For nine years the Binti Pamoja Center has been providing safe spaces for adolescent girls and young women in Kibera, giving them an opportunity to receive quality comprehensive education on reproductive health and financial education. We begun with 12 girls and over the years and through the determination and hard work of the Binti Pamoja girls we are now able to work with over 1000 girls in Kibera. Working towards building their assets and fighting for and promoting a safe environment for young adolescent girls in Kibera, an environment that is otherwise hostile to the growth of young adolescent girls. The Binti Pamoja Center has promoted and appreciated the value of peer education, to give young adolescent girls an opportunity to act as agents of social change in their community among their peers and thereby creating an environment that is safe for young adolescent girls to grow and excel in their lives, an environment that enables them to reach their full potential.
This year 81 adolescent girls who recently graduated from our comprehensive two year training on reproductive health and financial literacy will now have the opportunity to be part of this great initiative by recruiting girls and forming their own groups, thereby being leaders in their community that empower other girls in the community and being role models and mentors for other young girls.
Starting June 2011, the Binti Pamoja Program has partnered with Krep Bank to strengthen the financial assets of adolescent girls in Kibera, by opening savings account for Binti Pamoja safe spaces girls, through the Go Girl Account initiative. The project aims at opening accounts for 600 girls in the safe spaces program.
This opportunity will enable the girls to fully understand the concept of money and how to manage it wisely, by practically applying the basic skills taught in their weekly financial literacy session, such as budgeting and savings. Apart from giving them the experience of using financial services, it will also increase their confidence to make financial decisions and to become more economically empowered in the future by being able to take control of their finances. The opportunity will also give the girls accessible and formal ways to save money which will reduce the risks and challenges faced when saving at home.
The Program has taken a strong asset development approach to address the economic vulnerability of young girls within Kibera especially.
The Binti Pamoja program has partnered with the Zion Zone Tennis Foundation of Nairobi to teach tennis fundamentals to a group of girls from Kibera. The collaborative project seeks to address the plight of girls in Kibera slums, providing structured activities when the girls would otherwise be idle. Currently serving 15 girls, the program will eventually reach around 60 girls between the ages of 11 and 18. Along with tennis coaching from a professional player, the program educates the slum girls on HIV and AIDs and promotes positive self esteem with mentoring and counseling. The program includes weekly tennis coaching and HIV awareness classes, as well as visits from local women's sports personalities. Tournaments are held once a month.
The Binti Pamoja Center was honored by the recent visit of Dr. Jill Biden, wife of U.S. vice president Joe Biden. On June 8th, 2010, Dr. Biden visited Kibera to learn more about the center and its programming. She spent time with the Binti Pamoja girls and took a tour of Kibera led by CFK staff. Originally scheduled for a short walk down the main street in Gatwekera village, at the last minute the group went deeper to visit the home of Aaliyah, a Binti alumni leader and first-class tour guide. Many thanks to the Bidens for their visit to our community!
The Center creates and provides a safe space for adolescent girls in Kibera, which is otherwise a very dangerous environment for this demographic. Binti Pamoja has helped girls explore the issues that are prevalent in their daily lives: violence against women, rape, prostitution, HIV/AIDS, female genital mutilation, poverty, sexual abuse, unequal access to education, lack of reproductive health care and information, and demanding domestic responsibilities. The Center uses photography, drama, writing, and group discussion to investigate such issues in depth, allowing the girls to confront these issues and learn technical information about reproductive health and financial literacy. The Center hosts monthly speakers and field trips, community service projects, family events, and peer education programs designed to further empower the girls and provide an outlet for them to educate their communities through drama, a newsletter, and youth forums.
Binti Pamoja has held group counseling with the girls to discuss the emotional, physical and psychological aftermath of the post-election violence. The Center has also held several team building and cooperation events to rebuild bonds and friendship across ethnic lines. Binti Pamoja organized a peace concert called "Let's Give Peace a Chance" and has also included the CFK peace initiative 'Jamii Ya Kibera' at its family event.
The Safe Spaces network continues to expand, now comprising over 600 girls ages 11 to 18 in the Kibera community. Educational and artistic activities are designed to give invaluable support to all Binti Pamoja program participants.
One day before our visit, I call and talk to Mohamed, the CEO of Carolina for Kibera. He is more that willing to meet our team and so he gives us an appointment to meet him and his team.
As we approach the offices, we notice about three four-wheel drive vehicles with diplomatic number plates parked outside the offices which are in the sprawling Kibera slums. I call Mohammed just to let him know that our team has arrived. “Sorry Leah, I am in the field , but just get to the office and talk to the people there.” This takes me by surprise, but I realize that this being a community project each and every person is empowered with information.
The security person ushers us to a meeting place, and then calls one of the officers from the main office to come and attend to us. He introduces himself as Ben Hagai, a program officer for Sexual and reproductive health. As we settle down to talk, Mohamed walks in and requests Ben to let him talk to us. This soft spoken man then takes us step by step on how the organization was started and its mission. He is full of praise of their relationship with GlobalGiving.
“If I can remember, GG gave us money in 2003 which we used to establish the health clinic, (Tabitha Medical Clinic). Since then, they have not given us any monetary support, but the fact they profile our work on their site has given us a lot of mileage for which we are truly grateful," says Mohamed.
"GG has created a lot of awareness through online documentation of our work," he says. However, this gentleman puts more emphasis on GG being able to ensure that projects are accountable to communities they serve. "GG funded projects should form coalitions for purposes of sharing information, experiences, best practices; this is the BIG brother BIG sister kind of relationships."
“Just giving money without follow-ups is dangerous,” says Mohamed. "At Carolina for Kibera, we have received leverage just by being on the GG website."
We seek to talk to some of the beneficiaries of the project and so he takes us to a building about 300 meters from the office site and here we meet some girls who have been and are still beneficiaries of the organization.
We met Maureen Wandia, she is full of praise of the project.
"I joined the project when I was 12 years. I have now just completed high school and gotten myself placement at the office at Brain Trust."
I ask her what that means, and she explains, "I help other girls realise their dreams. I have been mentored and given opportunities by this project, so it is my time now to give back."
She goes ahead to explain, "When I talk to the other girls, I remind them that living in a slum is not the end of life. Rise up and give your life a direction, show others that you can make a difference. That is what i do at Brain Trust."
"Binti pamoja has changed my life," she says.
Linet Nyanchama (21 years) was busy typing on her computer as we talked to Maureen. She looks at us with expections. She has a story to tell. I ask, "So when did you join the project?"
"I was 14 years", she says.
I can tell, from the confidence on her face that she is truly empowered.
"I am a peer educator. I discuss issues of sexaulity and sexual maturation with younger girls. I also facilitated the formation of the peer education group as a way of giving back to my community in Kibera. This project has seen me through school and are paying for my college education. And besides they have offered me a job."
I ask her how much she earns, and without coersion, she discloses her allowances - ksh.900.00. She is the proud earner of a salary of 9000.00 kenya shillings which is close to a dream to majority of the Kibera residents.
"I wish that the world could encourage more girls to realise their dreams," Says Linet.
Jackline Angwanda is another beneficiary of Carolina for Kibera. She says that she was introduced to the project by a friend and since then she has never regretted. She is a partial orphan with 4 siblings. She is the sole bread winner for her family.
"How do you manage to provide for your family?" I asked.
"My mother taught us how to share and be responsible to others from an early age, and this is a value that I urge other girls to emmulate. We should go beyond our families and help the community," she concludes with a parting shot. "If you empower girls, you eradicate poverty and I see this through the girls at Carolina for Kibera."
"Our organization is of young people, you can see our CEO and even all the other officers," says Jackline.
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