Challenges turned into Opportunities
Women can now change a tire, sell newspapers on the streets or even drive public buses! These are some of my selected gender benders that put a smile on my face when I walk down the streets of Nairobi, Kenya! Stereotypes have been broken and women are staying ahead of the curve, to make a difference in the community.
Kibera is the largest slum in Kenya with poor infrastructure that affects the economic livelihood of the community. These conditions are catalysts for alcohol and substance abuse, which are contributing factors to sexual violence against women from age 6 years to over 45 years. Young and older women are forced into exchanging sex and prostituting children for basic resources. Most survivors that are raped are infected with HIV or other sexually transmitted infections and unwanted pregnancies.
During one of the young women small group sessions, they shared their challenges that create a barrier for me to change my community. Gender based stereotyping and discrimination continues to affect educational attainment and in employment many of the young women do not receive salaries for work that is equal to the male workmates. This does not lay a foundation for job opportunities hence making us depend on our male colleagues. All this creates a low self esteem that also hinders commitment to change.
“My mother forced me to be married to an older man so that my brother can go to school. I am now with two under 5 years old children, surviving with about less than a dollar a day. He beats me up everyday saying that he is spending a lot of money for my brother’s education. I’ve got nowhere to run, plus, he provides my children with shelter”. A 17 years old young mother shared, during the first book club meeting.
This is the reason why we chose to come up with a ‘book club’ that will creatively take a peer to peer approach that creates trustful environment which allows open discussions. The activities are fun and simple! It starts with reading and writing a personal ‘Hero Book’ with short notes on how the book has influence you and lastly, to participate in a book driven discussion. The group of 15 young women also started a merry-go- round, savings culture model.
To be able to reach this group efficiently; psychosocial, economic empowerment, medical and legal support needs to be in place. Inside the group directory I met ‘WorldPulse online book club’ and I have started a discussion on how to run and sustain a book club. From ‘Featured Projects’, the girls are interested to network with other projects that deal with young women on economic empowerment. I navigated in the ‘Resource Exchange’ where trainings and books support can be requested. We are working on how the 15 young women can start raising their voices and open up a journal for the book club. By this, members will be able to hear from other heroes in PulseWire that speak volumes.