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Looking Back, to Forge Ahead

I come from a family of 7, the youngest girl. I am not boasting when I say that I was born a very bright child. In my country, for a child to qualify for primary school, they have to go through a series of steps, before they can be promoted to Class One. My teachers at the time in 1984, found my brain too sharp, thus I was enrolled into Primary school directly, without the hustle of the junior classes. I never came second in class, all through my primary school, which saw me amass many gifts. My parents, being very poor, were spared the burden of buying me school requirements because I always got them all in form of awards, i.e. school uniforms, books and pens. My teachers also ensured that I had something to eat from their table, since we seldom had any food at home.

I sat my KCPE in 1991, and passed with marks that hadn’t and haven’t been seen in the history of my school, to date. My dilemma was how I was going to get fees to join high school, because my parents didn’t have a chicken to sell, leave alone a cow, as is the norm in my community, to take me to school. I was pleasantly surprised when I got a letter from a leading newspaper, the Standard, congratulating me on having won school fees worth KShs. 5,000/= in a competition I had jokingly participated in while on holiday at my aunt’s place.

Although my mum was bitter about my having been locked out of one of the best schools in the region for lack of fees, I told her that my sound brain would be content in any school. My mum enrolled me into the village high school and paid for me school fees for the whole year, and even bought me my first brand new skirt and shirt. We couldn’t afford a sweater and a pair of shoes, but I was so happy I felt like a new person. It was over a month late when I finally reported for my first year of high school, but at end of the term, I came second, for the first time in my life, and I was so mad at myself. I promised myself never to come second again, and I never did.

I sailed through my first year, and my teachers were impressed and arranged for me to get the community bursary the second year, meaning that everything was catered for, except my lunch, shoes and sweater, which didn’t faze me as long as I got an education. In fact I found a very old pair of rubber shoes whose upper was torn to shreds and turned them serviceable by improvising the upper with old rags and sewing them back onto the sole with thread and needle. For polish, I used to apply soot from our cooking pots. I didn’t mind the cold, so I never missed the sweater.

Unfortunately, corruption set in and my bursary was cut short just when I was set to start my final year, in 1994. I dropped out of school at 17, and married my first boyfriend. Life was too tough! I couldn’t find even odd jobs because I didn’t have papers. Five years later, a mother of two, I talked to my husband, who was baffled but agreed to enroll me for KCSE as a private candidate. I passed though I didn’t have reading material and there and then, decided that my daughters, and any other girl, didn’t have to go through all I underwent. My husband got me a sponsor for college and am now a trained journalist, though I couldn’t get a job because after numerous interviews, I had to sleep with someone or buy the job yet I couldn’t bring myself to do either.

I set up the Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, in 2002, a haven for girls and young women, in similar or worse circumstances. I do odd jobs and pay their fees, besides meeting their other basic needs. I have to date, educated 46 girls through high school, and outsource vocational training for them to further their studies. Right now, we have over 300 boys and girls who I am keeping in school because I believe education is the key to unlock riches. My Centre offers lessons on adolescence and sexuality in surrounding primary and secondary schools to empower girls with knowledge to help them not to succumb to peer pressure or to give up on their dreams. My Centre also believes in providing money making skills to our girls and young women in order to alleviate poverty. When not in school, we engage in beadwork, knitting and tailoring, to make an extra coin.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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jacollura's picture

I love you, Phy!

You are amazing.

Phionah Musumba's picture

I love you too, Julie!

You are awesome!

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

Diane Ezeji's picture

I hope that this paper will

I hope that this paper will help bring funding and awareness to your work! Education should be a right, not a privilege. That said, I took for granted my free public education, as probably many children do in privileged countries. Then we tend to look with judgement at those who have to struggle and do without in order to get what we receive so easily. Wow. I really admire your perseverance!

Diane Ezeji

Phionah Musumba's picture

Thank you!

Its so encouraging when one\s efforts are applauded. Thanks a lot for taking the time to not only read, but also comment on my post, it means a lot for me and the entire CDG family. Just like you, we hope that one day, we will be able to get the necessary aid, so that girls across the globe do not struggle to get an education. You are such an inspiring soul, Diane.
All the best,

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

Phionah Musumba's picture

Thank you!

