Community Update

Digital Empowerment Toolkit Now Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits aim to provide the resources you need to advance your social change work.

We are excited to introduce our Digital Empowerment Trainers’ Toolkit, a dynamic resource to help you bring the benefits of connecting online to women in your community. Check it out today! »

Going back to the roots to inspire girls to dream

Dancing with kids in my former pry school during a prize giving day

Memories take me back to some very good friends in primary school who I wish to talk about. While I was in primary class 8, my best friend was Claris Wanjiru*. She was a determined girl coming from a family where the father was irresponsible leaving all responsibilities to the mother. When we did the primary school exams she passed well enough to get admission to a secondary school, but that was not to be. She never stepped into a secondary school. 20 years later, I have no idea where she is but recently I met her mother. She informed me that Claris is living in very poor conditions, having married twice and separated barely able to make ends meet. I asked for her telephone number so I could seek her out, she had none.

My friend Benadine Wambui was among the older girls in class having repeated classes. I liked that she was mature and humble. However, she had low esteem issues, having to school with much younger girls. It did not help that teachers made fun of her & humiliated her. One day she simply did not come to class, and that was her last day in school. She dropped out and got married immediately. She must have been about 15 or 16 yrs.

These are just among the many girls I saw drop out of primary school during my 8 years of schooling. I was lucky to have been brought up in a family that greatly value education. Despite being a humble family, we all got education up to college level and it did not matter if you were a girl or a boy. However this is not the case for many girls in the community. One of my neighbours for example openly ‘informed’ my dad that he was wasting money on girls who would “eventually get married and move away”. The girls in his family barely got educated most of them not even getting halfway through primary school. They got married before 15 years of age or got children. Despite having a significant level of poverty, the main challenge is not poverty but rather attitude. Where families do not believe in educating girls, they drop out and eventually it becomes a cycle.

When a girl grows up in a family where barely anyone accessed education, they lack mentors and never feel inspired to pursue education. The last born of my neighbour’s family for example was supported to go up to secondary school. I can assume that by then the family had seen the value of education. However, she performed very poorly and was often involved in negative peer behaviors like alcoholism. In contrast I got up to university level education, and by the time I was at university I could count on one finger the number of girls, who were my class mates who had college degrees.
I have been very passionate about making a difference. I would look back to my former primary school and realize that hardly any girls were getting into secondary school.

My dream was to inspire the pupils, girls and boys to realize they can make it. I had weird recurrent dreams where I would find myself stuck and unable to climb stairs in my former primary school. Eventually I decided to give it a try accompanied by my sister I went to the school, and met the head teacher, and that was the beginning of the ‘Dare to Dream mentors’ program. I engaged a few friends and we started going back to the school every 1-2 months to inspire the pupils. The pupils found it unbelievable when I told them that I schooled in the same school and managed to go a national school (the highest category). We discuss different aspects of life skills and academics.

This has greatly inspired the pupils and three years later, we have realized a great improvement in their performance. Eventually this led to another aspect which I had tried to avoid, school fees. We were faced with one challenge last year when one pupil had passed very well but could not access education. We started some support and this year I mobilized a few professionals to form a welfare group to pay fees for a few needy students. We now have 2 girls and one boy who would not have had hopes of getting secondary school education. I am very excited about this initiative and I know that the efforts may seem small but will impact one a few girls, who will impact families, who will impact community, Kenya and the whole world! It’s my mission and I give monetary, time and other resources for this. I just realized the other day that the scary dreams stopped!

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.
Learn more »

I was conducting a mentorship forum
Pupils recite a poem during prize giving
Prizes for best performing pupils accompanied by the mother

Comments

Petunia007's picture

The African Kitchen syndrome

I could connect with your write-up as in many places in African today, it is assumed that since girls will end up in a man's kitchen one day, money should not be wasted on their education. There is so much still to be done and it's great that you are contributing your quota. Keep up the good work!

