As conflict and famine spreads throughout Somalia and refugees continue to flee human rights abuses in Ethiopia and Eritrea, unaccompanied refugee children, especially adolescent girls, are uncertain when or if they will ever return home. Instead of falling deeper into the cracks of insecurity and invisibility, Heshima Kenya recognizes that these particular girls are in desperate need of mentorship, education and skill development opportunities that will help them achieve economic independence while in Nairobi.
Since January 2008, 30 girls have been enrolled in our Children’s Empowerment Project, and 8 girls have participated in vocational skills training courses. Girls that have never attended school are learning to read and write, and for the first time in their lives, believe they can lead real change within their communities.
Part of the Children’s Empowerment Project’s life skills discussion is centered on human rights and community leadership. Guest speakers from community organizations and advocacy groups talk about their work, how they have become active community leaders and how they have overcome challenges—including living with AIDS, growing up on Nairobi streets, and dealing with discrimination as a minority in Kenya.
At our most recent session we had a dynamic discussion about the US elections and grassroots involvement in the political process. The girls began to connect how people take risks for something they are committed to and their own ability to affect change. They had many suggestions for President-Elect Obama, particularly on how he can improve the lives of refugees. The girls recognized how valuable their advocacy can be and their responsibility to educate others. This led to a spirited discussion about female leadership, particularly in Somalia.
Thank you so much for your support and helping to provide a voice to these girls. Please share your comments with us!