Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya

by WISER International
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Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya
Empower and Educate WISER girls in rural Kenya

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.

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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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WISER gives nutritious meals to hundreds of girls
WISER gives nutritious meals to hundreds of girls

WISER's multipurpose hall is bustling with activity.

It's a Friday evening and over 200 girls are gathered in teams, huddled over tables, discussing the critical issues in their community of Muhuru Bay, Kenya. One group mentions a sexual and reproductive health training session coming up soon, another talks about the recent international visitors to campus and when they might come again. And in the background - as far back in the room as you can go - a separate team is also bustling: WISER's kitchen staff. 

The title of "unsung hero" suits the WISER kitchen staff well. On a supremely active campus, they often take a backseat to the constant academic grind and the busy day-in day-out programs that the WISER girls love so much. But in this region of Kenya, thousands of girls are forced to leave school because of food insecurity. Lack of nutritious meals at home and at school leads to students who are distracted by hunger, youth who are ill or malnourished, and, ultimately, girls who are not set up for success. 

It is in that environment that, over the last 9 years, the WISER kitchen staff has served nearly 700,000 meals to girls on campus. They are the driving force behind keeping girls healthy and fed. They are the stewards of girls' wellness. They turn WISER's on-campus sustainable garden into a source of energy and stability for hundreds of young women. And despite spending most of their time tucked away in the kitchens, they are as critical of an intervention for the girls of Muhuru Bay as the teachers that stand at the front of our WISER classrooms.

To the WISER team, this is what it means to offer a truly holistic intervention for girls: that while you, as a generous WISER supporter, provide essential medicines and textbooks and safe housing, you also provide the leafy green vegetables that were chopped that Friday evening. Together, our supporters and our kitchen staff are the reason that a girl sitting in a university-quality lab under solar-powered lights is focused on her chemistry homework and not her growling stomach. 

Unsung heroes, indeed.

It is an honor to celebrate that bustling team in the back of the WISER hall. And it's an honor to celebrate you, as a supporter of WISER's work. Thank you for being one of the heroes that keeps girls thriving!

Head cateress, Rose, leads WISER's food efforts
Head cateress, Rose, leads WISER's food efforts
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WISER alumni come together for Lumen Labs
WISER alumni come together for Lumen Labs

Imagine that you are a young woman who grew up in Muhuru Bay. You've hoped, for most of your life, that you would be one of the few girls who finishes school and goes on to a college degree. Now, after four years of living and learning at WISER, you've done it - you've become the first woman in your family to earn a college acceptance.

This is an exciting moment! You've beaten the odds and you deserve celebration and joy and, luckily, your fast-approaching graduation will certainly provide that! But beyond graduation lies a set of new challenges. What will your classmates be like? Your teachers? And perhaps most importantly, will you be prepared to excel in college as you have in high school?

The WISER team is happy to share that we have been working tirelessly to support our alumni during their transitions into college. This month, we are providing a particularly exciting, high-demand opportunity to all of our most recent alumni: a month-long intensive course designed to build digital literacy.

This course, designed to smooth the transition for WISER alumni heading into their college studies, was made possible through our partnership with Lumen Labs; a social enterprise based in Nairobi working to make computer education accessible for hard-to-reach communities. Lumen Labs does this by providing hands-on courses that are designed to not only teach critical computer skills, but to identify and solve community challenges while learning those skills.

Throughout the month-long course, WISER alumni will be trained in data collection methods via computer-based lessons. The recent graduates will take these lessons and put them into practice by surveying girls in Muhuru Bay who have dropped out of high school in order to better understand the challenges girls face in their area. After the data is collected, WISER alumni will use digital tools in our computer lab to analyze the information they collect and to build their confidence in using various software programs.

In the end, you have girls who are both prepared for increased computer use at the collegiate level and ready to apply multiple skills in their eventual jobs.

Shanny, a WISER alumni who recently completed the course, shared that it not only helped her build computer skills, it helped her think critically about issues in her community. "We did surveys, and one problem we identified was lack of school fees among youth," said Shanny. "We had several ways to solve the problem, like involving donors and lobbying the government to offer free education." 

Creative problem-solving to address locally-identified challenges like these is emphasized throughout girls’ four years at WISER, and we are proud to provide opportunities, like the Lumen Labs course, for our alumni to continue learning and growing after they graduate.

Of course, opportunities like this one are only possible through the support of our partners and inspiring donors on GlobalGiving. Thank you for continuing to build WISER success stories each and every year with your generous gifts.

You are helping us create long-term change for hundreds of truly special young women, even after they graduate from WISER!

WISER alumni in their digital literacy course
WISER alumni in their digital literacy course

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Jacklyne (WISER class of 2013)
Jacklyne (WISER class of 2013)

Five years ago, we celebrated the first class of graduates from the WISER Girls Secondary School. Four years ago, those graduates became some of the first girls in their communities to go to college.

This year? Those girls are college graduates who are among the top young professionals in Kenya.

Just a few weeks ago, the WISER team was delighted to welcome a group of alumni back to campus for a nostalgia-filled visit. These girls, Jacklyne, Margaret, and Millicent, are all WISER trailblazers – among the first to graduate from WISER and now, among the first WISER alumni to finish their college programs. All three girls are following a similar path, choosing careers in the medical field. Jacklyne is now working as a medical lab technician. Millicent and Margaret are both nurses. All of them have come a long way from where they began.

“It has been challenging,” said Margaret. “But I am not the former Margaret. I am a new Margaret. I have skills, I am well-equipped. I can do great things today, tomorrow, and in the future.”

This kind of confidence is exciting to see from a young nurse, as Kenya’s healthcare sector is woefully understaffed in rural regions. Having young, enthusiastic medical professionals like Margaret, Millicent, and Jacklyne on the horizon offers hope to many people across Kenya.

“You find that patients are many and nurses are few,” says Millicent. “You find that resources are limited, and it’s up to us to use the resources that you have… the community expects a lot from you.  But when you prosper, you become a role model.”

This is the core of a WISER success story. These young women come from a region of Kenya where no one expected them to finish eighth grade, let alone high school or college. They have faced countless barriers – poverty, gender-based violence, limited access to clean water, and more. And yet, Margaret, Millicent, and Jacklyne are thriving. And they come back to WISER to visit their old school and to visit their home communities. Because today, in the areas where these girls were raised, they have become heroes.

“In my home area, there’s only one other woman who has done my kind of work,” says Jacklyne. “So when I come through my area, people look at me and they call me daktari (doctor). They say that’s my name. The kids come to me and say ‘I will be a nurse! I will be like Jacklyne!’ There are people that say ‘Jacklyne is my hero.’”

These inspiring young women offer just a few examples of what can happen when you, the members of the Global WISER Family, support WISER on GlobalGiving. Thank you for your dedication and for making these long-term successes possible. You are helping the WISER team change the future for hundreds of girls and their communities!

Millicent and Margaret (both WISER class of 2013)
Millicent and Margaret (both WISER class of 2013)
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WISER International

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