On her Father she says, “My Father was and still is a drunkard. He never did much to provide for us. It was my mother who worked hard.” Mary laughs and then shakes her head as she adds, “ In fact NIGEE knew I was a total orphan when they first met me, such that when my Mother got involved in an accident they were shocked, but as for my Father, they have never met him to date. He’s never cared that much and that’s just the way it is.”

She admits that she could barely concentrate on her studies while taking care of her mother, siblings and her young child. One day when she was in school sitting an exam she got a call that her child was ill and she rushed him to the hospital. Her child passed on two days later. Her mother was still unwell and unable to respond and she called Millicent, the NIGEE Field Assistant in her county. She could not finish her exams in her grief, and Millicent and the NIGEE team came to her aid. Mary shakes her head and for a moment she holds her breath, and then she says “I was sinking. You know…I was, I mean my family was sinking and there was nothing I could do to save everyone but NIGEE cared and they listened and helped. They really helped and it was a relief.”

Millicent called her every week to check up on her and her family. She says that NIGEE provided them with food and other basic things they needed like clothes. “Like one time, Godfrey asked about my family through Millicent, and he ensured we had twenty kilograms of maize flour which kept us going for months. It was just unbelievable.”
Her mother was discharged from hospital when she was in term one in form four. The one who caused the accident paid a huge percentage of the hospital bill while her Uncle paid the remaining bit. Her mother could not walk without crutches and she still needed Mary’s help in doing many things around the house. Mary was relieved to have her mother at home, even though it hurt her that her child was gone and she did her best not to burden her mother with her grief.

NIGEE paid for her boarding fees when it came to the second term of school and she went on to sit for her Kenya certificate of secondary examinations. She scored a D+. She admits that she could have earned a better grade but she had missed out on a lot of her studies in the previous year. She contemplated repeating form four to score a better grade but after much deliberation with NIGEE, it was agreed that it would not be the wise decision.

She was called to the NIGEE office later on and after undergoing an interview was employed as a Validator.
Marissa aspires to advance her studies and mentor other vulnerable girls. She would like all girls to know that lack of school fees is not the end of the world and it does not mean that it’s okay to get pregnant when your parents cannot afford to take you to school.

She says, “Patience is very important and it is something most young girls need to learn. For example when your parents don’t have money to pay your fees, wait, hope and ask about these government scholarships and apply- do something to preserve yourself because your luck might change for the better.”

She has five siblings and out of the five are two sisters whom she always advises to be content with what they have and be grateful. She says that her sister who is currently in class seven is not pleased with their economic status and she always tells her that she has to work hard and be grateful for what they have. She adds, “I know it is not perfect, but we are trying and no condition is permanent, but I don’t want any of my sisters to go through what I went through and that is why I work hard.”

Marissa adds that she is happy that she can provide for her family now with the little she makes as a Validator. She smiles when she tells me of how happy she feels when she sees a change of perception and behaviour in any girl she encourages. Like last year, she says that she supported another beneficiary who had lost her child. She says that being with her through that time and grieving with her was a healing for her too.

When asked about the one thing she wishes she would never talk about, she says “losing my child,” and then she smiles, but she adds “you know as a Validator, when you share your story with these vulnerable girls, you have to filter your story. There are many chapters in my life story, and so I share what I know can inspire them. However when it comes to losing a child, not many people understand the psychological effect of that on any mother-forget that I was barely eighteen then, but the pain that comes is unexplainable and that is why it is the one part of my story that I never like talking about, very few understand what it is to lose a child.”

She also adds that she is good friends with the other girl who lost a child and they always see each other. She is full of hope about the future like a boxer; she gets knocked down but comes back up swinging.

Hairdressing class in progress at the GEC
Hairdressing class in progress at the GEC
Girls during practical hairdressing session
Girls during practical hairdressing session
Dress-making class in progress at the GEC
Dress-making class in progress at the GEC
Beneficiaries during the girls forum in Kuria
Beneficiaries during the girls forum in Kuria
Oct 11, 2016

Opening the "Window of Hope" for Girls in Kisumu!

