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To You, Young Lady

Dearest Young Lady,
I pray all is well with you. I was once your age. I liked to skip on my way to wherever my Mama sent me, because I not only enjoyed it, but also for the fact that coming back from an errand fast always made Mama praise me. Skipping to school and everywhere else used to make me warm because at that time I did not have lots of clothes. Sweaters too were alien to most of my peers and I.
I studied hard and passed my exams in primary school with flying colors, I believe because my Mama prayed for us kids everyday.
My first period came as a shock; I was 17 years old, and I had to run home all the way from school in a panic, screaming like a banshee, because, although we’d been taught everything about it in our Biology class, it was scary happening for real. Mama was not home when I got there, but she found me sobbing a few minutes later, from her errands, and after consoling me, she burst out laughing! I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing, but after showing me how to use an old piece of blanket to avoid staining my clothes in future, she calmly told me that I should have seen my face in light of a harmless and natural occurrence.
My parents didn’t have much money, so they couldn’t afford to pay my school fees, which made me drop out of high school a year before sitting my final exams. Being idle and a beautiful young girl of 17, I met my first boyfriend, who would be my husband, the same year. I realized that I had to grow up, from a high school kid to a woman, overnight. Life was tough, my husband was jobless, I couldn’t get employed because I didn’t have the necessary papers. At 22, that is 5 years later, I was a mother of two daughters with nothing to feed, clothe or house them with. I had to act fast! I talked to my husband, who enrolled me for my final high school exams as a private candidate. Miraculously, I passed and my husband helped me again through a Media college.
However, getting a job was an uphill task, since even armed with my Diploma in Mass Communication with special emphasis in Print Journalism, bosses at 90% of the offices I went to in search of employment expected me to choose between sleeping with them, and buying the job. Since I couldn’t bring myself to do either, I quit mainstream media and decided to freelance in any odd jobs that came along. It has been a long journey, but a worthwhile one. My daughters are young ladies, in fact the eldest is 17, her sister is 15 and after their two brothers is my angel, Baby Lindy at fifteen months old.
I find myself praying for them everyday, just as Mama did for us. I quell their fears, and reassure them of a better tomorrow everyday.
I am very thankful because, my daughters have never used old rags to hold their menses, and that they did not have to wait way into their marriages like myself, to appreciate the comfort of sanitary pads. They both finish high school next year. I hope they will pass their final exams to secure themselves places in public universities, because I don’t want them to suffer like their Mama did, like her Mama before her.
And you Young Lady, I hope you will work hard in school and out, and that you will appreciate every little scrap you have now, since there are many girls who would give anything to be in your shoes.
I want to tell you that as I pray for my children everyday, so shall I implore Fate to always Bless, Guide and Protect you, together with your daughters and theirs too.
Take care, I love you very much.
Call me, Big Sister.

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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Gracious's picture

History

Indeed history repeats itself and thank you because I believe I am blessed because you have remembered me in your prayer. God bless you too.

Love

Phionah Musumba's picture

Thanks

Hey, Siru!
I am humbled that my prayer embraced you. Thank you so much dear, and may it not only be so, but so much more. May all your dreams come true.
Lots of love and God's mighty blessings.

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

Elizabeth Kipp-Giusti's picture

Thank You!

Dear Phionah,

Thank you for your beautiful letter. Your words ring strong and true, your story is powerful, and your children are blessed to have such a loving mama. I am struck reading about your struggle finding a job, having to find alternative areas of work, and knowing that you had done all the right things but still would not be offered a worthy position. Do you think your daughters face different challenges today than you did as a girl? If so, do you have any advice for them (and others) about how to find the strength to overcome these barriers? Strength, perhaps, is something best found within ourselves. It is good to see examples of it in the world, and you are surely one such example.

With gratitude!
-Elizabeth

Phionah Musumba's picture

Wow! Wecome!

Hey, Elizabeth,
Thanks a lot for your encouragement. Its so inspiring. I would like to say that nothing much has changed since twenty five years ago when I was struggling to carve a niche for myself in the society. If possible, its worse than ever before. The Centre for Disadvantaged was set up to address the same and more complex issues that we faced during my childhood. This is why we have a relationship with the schools and youth groups around us, to set aside a day every fortnight for our facilitators to have a woman to woman/man to man talk with the girls, boys, young ladies and men, to address their day to day challenges amongst many other issues in their lives. We also address the area of sexuality and violence against women. We help build their self confidence and self esteem, to hold the power within their hands to bargain for better treatment and working conditions both within and outside the classroom.
Once again, THANK YOU!

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

mroozen's picture

So inspired

Hello Phy,
I am so impressed and inspired by your work in Kenya. It's amazing to see how one person like yourself can impact a community. I would really like to see more of the solutions you're using in the Centre for Disadvantaged Girls in your story. How did this come about and how has it been successful? Are there many places like this in Kenya? Why or why not, do you think? Do you attribute your success at the Centre to your education till high school, or do you think there's some other reason?
I'm very interested to hear from you.

Best,
McKay

Phionah Musumba's picture

Thank you!

Hey, McKay,
Thanks for showing an interest in our work. The Centre for Disadvantaged Girls is anchored on 5 pillars : Education and Training, Poverty Eradication, Women's Health, Women Empowerment and Social Enterprise Development.
We believe that anyone can improve their lot in life, given the chance and opportunity, that's why we empower them with money making skills to help them meet their needs sustainably. The Centre came into being in full force when my sister died of HIV/AIDS related complications, leaving me to adopt her four children. It hasn't been such a success as I would like it to be, but it is a force to reckon with. I have not yet seen what we do replicated elsewhere here in Kenya, since many people prefer opening up children's homes, whereas we take care of our girls and women from their homes. In fact we have always used my own compound and homestead as our offices. I believe the Centre has come this far because I had the heart to get a little education, and learn how to work with computers, which opened the windows to the world outside my village, my personal experiences which make me understand my charges better, among many other external factors. I have sent you a detailed description of how we operate, and hope it will be insightful.
All the best.

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

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