Its so encouraging when one\s efforts are applauded. Thanks a lot for taking the time to not only read, but also comment on my post, it means a lot for me and the entire CDG family. Just like you, we hope that one day, we will be able to get the necessary aid, so that girls across the globe do not struggle to get an education. You are such an inspiring soul, Diane.
All the best,

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

smothyz's picture

beyond impressed!

Hi Phy,
been here but have never read your story till today. i am beyond words that you overcame your challenges and have moved past them and instead of wallowing in self-pity, you rise up above the ashes on a daily basis. your story is amazing and coming from Kenya myself, i see that we can take our challenges and make them our footstools.
i run a business of knitting and weaving, and i love talking with young people, we should hook up and talk. your husband is a rare man for i know that not many Kenyan men would have agreed to pay for your exams or even let you empower yourself via education.

what are the challenges that you face running the centre?

where is the centre located or where are you situated?

i love what you are doing, and i love you too my dear sister.

Claudia

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only LOVE can do that. -Martin Luther King Jnr.

Phionah Musumba's picture

Love you too!

Hey, Claudia,
The Centre for Disadvantaged Girls is based in Western Kenya. We have a Facebook account Gals Centre, and a commercial page there too, Malkia Empowerment Centre. I was pleasantly surprised to know that you knit. We also do quite a lot of that and more at the Centre. I would also like to meet you. It sure is a small world. Thanks for reading and commenting on my post.
All the best,

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

smothyz's picture

its a small world indeed!

i shall search for it on facebook. i am based in central part of our country, Kiambu County.....maybe some day i shall come to Western side.

blessings.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only LOVE can do that. -Martin Luther King Jnr.

Phionah Musumba's picture

Very Small, it is!

I have done quite a lot of my odd jobs in printing and supplies in Kiambu County, your people have also had a hand in empowering my girls at the Centre, because when they give me work, I manage to pay their school fees and meet their other needs.
You are welcome to Western Kenya as our guest anytime.

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

smothyz's picture

thank you

i look forward to meeting you someday.

God bless you

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only LOVE can do that. -Martin Luther King Jnr.

Phionah Musumba's picture

Anytime!

Can't wait to meet you, my friend.
God bless you and yours too.

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

chargerrose7's picture

Wow

I'm so very proud of you! You pay it forward every day. I always say that dark times, and hard times make us strong and we are blessed to get through. You made it through challenges are became a light for other disadvantaged girls. Truly awesome. Thank you! Let me know if I can do anything to further the work. I'd love to help.

MissyRose

Phionah Musumba's picture

Thank you!

Thanks a lot MissyRose!
Words alone can not describe the feeling coursing through my veins at your words. You have more than encouraged and inspired me. I don't know what to say, but I have been waiting for 12 years for someone to say what you just did, offer to help. The Centre for Disadvantaged Girls needs and will appreciate all the help you can give. Thank you so much.
All the best,

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

chargerrose7's picture

Let me know

You just let me know. Ill be here. I'm willing and very able. I'd love to set up motivational speakers and anything else you need. I'm excited to help! :)

MissyRose

Phionah Musumba's picture

Thanks

Still speechless. I believe we would really benefit from your motivational speakers. I can just see how the lives of the Centre's community will be impacted by such a gesture. We will be waiting to hear what your plans are, because we welcome any ideas you might have for us, its another learning process. Meanwhile, I sent you a private message, hoping its OK with you. Thanks a bunch, on behalf of the Centre for Disadvantaged Girls.
Lots of blessings to you and yours,

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

Sangita Thapa's picture

true change agent you are!

Im so proud of you dear Phy. A true change agent you are and its a paramount achievement that many of us haven't yet been able to make. You are blessed with the beauty and power! Respect!

Phionah Musumba's picture

We all are!

Thanks a lot for your encouraging and inspiring words, Sangita. I really appreciate, and believe that we all can do whatever we set our minds to. We all have that special power within us, to do more than we give ourselves credit for.

Lots of love,

Phy
Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya
www.galsissues.blogspot.com
https://www.facebook.com/MalkiaCDG

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