My name is Eurelia Andabwa. I joined Green-Kenya last November as a women's up coordinator. It has been a nice experience all along first because I used to work with children, especially girls, so working in this environment has been easy for me to maneuver, second being one of the beneficiaries of these kinds of programs, I knew what to touch on when it came to the women's up sessions knowing very well that it is focusing on adolescent girls that campaigns about female empowerment.Green-Kenya has really given me a good platform to showcase my skills and a chance of getting new skills.
Working as a women 's up coordinator managing the session alone last year was a bit tough on my end but this year I am privileged to have a women's up team that I am working with. They have been of great help so far , we have been able to come up with session plans together, coming up with ideas on what activity we should do before the session to get their concentration to class or session. Also when it comes to the off field and on field session they have been of great help where by when one is conducting the session the other are helping on checking on the girls who maybe for example are having difficulties in spellings or maybe we are experimenting something and not all are getting so the go round helping, The women up team has made work easier for me cause now i don't have to conduct the session alone we mostly alternate.
The program promotes health, safety, education and leadership of girls and passionate advocates around the community which touches on the UNSDGs number 5, Gender Equality. We teach the girls to stand up against harassment, be aware of gender stereotypes and also we touch on health and behaviors that are happening in our community as we all know when you educate a woman you educate the whole nation because child health improves when women and girls have equal access to education .
Working with the girls has been a great opportunity because even most of the time we learn while we teach. The girls' response for the program has been the greatest highlight of our day to day activity, it has really encouraged the coaches to even deliver more quality sessions despite the challenges we face on a daily basis. We have also seen great progress when it comes to openness, when we started the session the girls were shy to open up but nowadays they are willing to share what is happening in their lives and we as coaches are able to respond positively to those that we can at the moment. There has been a great massive growth in terms of numbers and also knowledge wise.
Asante sana from Nairobi
For the last couple of months, women up sessions have been taking place twice a week in different community. One session was being conducted during physical education time while the other one was in the community centre during weekends.
We now have 3 physical education teachers who are committed to mentor the girls, these teachers reside in the community where the girls come from which make it easier to talk about the social issue that affect the whole community.
The number of girls who are attending women up sessions has increased gradually, we now have 86 girls who attend the sessions on a weekly basis. The attendance has dropped from 85% to 49% in November due to preparation of final exams (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education) Other factors that has contributed to is that some girls use pieces of clothes instead of sanitary towel which keeps them from playing until when the menstrual cycle is over.
We are not able to provide Sanitary towels to all the girls in the program, we are humbly requesting for your support to buy towels on a monthly basis, this will reduce the share and embarrassment that comes along whenever there is a menstrual cycle.
“Women up program has brought a great positive impact to our girls in terms of education, basic needs and encouraging the girls not to lose hope in life. This has led to these girls to see that there is a brighter future ahead of them regardless of the challenges there facing in life”. Said Teacher Rose, watch Women Up story here Click
The girls were also privileged to received donation and playing kits during women up sessions, one of the biggest challenge for girls to participate in sports especially in the informal settlement is lack of training kits like sports bra and shoes unlike their male counterparts who can play without shoes and clothes onto.
We are optimistic that come next year, the schools calendar will be more organized and this will give more girls and opportunity to attend school on a regular basis, it will also give them a chance to have enough rest during school holidays.
Vanessa (left) and Evamia (right) are the current volunteers running the women up program. Vanessa is the women up coordinator. Currently, a psychology and sociology student at the University of Nairobi while Evamia is the women up assistant coordinator. Both of them play football.
“It has been 2 months since we started our volunteer at Green Kenya in June 2022. When we began, we expected all our sessions to be on the field, to have mostly 15- to 19-year-old girls in the off-field sessions, to have a lively, vibrant and participative class that was conversant with the topics discussed or have experience from them”.
It has not been an easy ride for us mostly in the off-field sessions. It was difficult in the beginning to have the girls participate since we were new faces and they had difficulty opening up. Some girls in the sessions are young and have no experience or have never heard of some of the topics making them understand less and not participate.
Due to their environment, they are not as exposed to information hence they have little or no information at all. This creates a challenge as we have to explain out of topic and begin from a familiar place to help them understand better. This in turn takes a lot of time on one topic.
The on-field sessions are not as challenging apart from a large number of girls if being handled by one person, and since most of the girls are at their puberty it calls for a lot of understanding and patience as some might be rebellious. Apart from that the sessions mostly run smoothly and the girls are participative.
We have come to grow fond of the off-field sessions as we see an improvement weekly in how the girls are adjusting to us and opening up. Though the topics might be intense for some of them we have seen great improvement in their contribution and participation and how they generally are as a person. We have seen some of the girl's confidence, self-awareness and self-esteem grow immensely over the past two months. They have stopped being shy and reserved and some can now speak boldly in front of people”.
Yours in service
This story is about a young girl who lives in one of the informal settlement where we conduct Community Impact program. For the sake of protecting her identity, I will call her Esther.
When our community coaches met with Esther, she was in class 5, about 11 years old, when I first entered their worn out iron sheet class room to introduce our programs to the Children, she was just quiet the whole time. After introducing the program, all the Children were excited except Esther, that caught my attention and that was the beginning of my curiosity about her and why she was quiet and withdrawn.
When the day to finally kick start the sessions, I was looking forward to see Esther, and to my surprised, she came to the field with the rest of the participants, we begun the session on a high note but Esther was still having stone face, I later realized that she was very aggressive and bitter with everyone, but more so with the boys, all the boys feared her, including the ones who were older than her.
After the sessions, I met with Esther’s teacher and I began to have a candid conversation about the girls and the teacher called to the side and dropped the bombshell to me. “You are correct David, said the teacher, the girl is very aggressive, and sometimes she is uncontrollable”. “Esther was a victim of rape for a long time, I got a bit more curious, and asked questions, the teacher said that the perpetrator was his father, who used to come home late at night drunk and he would rape the girl without the knowledge of the mother, apparently the mother was also abusing drugs and she did not care much how the Children were doing in schools or at home. Esther’s elder brother, who was in class 6, was also in the same mess, his father used to give him a bit of alcohol at night, and when he wakes up he was still drunk, this made him not to attend classes.
To be honest, I was angry with the whole story, and I decided to do what I can and help the two Children, I sat down with our Community Coaches and shared the story with them, we agreed to prepare football sessions to address the social issues that the duo were facing, we followed up with small steps by ensuring that they came to school in a daily basis, that way we would have a chance to involve them in the sessions.
Because they were in different classes, they attended sessions on different days, I ensured that Esther was in charge of attendance, ensuring that everyone was in the field on time, the games had more fun sessions, self-esteem sessions and after 3 months, we begun to see new Esther emerging out of her shell, being jovial, her grade improved, the smile came back, this moment made me emotional, even the teacher recognized it.
I was with Esther in March 2019, after just 4 sessions in the beginning of the year before Covid-19 was announced as global pandemic and my heart sunk, I thought that the perpetrator would take advantage of the situation and flush all the gains we made to the drain, to fast forward to 2022, I saw Esther again after 2 years and she was glowing, she was clean and talkative. Something interesting happened, during Covid-19, there were no places that their parents would get cheap alcohol or other drugs, there was a country wide curfew that started from 7:am to 5:am, everybody was looking forward to work and protect their health.
Even though the scares of Esther are not fully healed, we believe that she will fully recover and she will get justice one day. One of the step we took was to have a psychologist in our organization to help Children who are going through these kind of situations on a daily basis, though we might not keep the psychologist for long because they are going to with us for 3 months, we believe that this is the first step to bring healing to these young souls. Our end goal is to have at least one counselor as a full time staff.
Time really flies, we are in the festive session and on behalf of the Green-Kenya team we would like to wish you happy holidays in advance.
In the past 3 months, we have had memorable moments during the on field sessions with Children in different parts of Mukuru informal settlement, our community Coaches have worked tirelessly to keep Children safe while helping them to relieve stressful moments as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Many students have not yet reported back in schools because of either school fees or because the family relocated to a rural home. We have had the lowest number of participants who took part in our programs ever recorded in the past 4 years. There has been a significant drop in the number of girls who attend the sessions which is a worrying reality.
“It is challenging to keep these Children in school without enough food that was there before and enough teachers, even though it is more safe to keep them here than at home when their parents are not around during the day” said one of the teachers.
As if this situation was not enough, the government through the county government came with bulldozers very early in the morning to demolish a huge part of the informal settlement which inhabits around 700,000 people with a court order. As a result of these occurrences, Green-Kenya convened a special meeting with the leadership of Mukuru kwa Ruben to discuss the security of the Children, their parents and property.
After a long discussion, Our community Coaches in consultation with the Green-Kenya committee team agreed to stop all football sessions in Mukuru community. Most of the Children who have been affected by the demolition participate in our programs. Some of their parents had to seek refuge in the community field where we conduct football sessions. “I think it is not safe for Children to go to the field at this moment because there are riots, the residents are demonstrating against the demolition, let their parents settle first” said Joseph Kip’ ngame Chairman Mukuru Kwa Ruben, Wesinya community.
The coaches are still visiting the Schools to talk to few Children who are present and assuring them that football sessions will be back after the holidays are over. The demolition has been stopped to give people time to look for somewhere to relocate. We are thankful that our participants are safe, though there were fatalities during the demolition. The Covid-19 infection is slowly going down, there is hope that infection rate will be controlled with the availability of vaccines in the country. The government of Kenya through the ministry of health have directed that no one will receive government services without being inoculated.
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