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Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya

by NYANZA INITIATIVE FOR GIRLS' EDUCATION & EMPOWERMENT (NIGEE)
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Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
Establish Girls' Empowerment Centre in Rural Kenya
A beneficiary at the GEC sewing a shopping bag
A beneficiary at the GEC sewing a shopping bag

"Whenever I reflect on my past and what I have gone through, I get motivated to thrive for a better future, a future where I would not depend on someone for help, a future where I can make my own decision, a future where I can pay my own bills, a future where I will not depend on a man to be happy.” Laurine, a student from the tailoring course.

It has been an incredible quarter with many more beneficiaries accessing training at NIGEE’s Girls Empowerment Center (GEC), and bringing with them a vibrancy and sense of value to the Center’s activities and classes. We continue to appreciate and thank our donors who are making this possible.

During the period October to December 2017 NIGEE continued to advance the GEC within Kisumu:

  • So far we have reached 360 girls with the skills training since the inception of the program. In the period under review, we were able to enroll 68 new girls.
  • Currently there are 12 girls enrolled in computer classes, 44 girls in hairdressing and 16 girls in tailoring; we are purchasing two tents to accommodate the large number of girls for hairdressing; another room has been given over to the tailoring class with new sewing machines ordered and more computers have also been added to the lab.
  • In December, a total of 112 girls graduated from vocational training: 27 from hairdressing and beauty therapy course, 18 from dressmaking and design course, and 67 from computer literacy and applications class.
  • Our porridge program is an important part of our activities and currently 15 toddlers are benefitting as they take daily porridge at 10am; knowing that their children are being cared for and are close at hand, our beneficiaries are concentrating on their trainings.  
  • The GEC safe space has continued to provide a temporary haven for girls and young women who have been sexually exploited and are in immediate danger; we provide professional counseling to the survivors who also get mentored by their peers and are linked to appropriate services and nurtured as their cases are processed.
  • The GEC Coordinator and Training Coordinator are working towards expanding our training capacity by engaging additional tutors to cope with the rapid growth in numbers.
  • The GEC continues to provide life skills training to the girls who register for our GEC courses as a form of psychosocial support.  All the girls attend the sessions on a biweekly basis and as a result become confident in sharing their challenges and successes as they build self-esteem.
  • NIGEE participated in 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence campaign. In partnership with other organizations and the County government of Kisumu we had a procession in Kisumu to mark the journey towards ending GBV in Kisumu.
  • The training coordinator participated in an interview with a local vernacular radio station (Radio Dala FM), and focused the 15-minute interview on creating opportunities for girls through mentorship.
  • Our Kuria anti-FGM project is also active, and 8 girls did their Kenya Certificate of Primary Education and we are happy to report that all of them attained marks fit for joining secondary school next year.

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

Laurine’s story

Laurine is a 23 year old, GEC beneficiary who hails from an informal settlement in Kisumu County. She got married at a tender age of 16.

She recalls the struggle she went through in marriage, and says she can vividly count the number of days she was happy as a woman of the house – which were few and far between.

Laurine’s life took a drastic turn in the year 2002 when her father died and her mother had to remarry. Life with her step father was never easy. The step father never bothered about her schooling. She had to drop out of school as parental support was never there. When things heated up and she could not withstand it anymore, she decided to go and live with her grandmother. Life there had its challenges as well. She later on decided to get married because she thought her life would change for the better.

In her marriage, Laurine got two children. She was happy to have two boys with the man she wanted to spend her entire life with. She never thought their love for each other would fade. As days went by, her husband become abusive, he would beat her up and use vulgar insults to her.  He would constantly tell her to go and get educated like other girls. “My husband would come home in the evening from work empty-handed and whenever I asked him for cash to buy meals he would remind me of how uneducated I was,” said Laurine, recalling her life then. “My sons and I went several nights without meals, even porridge for my two sons was by chance,” she added.

When it was too much for her to bear, she decided to go back to her parents’ home with her children and tried living under the same roof with her step father but it was still not easy so she took her children back to their father and returned to her home alone.

One day, a Field Assistant (FA) from NIGEE went to their home and had a chat with her. The FA took her through some of the programs NIGEE runs. Laurine got interested in joining the GEC and was admitted into dressmaking and design class.

