Five girls have started a three month in hair and beauty as the Mrembo Girls Program this year expands into economic empowerment. These first trainees are being hosted at the Mrembo Hair & Beauty Salon, which was opened last May to generate funds for the program. Nancy Waweru, Program Director, explains why the program has been expanded, "For some of the girls we work with, social empowerment unfortunately has its limitations. Very needy girls can't even afford the basic essentials and too many turn to older partners, prostitution or settle for unhappy and abusive relationships." "By giving these girls a skill and the means to make a living, they will be able to look after themselves. Coupled with our educational and confidence boosting program, this approach can make a significant impact." The organisation's ambition is to graduate 20 girls during this coming year and there are also plans to offer additional vocational skills including catering and dressmaking. "I taught myself braiding and plaiting and have been making money by doing the neighbours' hair. But there are lots of other skills I need to be taught like manicures and pedicures.Once i have all those other skills, I'll feel confident enough to look for a job." Benta,19 years old. "After my teacher told me about this training course, I wanted to take part so I could build my life. With the skills I'll learn, I'll be able to confidently offer services and in the future open my own business. I've had a passion for hair and beauty for a long time, at school I would plait the other girls hair so I'm really excited for the opportunity." Victoria, 16 years old MREMBO SCORES MAJOR FUNDING It's a momentous year for the Mrembo Girls Program as the initiative scores its first major funding partner. Women Win, a global organisation which uses sport as a strategy to advance women's rights, will fund the program for the next three years. As a result, the program will significantly scale up its work with marginalized girls, aged 10 - 21 years, growing up Nairobi's slums. The Mrembo Girls Program, which educates and counsels girls on issues of sexuality and reproduction, is set to support over 1,000 vulnerable girls in 2013, a five-fold increase on previous years. To drive this expansion, Elizabeth Okinda has been promoted to Program Officer and will be supported by eight experienced peer educators. "Before the Mrembo Girls Program comes to their school, the girls are poorly informed on sex, sexuality and reproduction and this leads to huge social problems such as early pregnancy, child marriages and inter-generational relationships." Elizabeth explains. "With the support of Women Win, we now have the capacity to support so many more girls and help them to lead happy and healthy lives." Hewlett Foundation grants over $2,000 In January, the Mrembo team received the unexpected and exciting news that the Hewlett Foundation was to grant the project $2,058. To honour a retiring board member, the Hewlett Foundation chose to gift 32 GlobalGiving projects which advance the health, rights and economic development of women. "Considering the sheer number of women's projects partnered by GlobalGiving, we were extremely pleased to be singled out as one of just 32 beneficiaries," Nancy Waweru, Program Director for the Mrembo Girls Program, commented. "With the funds, we will be able to strengthen Mrembo's income generating and vocational training divisions. Our 2013 ambition is to establish a restaurant where we can train girls in catering and which will also raise money for the program."