Children
 Kenya
Project #1771

Empowering Girls in Kibera

by Carolina for Kibera, Inc.

Mueni is not one to back down from a challenge. When she heard from friends about the Queen's Young Leaders Programme, a one-year program that recognizes exceptional young leaders from countries of the British Commonwealth, she decided to apply despite knowing she faced some heavy competition. “I was optimistic when applying,” she explains, “though I knew that it’s very competitive because many young leaders from Commonwealth countries bring amazing things.” And her reaction to hearing that she won the award? “I couldn’t believe it,” she says, smiling. “Actually I was in tears—tears of joy.”

Mueni brings many amazing skills, perspectives, and experiences as well. Born and raised in Kibera, Mueni overcame many hardships to get where she is today. She is currently studying to become a teacher, having just finished the prerequisite 1-year certificate course before starting her official degree in education. She is also the Field Coordinator for the girls’ teams in the Sports Association, serving as an as a personal mentor for many. On top of this, she continues to referee soccer matches and lead trainings for teams.

Mueni began participating in CFK’s programs from a very young age, as a young soccer player in CFK’s Champions League. She appreciated that sports kept her active and busy, and she loved spending time with her teammates. Shortly thereafter, she joined Daughters United for many of the same reasons. Both programs gave her an opportunity to develop her talents as an athlete, friend, mentor, and leader.

These qualities are all things she hopes to build upon through the Queen’s Young Leaders Award. The award package is rich with content on mentorship and networking. Mueni will attend an online leadership course called “Leading Change,” taught by faculty at the University of Cambridge. Perhaps the most exciting part is the 1-week, all-expenses paid residency program in the UK, where Mueni will be presented her award from a highly esteemed figure. “We will receive an award from Her Majesty the Queen,” she announces, and it seems like she still can’t believe it. “I’m so happy and honored to meet Her Majesty. I’m so nervous. I can’t wait to meet her.”

This past August, we were honored and privileged to welcome the leadership team from WomanCare Global to our office in Kibera! CEO Saundra Pelletier and her team visited CFK in Kenya in order to get a sense of what kinds of activities our Binti Pamoja girls program conducts, and how those same activities extend across all of our programs. During their visit, they got a chance to see the Binti Pamoja Girls Center, our state-of-the-art Tabitha Medical Clinic, the Lishe Bora Mtaani Nutrition Center, and the CFK Main office, where they met with key staff members and partners.

WomanCare Global is an international organization dedicated to meeting the unmet demand for family planning in countries where medicine and proper health information is scarce. They take a particular interest in reproductive health solutions for women and girls around the world, including Kenya, and have brought new options to women in 100 different countries. We are happy and proud to associate with them, especially since our new initiative to bring proper health information to women of childbearing age and children under 5 fits in quite nicely with their mission. We look forward to future opportunities to partner and repeated visits to Kibera!

 

(Photos courtesy of Jerry Riley - Nairobi)

Every year on May 28th, women all over the world celebrate Menstrual Hygiene Day. Because the menstrual cycle is so common, it might sound odd to have a day dedicated to it. However, in many areas, including the Kibera slum, menstruation is considered taboo or shameful. As a result, many myths about menstruation arise, and girls learn incorrect things about their health.

One of the goals of CFK’s Daughters United program is to teach girls accurate and reliable health information in a variety of areas, including sexual and reproductive health. This month, our target was to reach out to 600 girls in informal schools across Kibera. Throughout the month of May, we held 6 sessions on menstruation hygiene, each of which had 100 girls participate. We invited an external speaker who taught them about menstruation in depth. The girls were also trained on how to use sanitary towels, which we provided for them free of charge.

It is very important to train young adolescent girls on the importance of maintaining hygiene during menstruation. A lack of good hygiene leads to infections and at times affects their performance in school and their social lives. It is also important to teach adolescent girls about themselves, as knowledge and confidence build their self-esteem. With this knowledge about their menstrual cycles, they have nothing to fear in terms of embarrassment from a completely natural process. Instead, they can focus their efforts on their education, confidence, and long-term goals.

Nafsi Acrobats
Nafsi Acrobats

Yesterday was International Women's Day! In celebration of women worldwide, we wanted to bring you the following story about how Lydia became an acrobat.

Lydia, 16, found out about Carolina for Kibera’s Daughters United program (Binti Pamoja) through her best friend, who already regularly attended meetings. Having grown up in Kibera in a single-parent household, she had been longing for a place where she could meet friends apart from her siblings - specifically girls.

She quickly discovered and appreciated the sense of community she felt with the other girls in her group. “I like that Binti helps girls to overcome some of the challenges they face in the slum, such as violence, early marriage, and drug abuse, which are really affecting young girls in Kibera.” The program’s activities also help girls to identify and practice their different talents, including creative writing, photography, and—most importantly for Lydia—dance.

Lydia enjoys the program’s dancing sessions more than any other aspect of Daughters United meetings. But she had never dreamed of doing something as daring and unique as acrobatics. At one of these dancing sessions, a representative of Nafsi Africa Acrobats gave a spectacular presentation. Lydia immediately found the sport intriguing and exciting. The representative also took an interest in Lydia, hand-picking her to train with a team from Nafsi.

As Lydia practiced, she improved greatly; before long, Nafsi invited her to Copenhagen, Denmark to perform last December! Rather than being strictly a competition, the event functioned as a cultural exchange, bringing together dancers and acrobats from all over the world to share their heritage, culture, and distinct styles of dance, song, and acrobatics. The last day included a competition with participants from other countries, and Lydia’s group emerged the winners!

Through Daughters United, Lydia discovered her passion for acrobatics, which she plans to continue throughout college and the rest of her life. Perhaps one day, another aspiring acrobat will follow in her footsteps.

Sheryl, 14.
Sheryl, 14.

Everyone deserves a chance to create change in their own life and community. No one’s potential should be limited by where they live or where they were born.

Kiberan youth are hard at work doing just that—creating change—and they want people to know that the youth of Kibera are resilient and determined. We asked Sheryl (pictured above) what she wished others would know about her community. This is what she said:

"When you tell people about Kibera, they think it is dirty and that people are lazy. That's why people don't have much. But I would like them to know that girls, such as me, who live here have dreams and that we work really hard to change our community and our life to make it better. We just need support and opportunity."

Every day, adolescent girls like Sheryl grapple with complex issues that are unique to their circumstances living in a slum, including early marriage and pregnancy, HIV/AIDS, and unequal access to education. But they know that by working together and supporting one another, they can empower themselves and their community.

They have faith in where they're going. They have faith in the future.

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Organization Information

Carolina for Kibera, Inc.

Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina - USA
Website: http:/​/​cfk.unc.edu
Project Leader:
Leann Bankoski
Executive Director
Chapel Hill, NC United States