While at the GEC, Laurine’s thirst for education was rejuvenated. She interacted more with fellow young women who come over to coach them on career choice, job seeking strategies, job interviewing skills, and life planning skills. The flashback on her marriage struggles also made her desire to learn to be a self-reliant woman in future. “Whenever I reflect on my past and what I have gone through, I get motivated to thrive for a better future, a future where I would not depend on someone for help, a future where I can make my own decision, a future where I can pay my own bills, a future where I will not depend on a man to be happy,” said Laurine in a somber mood.

The only way for me to realize this dream for the future is through education and that is why I also decided to go back to school,” she added. Laurine registered as a private candidate for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) at Nyamasaria Adult Learning Centre in Kisumu. Whenever she was not attending her dressmaking and design classes at the GEC, she would be at Nyamasaria for coaching or revising for her exams.  

She took her classes seriously and despite staying out of school for over 7 years, she grasped the subjects pretty quick. She sat for national examinations this year (2017) and scored 286 marks out of the possible 500 marks (pass mark is 250). Laurine hopes to join Secondary School next year (2018) and her dream is to become a celebrated fashion designer in future. NIGEE will support part of her secondary education.

She has also completed her dressmaking and design course and graduated in December (see last photo below). Her apt skills in sewing have earned her customers who mostly send orders for shopping bags. With the ban of plastic bags in Kenya, Laurine has made good fortune from making and selling shopping bags and uses parts of the income to sustain her stay at the GEC and saves part for her secondary school in January 2018.

This is a story of a beneficiary of NIGEE’s GEC who obtained both academic and vocational training certificates and will use the training to earn a living, take care of her children, and pay her own school fees. We are proud of her!

1st NIGEE GEC graduation ceremony
1st NIGEE GEC graduation ceremony
The GEC Construction Site
The GEC Construction Site
Slab and Colums for 1st floor now done
Slab and Colums for 1st floor now done
Hairdressing practical sessions at GEC
Hairdressing practical sessions at GEC
Computer Class session in progress
Computer Class session in progress
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Girls Steering Committee members at SHOFCO
Girls Steering Committee members at SHOFCO

“I truly learnt much from our exchange visit at the Kibera School for Girls under Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) in Kibera Slums in Nairobi. I was impressed of the community based programs run by the organization, some of which we can adopt into our programming. As Girls steering Committee we are going to establish a Girl-led Safe Spaces in the 3 major slums in Kisumu to curb the increasing number of Sexual and Gender Based Violence cases in the region according to recently released statistics.” Milka Ofwa, Chair-Girls Steering Committee.

During the period of June-September 2017 NIGEE have had the following activities:

  • So far we have reached 305 girls at the GEC (90 girls - computer classes, 155 girls - hairdressing and 60 girls - tailoring) with the skills training since the inception of the program.
  • During this period, we were able to enroll 100 new girls. Presently, 276 girls (41 – computer classes, 158 – hairdressing and 27 – tailoring) are undergoing vocational training at GEC; 49 have completed training.
  • As part of enhancing our Girl-led programming, the members of the Girls Steering Committee (GSC) participated in a 2 day exchange visit at Kiberia School for Girls under SHOFCO, a local organization located in Kibera Slums, Nairobi. The visit was aimed at providing a platform for the girls to benchmark and borrow a leaf that would help inform our girl-led programming. The GSC members are in the process of developing the new five year girl-led strategic plan (2018-2022).
  • Construction of our Girls Empowerment Centre which commenced in June is ongoing and the ground floor is almost complete. We still believe that once the building is completed will touch the lives of hundreds of teen mothers with their children each year by preparing them to continue with their education before transitioning them to regular schools.
  • In our Kuria anti-FGM project the field coordinator visited all the 16 schools where the 60 FGM survivor’s beneficiaries are studying to check if all the students are in school and are continuing with their education. Follow up on their school attendance register and performance for all girls has been done on a regular basis to assist in case they experience challenges.

The girls’ experience at SHOFCO exchange Visit and their planned programs:

Looking at their faces, one could realize the magnitude of joy. The visit surely meant a lot to the members of girls’ steering committee. Being the first beneficiaries of the NIGEE education scholarship and empowerment through the girls empowerment centre (GEC), the girls had vowed to empower and mentor their peers. As part of realizing their desired goal, they proposed to visit the Kiberia School for girls as part of the benchmarking and learning process. The visit was dubbed “Empowered girls, Empower girls”. From the visit, the girls’ steering committee had the following experiences to share about what they learnt and some of the activities that they will adopt into their programs through a well scripted strategy plan which they are currently working on.

