Project #1771

Empowering Girls in Kibera

by Carolina for Kibera, Inc.

In CFK’s Daughters United program (Binti Pamoja in Swahili), girls are given opportunities to practice and develop artistic and professional skills that they wouldn’t have the chance to develop otherwise. These include dance, creative writing, leadership skills, and photography, among others. By practicing and improving these and other skills, girls build confidence, self-esteem, and a sense of community and safety with other girls who face similar challenges from living in Kibera.

Recently, Binti Pamoja held a photography workshop for those interested in learning how to take photos. Many of the girls in the program were very excited, since they don’t own cameras and never had the chance to take photos before.

25 girls between the ages of 12 and 15 participated in the general photography training, while 10 who showed a special interest in the subject got the chance to do a photo shoot at different locations throughout Kibera. Each group was given a different focus. For example, one pair of girls took photos of small businesses throughout Kibera, while other pairs took pictures of children and their surroundings. (You can see their photos below.)

The aim of the photo shoots was for the girls to discover, investigate, and write stories based on their photos. This writing assignment will be completed in November, during another Binti Pamoja workshop focusing on creative storytelling. We’re excited to share the completed stories with you then!

Inside a salon in Kibera
Inside a salon in Kibera
A vegetable seller
A vegetable seller's product for the day

They filed into the Tabitha Medical Clinic, seemingly identical in their school uniforms. Quiet and shy, they crammed close together on the benches of the reception area and spoke softly to one another. An elegant Kenyan woman appeared with a bright smile for all the girls. “Good morning,” she said, clapping her hands together. “My name is Macrine. I’m a nurse here at the Tabitha Clinic and I love myself. Let’s hear who you are,” she said, pointing to the girls to introduce themselves.

One by one, they stood and told the room their name, grade, and what they loved: themselves, their country, their families, their height, their school, recent Academy Award winner Lupita N’yongo (who is Kenyan), dancing, poems, everyone else in the room, their color, their tribe, soccer, smiling, music, the way they are. When the introductions were over, Macrine clapped her hands together and said, “This is good that we love ourselves and each other, and we have to remember to take care of ourselves and our bodies.”

Organized by CFK’s Daughters United (Binti Pamoja) program, around 40 young girls spent the day at the Tabitha Medical Clinic with Macrine to talk about health issues that affect them and to ask any questions they have about their health while in a safe environment. Topics ranged from ways young girls in Kenya should take care of themselves, the importance of taking preventative measures if engaging in sex, and the importance of being screened for cervical and breast cancer.

When the topic of breast cancer came up, one of the girls raised her hand. “What causes breast cancer?” she asked. Macrine turned the question to the group and asked what they had heard were the causes. Another girl raised her hand, “When you sleep on your stomach for too long, the breast doesn’t get enough blood and the result can be cancer.” A few others shared what they had heard about the disease before Macrine gave them new—and correct—information.

In Kibera, there’s an astounding amount of misinformation about important health issues like cancer, HIV/AIDS, STIs, and other medical conditions. Young girls grow up hearing myths that lead to real-life consequences. Regular, open health discussions like these help dispel incorrect information and stigma surrounding these health issues.

80 girls from the Binti Pamoja (Daughter’s United) program packed into the Binti Pamoja Centre to celebrate International Women’s Day (March 8). An event organized by CFK and Binti Pamoja participants every year, the staff explained the importance of the annual event saying, “Some may not care to celebrate women, but we can celebrate ourselves, to show that we matter and can motivate one another. We are working with these young girls so they can become so much more than is expected of them, and this event is part of that process.”

In a meeting room decorated with art produced by the girls, the participants of the event took turns showcasing their talents. Starting with dramas about female genital mutilation (FGM) and early marriages, the girls illustrated some of what they have learned so far from being in the Binti Pamoja program. Next were speeches by Emily and Jennifer, two young girls (14 and 13 years old) who eloquently spoke about what the past year as a Binti participant has meant to them. Poems, dancing, and a fashion show followed. The day ended with food and drinks as the girls enjoyed being together in celebration of their being women.

Jennifer performing a poem
Jennifer performing a poem

The UN recognizes 11 October as the International Day of the Girl Child.  Throughout the world, essential rights for women and girls remain unfulfilled or ignored, including access to education, reproductive health, and to live free of gender-based violence.  In Kibera, the situation is very much the same.

The International Day of the Girl Child is celebrated worldwide—and, as Binti Pamoja, we organized an event to celebrate adolescent girls in Kibera.

During the event, girls came together to showcase their different talents.  Some of the activities included performance of poetry, skits, dances, and modeling.  The girls had several opportunities to talk to each other and share on the different challenges they face in Kibera, especially how they are not treated with the same amount of respect as boys.  They have to really work harder to be at the same level with the boys.  Often, they lack goods or services like sanitary towels, an essential item, or a space in which they can express themselves.

All in all, the girls are very happy that despite the challenges they are facing, progress is being made.  There is a huge difference compared to some years back as more girls are getting vital information about their health, education, and well-being.  The celebration reinvigorated the girls to reach out to their friends with the aim of spreading information on issues of reproductive health and women's empowerment.   

One of the elements that makes CFK’s Daughters United program (Binti Pamoja) effective in reaching young girls is its cascading leadership style which nurtures the leadership qualities of adolescent girls. When girls join the program, not only are they taught about confidence, reproductive health, life skills, creative arts and financial literacy, but they are mentored and trained on how to organize their own girls’ groups and how to facilitate what they learn with others.

One way this mentorship is practiced is through community forum events organized by Carolina for Kibera.  At community forums, the girls from Binti Pamoja invite their friends from the community, who are not in the program, for a fun event to inform them on the different activities that Binti Pamoja does. While community forums are regular events that happen two to three times a year, recently the Binti Pamoja program hosted a community forum with a total of 175 guests!

These forums give Binti Pamoja participants the chance to practice their facilitation skills. They take charge of the event by organizing who will be the Master of Ceremony (MC), who will serve as facilitators, who will educate the guests on a particular topic, etc. Before the forum they also have to bring a written plan of what they will present to the Carolina for Kibera staff. Some of the presentations that have taken place at community forums include: facilitation on reproductive health and later an interactive session of question, answers and clarification; skits with particular themes; and dances. Passing on knowledge in this cascading style is important for strengthening community, and these community forums are doing just that.


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Organization Information

Carolina for Kibera, Inc.

Location: Chapel Hill, North Carolina - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Carolina for Kibera, Inc.
Project Leader:
Leann Bankoski
Executive Director
Chapel Hill, NC United States

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