Education  Kenya Project #19783

Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya

by WISER International Vetted since 2015 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit

Just two weeks ago, all 32 of WISER’s senior class girls traveled to Nairobi, many for the first time. They weren’t just in Nairobi for a field trip (though they loved seeing museums and exploring the big city!) -- the WISER girls were there for a week-long computer programming bootcamp with AkiraChix, an NGO that aims to inspire and develop a successful force of women in technology who will change Africa’s future.

For years, Nairobi has been a hub of innovation and technology in Africa. But girls in rural communities like Muhuru Bay rarely have access to the unique opportunities and ideas these hubs spark. That changed last month when WISER girls took a deep dive into computer programming, graphic design, and robotics through the AkiraChix bootcamp.

WISER girls practiced hands-on problem-solving and design thinking, applying new knowledge to design creative technological solutions to solve local challenges. Girls presented their innovative ideas at the end of the week: a vented space heater for small homes, a pothole repair device, a chimney-based stove to reduce respiratory disease, a saltwater battery lamp, and more.

The WISER girls were thrilled with their experience, and the AkiraChix team left feeling inspired as well. Linda Kamau, Founder of AkiraChix, said, “The AkiraChix team had a great time seeing them excited about technology and the opportunities available.”

After a week of creative problem-solving, WISER girls attended the Geek Girl Festival (#GGFest18), which brought together hundreds of girls from high schools across Kenya to introduce them to career opportunities in tech, expose them to women working in the tech industry, and provide leadership and mentorship.

Why is this so special? In Muhuru Bay, there are no role models of women in STEM outside of WISER’s campus. Being able to connect with dozens of Kenyan women programmers, app developers, and computer engineers was a unique and inspiring opportunity for our senior students as they consider their education and career steps after WISER.

Thank you for creating opportunities for WISER girls to meet role models, to be exposed to a larger world, to envision new futures, and ultimately, to become role models for younger girls in Muhuru Bay and across Kenya. As one WISER senior wrote recently, “as a girl, I am the key to all solutions.” Thank you for believing, as we do, that WISER girls are the key to solving challenges in their communities and around the world.

                                                         --

Student leaders Hillary, Leila, & Linah at EAGLS
Student leaders Hillary, Leila, & Linah at EAGLS

In Muhuru Bay, over half of all girls that make it to high school will drop out due to early pregnancy.

The girls at WISER have something to say about that.

“Where I come from, teen pregnancy is overwhelming," says Hillary, a second-year student. "It overcomes the future of girls in my home area, and there’s only one thing that can happen – it has to stop.”

Hillary is just one of the WISER girls setting an ambitious goal for 2018 – they want to not only end early pregnancy at WISER, but to reduce early pregnancy by 33% in three neighboring schools.

This, they say, is the first step toward creating a generation of girls that finish school unimpeded and they believe it's essential that girls are leading the way.

“The main challenge for girls in this area has been teenage pregnancy," says student leader Linah. "But, when you have girls in leadership positions who are addressing pregnancy, you have leadership that understands what girls are going through. This can make change happen.”

To drive this change, a team of 15 student leaders at WISER have launched the early pregnancy prevention project; a series of workshops, interactive skits, and lectures led by girls - for girls. The sessions cover serious issues in the community including access to contraceptives, avoiding coercive relationships, and speaking openly about sex education.

The project was inspired by the East African Girls Leadership Summit (EAGLS), an initiative designed to help girls grow into changemakers in their home communities. Three WISER students and teachers attended the summit in 2017 and they’ve wasted no time putting what they learned to good use.

“Girls have not gotten equal opportunities because they face pregnancies often and they face them alone,” says Linah, who attended EAGLS in 2017. “It is past time to give girls an equal chance at education in this community.”

Throughout 2018, WISER students hope to reach nearly 200 girls with their sessions and they’ll be watching the pregnancy rate of neighboring schools closely. But if their passion is an indicator for their success, then the rates are sure to drop in no time.

“Girls cannot keep quiet," says Linah. "It is right to speak out – it is right to protect the chance for an education."

Thank you to all of the members of the WISER Global Family that have supported us on GlobalGiving. We hope you agree with Linah that it is right to protect every girl’s chance for an education, and that you’ll continue to support WISER as we work to do just that!

Students draw their vision to prevent pregnancy
Students draw their vision to prevent pregnancy
Lucy just before beginning her exam (2016)
Lucy just before beginning her exam (2016)

One year ago, we shared this photo with you, our friends on GlobalGiving.

We told you that the girl in this photo, Lucy, had just begun her national exams. We let you know that the exam could determine Lucy’s future, and yet, she was ready to face this challenge unafraid.  

One year later, that future has arrived for Lucy!

This month, Lucy enrolled at South Eastern Kenya University where she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in education. After years of hard work and losing a parent to disease, Lucy earned a scholarship in recognition of her stellar exam scores.

WISER helped Lucy feel empowered and Lucy used her power to become a success story.

What Lucy has done is inspiring – she has come from a community with nearly no history of female success and she’s overcome the odds. She is healthy, successful, and driven. Perhaps, most importantly, she is an example.

Today marks the start of the 2017 exam period and another class of WISER girls will be walking into their exam halls. They, too, face the challenge unafraid.