The visit to Nairobi took place from September 21-22, 2017 and 10 members of the girls’ steering committee represented NIGEE. The girls were taken through different programs’ components and they later visited project sites. The girls were impressed by the best practises and holistic approach used by the organization in their programming. Sharing their experiences after the trip the girls had the following to say;

“It was a great experience at SHOFCO, personally I was impressed by what I saw over there. As girls steering committee member I think we can establish a childcare and early childhood development and education (ECDE) centre at GEC and within the NIGEE bridge centres. This will host toddlers of the young women attending classes at our centre and nearby formal schools.” Lucy Masika, Girls Steering Committee member.

There is a great demand for Childcare and ECDE centre at the GEC to accommodate and provide a safe place for the children of the teen mothers undertaking vocational training in hairdressing, dressmaking and computer studies at the GEC and to those already linked to formal schools. So far the centre host over 20 young women and their kids.

While sharing her experience after the visit, Milka Ofwa alluded that the visit is an eye opener to them and they are planning to fast-track the strengthening of the sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) prevention and recovering mechanism in major slums in Kisumu City to help mitigate the increasing cases of SGBV cases in the area. “I truly learnt much from our exchange visit at Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) in Kibera Slums in Nairobi. I was really impressed with their community based SGBV prevention and response program ran by community volunteers, some of which we can replicate in our program areas. As Girls steering Committee we are going to establish Girl-led Safe Spaces in the 3 major slums in Kisumu to curb the increasing number of Sexual and Gender Based Violence cases in the region according to recently released statistics.” Milka Ofwa, Chair-Girls Steering Committee.

NIGEE seek to establish a Girl-Led safe spaces in Obunga, Manyatta and Nyalenda slums. Already NIGEE has bridge centres in the mentioned slums which serve as a transition hub for young teen mothers who would like to resume formal learning.  

The girls’ steering committee members have unanimously decided that they are going to establish a Girl-led safe spaces in the slums of Kisumu, strength the SGBV referral path, establish a child care and ECDE Centre at the GEC.

GSC members inside the ECDE class
GSC members inside the ECDE class
The GEC under construction
The GEC under construction
Girls Steering Committee members inside Childcare
Girls Steering Committee members inside Childcare
Women supporting construction of GEC
Women supporting construction of GEC
Girls doing their dressmaking practical session
Girls doing their dressmaking practical session
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NIGEE Girls' Empowerment Centre under construction
NIGEE Girls' Empowerment Centre under construction

“I sat my KCPE in 1997, and scored 498 out of 700.Can you imagine receiving calling letters from both Lwak Girls and Nyakach Girls (National schools) and not being able to go because your father believes you do not deserve it because you are a girl?” reports a NIGEE girls' mentor.

It has been yet again an action-packed quarter with beneficiaries accessing training at the GEC, bringing with them new ideas and energy to our activities and classes. Our girls’ babies continue to enjoy nutritious porridge provided daily, thanks to our donors! Most importantly, construction of our very own (not rental!!) Girls Empowerment Centre commenced in June and we are all excited to see this HUGE dream kick off.

During the period of April to June 2017 NIGEE continued to advance activities at the GEC:

  • So far we have reached 205 girls (70 girls - computer classes, 108 girls - hairdressing and 27 girls - tailoring) with the skills training since the inception of the program.
  • In the period under review, we were able to enroll 63 new girls. Presently, 176 girls (41 – computer classes, 108 – hairdressing and 27 – tailoring) are undergoing vocational training at GEC; 29 have completed training.
  • We have now purchased two tents to accommodate the large number of girls enrolling for hairdressing.
  • Our porridge program continues as a focal point of our activities with the girls. Currently we have 25 toddlers benefitting from the daily porridge offered at 10am. This large number illustrates how important it is for our girls to know that their children are close at hand and are being cared for as they attend classes.
  • Our dedicated matron cares for the children while their mothers attend classes and we have an allocated room for the toddlers where they take naps and play.
  • There are 12 girls and young women, 3 children, the matron and her child residing in the hostel; 10 are undertaking different courses at the GEC, while two are school going girls who were rescued from difficult living conditions at their homes.
  • The GEC and Training Coordinators have worked towards expanding our training capacity by engaging additional 2 tutors to cope with the growth in enrollees; this has made a significant impact with girls now attending both morning and afternoon classes.
  • Our 3 dedicated tutors for computer, tailoring and hairdressing courses have now been engaged as regular staff and continue to give quality lessons.Other achievements during the quarter:
  • A five day training on Girl-led media was conducted and was attended by 20 participants, thus heralding the beginning of classes for videography and photography being offered at GEC. These initial girls are now participating in a project to film and capture the stories of the girls benefiting from our intervention.
  • Our GEC Coordinator participated in an interview with Radio Sahara Kisumu; the interview focused on how NIGEE is empowering our girls through vocational training.
  • In our Kuria FGM (female genital mutilation) project, the field coordinator and many of our girls participated in a march to honor the champions who campaign against FGM. This event was graced by Miss Kenya/Miss Africa 2016 who is also a champion against FGM, and an inspiration to all our girls
  • Construction of our Girls Empowerment Centre commenced in June which is a long awaited initiative that once completed will touch the lives of hundreds of girls each year by preparing them to continue with their education before transitioning them to regular schools.NIGEE is proud to share a success story of one of our mentors who dedicates her time to encourage and support our girls:

One Mentor’s story

NIGEE has set up bridge centres in two densely populated informal settlements in Kisumu City (in Obunga and Manyatta). We recently set up another one in a rural setting (Seme) which currently has 3 teen mothers. These centres serve as hubs for young teen mothers who would like to resume formal learning. They participate in sessions where they share their experiences both as young mothers and students, to encourage and support each other in their journey back to and through school.

Mentors guide and encourage young girls in the pursuit for quality education and in bridge centres, their involvement inspires these girls to keep up with their studies. They incorporate their personal narratives to inspire girls and young mothers to resume school, proving to them that it can be done.

In Seme, we came across Judith who scored C+ in her national secondary school exams (KSCE) last year and is a mother of 5 children. Her eldest son will be sitting the same exams (KSCE) this year, the second born will sit the same exams next year and the third born the year after. The fourth born is in Grade 7, and the youngest in Grade 5.

Judith knows the struggles a young teen mother faces in resuming formal learning, because she was married at the age of 13. She spent ten years out of school and then resumed, only to face isolation and more challenges at school.

When she talks about her Father, her hands tremble a bit and she keeps her eyes trained on the television screen in her house. Her children are watching a Nigerian movie, and she looks on and then says, “After I had sat for my national primary school exams (KCPE) and passed, my father clearly told me that he would never choose to educate me over his sons and if it hurt so much, that I could kill myself for all he cared.”

The Deputy Head Teacher of her primary school had been the one trying to persuade her father to take her to school and when they could not get through to him, the deputy promised that he would pay for her education. She was happy but that was until she heard his condition: he would pay for her education only if she got married to him, and by then she was 12. She refused and sought admission at a local school and stayed on for only two terms before she dropped out due to lack of tuition fees. She relocated to Seme and that’s when she got married.

At this, she turns and asks, “I sat my KCPE in 1997, and scored 498 out of 700. Can you imagine receiving calling letters from both Lwak Girls and Nyakach Girls (both national schools) and not being able to go because your father believes you do not deserve it because you are a girl?”

Judith knows she will get admission into the University however her priority at the moment is to support her three children who are in secondary school. She admits that having a supportive husband helped her resume her studies and she now encourages young girls who are in school to focus on their studies first. She says that education opens up someone’s mind to what is happening in the world. She wants her children to get the best education and to use their knowledge and experiences to live a better life than she led.

In terms of profession, she is looking forward to pursuing teacher education and believes she would be an understanding teacher as it would give her an opportunity to encourage young girls to stay in school and complete their studies.

As a Mentor of other girls, she feels that young girls at this time and age have many more opportunities to seek for help and guidance in achieving their dreams. Parents are more aware of the value of the girl child, but she wants the girls to know their worth and value first. She mentors the three teen mothers at the Seme Bridge Centre, and is mobilizing more to join.

The GEC under construction
The GEC under construction
Girl-Led media training
Girl-Led media training
Girl-Led media training
Girl-Led media training
Beneficiaries at the bridge centre in Obunga
Beneficiaries at the bridge centre in Obunga
Beneficiaries at the bridge centre in Kosao.
Beneficiaries at the bridge centre in Kosao.
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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
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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
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Project Leader:
NIGEE Kenya
Kisumu city, Kenya
$69,838 raised of $101,369 goal
 
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