NIGEE girls after completing a training
NIGEE girls after completing a training

“My window of a better life was shattered when I had to drop out of school because my mother couldn’t manage to pay my school fees. It worsened when I got pregnant and the man responsible denied any involvement and declined to take any responsibility” says Milka

During the period under review (August-October 2016) NIGEE continues to advance the Girls’ Empowerment Centre (GEC) within Kisumu:

  • Presently, 41 girls have been enrolled for vocational training and out of these, 7 were new recruits during this period. Mobilization has been slow and we have revamped our approach and started reaching more girls (see below).
  • Currently there are 30 girls enrolled in computer classes, 8 girls in hairdressing and 3 girls in tailoring
  • There are 6 girls at present boarding at our hostel which has a total capacity for 16 girls
  • The girls at the hostel were given a small space to use as a kitchen to cook their meals and provided with 2 jikos (charcoal stoves) and a 6kg gas burner.
  • There were an additional 4 girls who were hosted at the hostel while issues at home were being dealt with such as sexual harassment, gender violence and family conflict
  • A newly appointed Community Mobilizer, who is herself a past beneficiary of sponsorship by NIGEE's director, is using a peer to peer approach, has mobilized over 100 girls within the catchment area and they await enrollment in the coming months
  • We have also engaged a GEC Coordinator and a Training Coordinator - this will expand our training capacity, identify employment and internship opportunities in Kisumu County, and prepare the girls for the job market.
  • There are 3 volunteer tutors for computer, tailoring and hairdressing courses, who receive a small stipend for their services.
  • An intern from Japan stayed for 3 months, mobilizing girls, helping with the computer classes and teaching a component of the life skills class (Japanese Society & Cultural Practices)

Milka story

Milka today is a self-assured, independent 26 year old young woman. She is a partial orphan and a mother of a young boy. She is amongst the beneficiaries who successfully completed her secondary school education last year after joining the NIGEE scholarship program in 2013.

It was her inner strength and resilience that enabled her to never lose hope of completing her studies and seizing the opportunity when NIGEE presented it to her.

“I managed to complete my secondary school last year and joined the Girls Empowerment Centre where I finished the stage one on computer packages and hoping to join hairdressing after stage two of computer class, which will help me be employable and self-reliant “

Due to her courage, excitement and determination, currently Milka is also a validator employed by NIGEE, one of 9 extraordinary young women who were chosen to participate in another project helping girls in similar circumstances:

 “I share with the girls my life story and those who are hopeless like I was before NIGEE got me. I encourage them and help them view the world in a new angle and also boost their morale since NIGEE is here to help them overcome some of their problems”

Our NIGEE girls’ successes and willingness to give back to those in similar situations is concrete proof of our belief that education empowers young girls so they can be self-reliant, chart out their own destinies and live well within the society, the nation and the world.

“NIGEE has made me the woman I am today and I’m hoping to join college soon with the savings I have been making from the allowance I get from being a validator; and have also been sending some money to my mother for her upkeep and that of my son.”

Milka is also the Chairperson for the Girls Steering Committee, which is one of the governance structure in NIGEE. The committee spearheads designing of girl-led interventions to address emerging issues raised by the girls. She is a mother, a mentor and valued member of society, thanks to her changed attitude from haplessness to believing she can!

NIGEE beneficiary receiving her certificate
NIGEE beneficiary receiving her certificate
NIGEE beneficiary with her son at GEC
NIGEE beneficiary with her son at GEC
Hairdressing class ongoing at the GEC
Hairdressing class ongoing at the GEC
Dress-making class in progress at the GEC
Dress-making class in progress at the GEC
Beneficiaries at the GEC during practical session
Beneficiaries at the GEC during practical session
 
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