Sophie's picture

The kitchen syndrome

It is sad that even in this era that thinking still stands in some areas. It may not be direct sometimes but there is this notion that women are created to be investments hence you either do not bother educating her or if you do, demand 'refund' through bride price

Sophie Ngugi
Child of the Universe -www.sophiengugi.blogspot.com

kimmlarson's picture

It is sad

Sophie,

I feel like I am always saying that I can't believe that these atrocities are still occurring in this era. But I applaud you for continuing to fight! You're an inspiration.

Kim

I agree with you Sophie.

The main challenge is not poverty but rather attitude.
Education needs to become important - otherwise nobody will invest on it.

Keep bringing the issues to the forefront.

Regards
Aminah

Salaam
Aminah

Sophie's picture

Thanks

Thanks Aminah. Social issues seem the hardest to see a change too! Easier to do some chemical experiment and get results soon in the laboratory!! but anyway, cant give up, we keep keeping on

Sophie Ngugi
Child of the Universe -www.sophiengugi.blogspot.com

nifkinz's picture

Your best friend is haunting

Your best friend is haunting me. I keep thinking how tragic that is that she was deprived of her potential. You say that you can only do a little and it is not much but you are doing so much! It is like you said, those few that are helped can make a great ripple effect happen and who knows how far those ripples can reach. You're an inspiration! Thank you for all you do!

Becky Frary

Sophie's picture

little drops

Thanks, like the Late Wangari Maathai said, like a humming bird we can each make one small drop of water in the sea of fire. I am glad that I am touching another one life here and there, I may never meet my best friend again, but will impact some other girls and boys.

Sophie Ngugi
Child of the Universe -www.sophiengugi.blogspot.com

mroozen's picture

Great Insight

Hi Sophie,
In reading your post, one of the things that struck me was your explanation that challenge to education is a mindset and an attitude of a community or a single person. While health and financial inability to attend school both play a strong role in a person's education, I agree with you that attitude has tremendous impact.
Furthermore, I think it's great that you're giving back! I am sure you are inspiring students to pursue their education and that you're helping break the cycle of poverty.

All the best,
McKay

Sophie's picture

Its the little we can do

I realized that I can only do my part regardless instead of just feeling pity or annoyance of what systems or social structures are not working. The least I can do is my portion, my little portion

Sophie Ngugi
Child of the Universe -www.sophiengugi.blogspot.com

weaverheart's picture

Hi Sophie, I enjoyed reading

Hi Sophie,

I enjoyed reading your piece and seeing how doing something like mentoring these students gives them such a strong role model for their future. Not to leave school, but for staying in. To be able to talk to you, get to know you, and ask questions is a great thing. Because of this, staying in school is not just an idea, instead they can see that you are living proof of this "choice", and what a huge difference it must make for them! I know that the attitude component is a mountain still to be scaled. But modeling change will plant seeds, little by little. Great work. Wonderful piece.
Thank you for all that you are doing.

All the best,
Laura

Laura R.

Sophie's picture

Role modeling

Yes thanks Laura for taking your time to read. I agree that seeing practically that 'someone went to school, chose to stay, and it is a great thing' has a powerful message. We often cry for not having good role models yet we have them all over only if they can take their time once in a while to inspire the younger generation

Sophie Ngugi
Child of the Universe -www.sophiengugi.blogspot.com

kimmlarson's picture

You're a strong woman...

and I believe that you are a humming bird adding your drops of water in the sea of fire. It can be difficult to change the cultural values we hold, as you've stated; but to quote you again, we make small changes that can ripple through the many levels of our community.

Your personal stories are so powerful. They add a human face and experience, giving light to how these horrible cultural values effect woman's lives.

Keep fighting and working to end this attitude. Your passion encourages other woman to be passionate and empowered, just as you've done for me.
Kim

Sophie's picture

Thanks

Thanks for your encouragement

Sophie Ngugi
Child of the Universe -www.sophiengugi.blogspot.com

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Inside Congo's Growing Sisterhood

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

PAKISTAN: They Went to School and Never Came Back

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Announcing Our Prize Winners!

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative