Celebrating International Day of the Girl

Celebrating International Day of the Girl

Today is the UN’s International Day of the Girl and at Spirit in Action we are honored to partner with many wonderful women who are working to improve the lives of girls and women in their community. We are part of a large network of positive change! Today I highlight three inspiring SIA female leaders:

Margaret Ikiara, Director of CIFORD, Kenya

Empowering girls and fighting the practice of female genital mutilation. (Read about her SIA connection.)

Today is International Day of the Girl Child!

We’re proud to work with CIFORD, who fight against the harmful practice…

Posted by Child.org on Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Naomi Ayot, Small Business Fund Coordinator, Uganda

For her day job, Naomi is the Program Manager of Gender & Human Rights at Action for Community Development – Uganda (Read about her SIA connection.)

#WEaretheLEADERS: If we want to change the status quo in development, recognize grassroots leadership. BIG YES! Thank…

Posted by One World Children’s Fund on Monday, October 10, 2016

Wambui Nguyo, Small Business Fund Coordinator, Kenya

A peace-builder and trainer with Initiatives of Change, Kenya. (Read about her SIA connection.)

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-3-00-01-pmFrom the article: “We are often too afraid to take the lead because of fear of the unknown,’ Susan commented. Before the end of the three days training, she had already taken the initiative to reconcile with one of her long time rivals. She even bought an item from her rival’s shop- something she had avoided for a long time. She was amazed at how well her enemy responded to reconciliation after such a long time. ‘Today I have learnt to let every good thing begin where I am before I can pass it on to others. Even my dad, who caused our family so much pain – after selling our family land and misusing all the money drinking. Today I forgive him and will make peace with him.” (Read the full article.)

Factory jobs in Nairobi: It’s complicated….

Factory jobs in Nairobi: It’s complicated….

The mission of the Mathare Dressmaking and Tailoring Training Centre in Nairobi is to train women and men to use the industrial sewing machines to enable them to get jobs. And, as I reported in June, 124 of the 181 trainees have managed to secure employment with Ruaraka Clothing Industries, a large employer in the area. In most cases the trainees are only able to get the skilled machine operator jobs because of the training centre.

Studying factory jobs

I consider this employment a great success! And so I was interested to read this study that looked at the effect of low-wage manufacturing jobs on workers in Ethiopia. Now, this is in Ethiopia, not Kenya, and I do not know if the workers are taking the same sort of skilled jobs that the Mathare trainees are able to secure.

What did the study find? “It turned out that for most people, working in a factory didn’t significantly improve their income relative to the people in the control group. But getting cash to help start your own business did.”

The researchers, Chris Blattman and Stephan Dercon, summed it up like this:

  • Most people who applied for these factory jobs didn’t like them or intend to stay, rather the jobs were low paid and unpleasant and used as a safety net of sorts, while people looked for other entrepreneurial activities or less difficult wage work
  • But the health risks of industrial work were high and there’s evidence that serious health problems doubled if you took the factory job
  • When you gave them $300 cash [instead of the factory job], they started a small business and earnings went up by a third.
Students in the Samro Poly tailoring classroom in Eldoret, Kenya. Many are wearing clothes that they have made in the class.

Students in the Samro Poly tailoring classroom in Eldoret, Kenya. Many are wearing clothes that they have made in the class.

What does this mean for SIA?

I wasn’t sure what this all meant for SIA partners. So I emailed Jeremiah Mzee, who is director of the training centre project. He wrote:

“I completely agree with the writer of this article.

“It is true that when a factory establishes in Kenya, it creates new jobs for both the skilled and unskilled laborers. A majority get low wages and there is nothing they can do. Most of them try to work in these factories for low pay with a hope of getting something better. In Ruaraka these factory jobs are considered to be for women simply because they pay low wages, though to the women they believe these factories provide valuable employment opportunities for them. I AGREE.

“Most people working in these factories get wages enough only to meet basic needs and it is true that entrepreneurial women running small businesses in Ruaraka have better income and financial independency.”

It is always useful to get this kind of feedback. It is the great benefit of our long-term partnership with grassroots leaders who know the reality of the situation on the ground. Luckily, Jeremiah Mzee is one of our newest Small Business Fund coordinators. He is already working with these women to help them become entrepreneurs. Another five business groups received their $150 grants last month. And the Mathare Dressmaking and Tailoring Training Centre will continue to train people to be able to apply for the higher paying jobs at the factories, until they can find something better.

See what a Kenyan viral video looks like!

See what a Kenyan viral video looks like!

You never know what video or meme might go viral. Sometimes it’s dumping a bucket of ice water on your head. Sometimes it’s an adorable baby sea otter. And in Kenya, sometimes it’s a street boy singing a popular gospel song!

Tredy Bradly was filmed singing a song by the famous Kenyan gospel singer, Mercy Masika. It was uploaded to Facebook and people loved it! “What talent!” they gushed. Soon there was a campaign to get Mercy to recognize the boy. Then he was adopted by a Kenyan guardian and has earned a full scholarship to a private school in Nairobi!

See what all the fuss is about:

Now enjoy the original song, watched over 3 million times (including 3 times by me…)!