Why? Because they are WISER girls. Because they have been given the tools they need to thrive. They know that they can do great things. They have a world of supporters at their backs.

And they’ve seen girls like Lucy blaze a path before them.

This is the story that you make possible by supporting WISER. You help create success stories, like Lucy’s, that are inspiring not only to us, but to the WISER girls themselves. You build a world where girls look around them and see evidence that girls can do incredible things.  Through WISER, you give girls the opportunities, tools, and resources they need to create successful futures.

For every Lucy, there are hundreds of girls that will follow in her footsteps. That’s what you help WISER do – you build a future where girls are healthy, educated, and ready to inspire.

Susan (pictured) will take her exam this month
Susan (pictured) will take her exam this month
Lucy
Lucy

To our generous GlobalGiving Donors,

This month, we’re excited to share a story with you: a story about a girl who, like many WISER girls, is ready to battle the odds on the way to a bright future. Her name is Lucy and she’s quickly becoming a vocal leader in her second year at WISER.

Lucy saw an opportunity when she came to the WISER Girls Secondary School almost two years ago. Her mother was working tirelessly to raise six children alone and Lucy would be the first of those children to have the chance to finish high school. She knew that other girls in her village were facing challenges that she hoped to avoid by joining WISER: “At times, you find someone that has dropped out of school because of school fees, because of getting pregnant, and then she just stays at home.”

But WISER is an opportunity for Lucy to avoid that story and to craft her own. And, like all WISER girls, Lucy was ready to seize this chance. “I was so proud and very happy to come to WISER,” says Lucy, “I think I can do well here.”

Lucy has done well. In fact, she already has high aspirations for her future and hopes to one day be a neurosurgeon. When asked why, Lucy points to her love of sports. She wants to play sports throughout her schooling and thinks that, through sports, she can better understand her body, which would make her a better doctor.

“In medicine, we study our own human body,” Lucy says, “and once you know how your own body is, you can help other people to live a better life.”

We love Lucy’s confidence and when asked about where this confidence comes from, she says she believes it’s from one of the programs that you all, as donors, make possible – WISER’s on-campus counselling and psychosocial support.

 “I’m receiving guidance and counselling, and that makes me feel like I can stand up and talk to somebody like this. I feel empowered.”

Lucy feels like she can take on anything – that she’s ready to stand. We know that she’s going to do amazing things. She will be a role model for her siblings and a powerful supporter for her family. She will graduate from WISER and go on to university. And she will do these things because of your support. Your gifts help us work with girls like Lucy to build success stories every day.

Just like Lucy is happy to stand for herself, we’re happy that you stand with us.

Lucy in her room at WISER
Lucy in her room at WISER
Lucy playing sports
Lucy playing sports
WISER girls at work in one of our science labs
WISER girls at work in one of our science labs

Nimone, one of WISER’s most recent alumni, is tired of hearing that girls can’t succeed in the fields of science and engineering.

Her whole life, Nimone has been told that science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are subjects for boys. Now, she’s drawing the line.

Nimone is currently working as a teaching intern at a school where she is the only female teacher. She is also the lead teacher for physics at the school, and she has this message for her peers at WISER that want to pursue a career in STEM:

“Don’t listen to people that tell you that science is hard, that science is just for men, that science isn’t for you…Don’t stop working. You deserve to study your passion!”

Nimone is one of many STEM-based success stories to emerge in 2017, and an incredible example of the culture of excellence surrounding STEM on WISER’s campus.

Only one month ago, WISER girls competed in the Migori County Science and Engineering Fair against 360 eligible schools. Despite the tough competition, an incredible eight projects were chosen from WISER to proceed to Kenya Regional-level competition. WISER was ranked as the #1 Girls School in Migori and the #3 school overall, making a powerful statement about the ability of young women in STEM.

Dorcas Oyugi, WISER’s principal, links some of this mind-boggling success in STEM competitions to the resources that WISER has recently provided for its girls.

“The new science lab has given space to expose our girls to real applications of science. We have full dissemination of knowledge from our practicals for every science subject. The new computer lab means that over the next year, the girls will know everything from basic computing and data collection to photo editing and data analysis.”

These successes are more than just results to celebrate – they are signs of a shift in what people believe girls can do. Girls can win engineering competitions. Girls can lead Physics departments. Girls can excel in computing and data collection.

We know these things because we see them happening every day on our campus and in our community.

This summer, students from Duke University will give WISER’s STEM opportunities yet another exciting boost. Over the course of two months, Duke volunteers will offer a robotics workshop that includes an introduction to basic computer programming as well as hands-on exercises for WISER’s engineering and innovation club.

WISER is committed to continuing to grow its STEM opportunities for girls in Muhuru Bay. We believe that every girl, as Nimone says it, “deserves to study her passion.” And STEM success for WISER means building opportunities that would make Nimone proud.

Thank you for being a part of building those opportunities for Nimone, her classmates, and the girls that will learn at WISER for generations to come.

Principal Dorcas celebrates WISER
Principal Dorcas celebrates WISER's STEM Fair win
WISER alum Nimone
WISER alum Nimone

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Organization Information

WISER International

Location: Durham, NC - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.wisergirls.org
Project Leader:
Sherryl Broverman
Durham, NC United States
$228,354 raised of $300,000 goal
 
3,406 donations
$71,646 to go
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