This “urban gospel” song is a song of love and praise to God. The chorus says,

“And I cant’ keep myself from speaking of your goodness.
And it is not bragging, you have done me well.”


South Sudanese Refugees

In more sober news from East Africa the number of of refugees fleeing the violence in South Sudan has reached 1 million this week, according to the UN. After a ceasefire in South Sudan in 2015, there was a renewed round of fighting in the capital this July. The refugees, mostly women and children, are seeking asylum in Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Central African Republic. Uganda is now generously hosting more refugees than in any time in their history, including about 370,000 South Sudanese.

Here is a short news story with more details.

Let us be prayerful for the refugees, those welcoming them, and those still fighting for power. May there be peace in South Sudan. May we find more space for compassion in this world. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.

Training boys to be allies

Training boys to be allies

This seminar was different. Boys and girls sat in the classroom together. Listening to the presentations about puberty, reproductive health, and HIV/AIDS together. Spirit in Action grants have supported girls’ empowerment seminars and an alternative rite of passage at CIFORD Kenya and Pastoralist Child Foundation in the past. However, this seminar was the first to include high schoolers of both sexes.

ciford_girls_boys_seminar_8-16 The co-ed seminar came at the request of the parents and the youth in Meru, Kenya. The girls felt strongly that the boys also needed to learn about sexuality and the fight against genital cutting. “The participants were happy and said they are going to be change agents in the community to fight against female circumcision,” reported one of the facilitators.

Eighty participants (35 boys and 45 girls) attended the week-long seminar held during the August school holidays. The facilitators are local women, who are experienced in health education. In addition to covering the health problems and danger of female circumcision, the sessions also discussed the effects of texting and social media, career and talent development, and drug and substance abuse. There was time for focus group discussion and questions from the youth.  “It was a learning experience. And since it was the first of its kind we had to consult a lot,” said Margaret Ikiara, Director of the grassroots organization CIFORD Kenya.

This is an opportunity for our children to be told those things which we cannot share with them,” said Kambura, a mother of one of the girls. “My daughter is very happy. She says she learned a lot that she will share with her friends who were unable to attend.”

Each participant left with a shirt that says, “The future depends on us. We are the change.” Together they will bring the message to friends and family members, and be visible in the community as standing up for girl’s rights.

"The future depends on us. We are the change." Proclaim the seminar t-shirts.

“The future depends on us. We are the change.” Proclaim the seminar t-shirts.

The participants had a great suggestion for future seminars: How about including a talent contest? Let’s make this fun, in addition to informative and empowering!

Gratitude from Margaret, Director of CIFORD:

“On behalf of our community and the benefiting boys and girls, and on behalf of CIFORD, I wish to thank the SIA donors and the SIA board for approving this exciting program. Thank you to Tanya for being there for us and giving encouraging words. We say a big thank you.”

A Better Way to do Education in Kenya

A Better Way to do Education in Kenya

Arsons have burned over 100 public high schools in Kenya this year, affecting over 6,000 students. These aren’t terrorist attacks. It seems to be the work of some of the students themselves. And speculation about possible motivations is flying around without any clear conclusions.

What is clear is that this is very bad news for the government schools that are already underfunded and overcrowded. It also clearly highlights the value of supporting good schools like Samro School.

Rhoda Teimuge in Oakland in June.

Rhoda Teimuge in Oakland in June.

A Dream Come True

When Rhoda Teimuge, director of Samro School, spoke at our 20th Anniversary party in June, she shared how a dream called her to start the school. Two years after the dream, in 1998, the school opened. And it took on the special mission of serving the mind, body, and spirit of each student.

“The only thing that lasts a lifetime is what is in your brain – education,” Rhoda said, her strong voice conveying her passion and dedication to the work. Many of the students, some of whom are orphans from the adjacent Empowering Lives International, are dealing with challenges outside the school and so the encouragement and mentoring at Samro School are essential to their success.

The newer kitchen and dining room for the students when it is raining. The dining room doesn't have tables or seats yet but it keeps the students dry.

The newer kitchen and dining room for the students when it is raining. The dining room doesn’t have tables or seats yet but it keeps the students dry.

Student and Teacher Success

This past year, SIA grants to Samro helped pay school fees and support the teachers. Paul Karanja, a 6th grader, recently came to Samro from another school. He is older than most of his classmates and has some challenges reading, affecting his confidence. Rhoda reports that the teachers are giving him extra attention to help him improve.

The SIA grant covers the room and board and school fees for Gloria Jepchuma, a 7th grader. She is the school’s head girl and very active in classes and after school. However, Rhoda reports, family issues are disrupting her studies. It’s not just enough to pay for school. True caring and encouragement are critical to better future for Kenya.

Teachers are central to creating this nurturing environment. Rhoda met with them to discuss raising the standards of the school. She came away from the meeting encouraged. “They have even offered themselves to do their best in dealing with slow learners and also to develop talents amongst the students. They have come up with ideas to help learners broaden their minds through various Clubs like Gardening, Environment, Home Economics, Poultry, Animal Raring, Debate, and Christian Union. Teachers want to have Samro to be the best School.

It’s clear that dedicated teachers, a caring administrator, and encouraged students will make for a good and safe learning environment.

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