VOF Month 1: (It is about the simple things that we do...)
Meet Cecilia Mwangi, a 24-year-old Miss world Kenya 2005 in her quest to give poor Kenyans a better, healthier life using her beauty as a weapon. She has dedicated her life in to different projects that are aimed at improving the lives of many Kenyan poor. As a beauty queen, she believes that beauty should come with responsibility, the reason why she has taken up a project in eradicating jiggers and giving the poor hope and a better life. Through Ahadi Kenya Trust, an organization that she co-founded with Mr. Starnley Kamau in 2007, she has been transgressing different parts of the country, preaching good hygiene and best practices to help minimize jigger infections. Ahadi is a Kiswahili word that means promise, which she says she has promised the Kenyan poor.
One unique thing about Cecilia’s strategies towards her projects is that she engages the victims in to activities that raise their livelihoods. For instance, all the Ahadi centres in most regions also act as rehabilitation centres. It is a place that they get other support like farming tools, school equipment for the recovered victims to put them back to their normal lives. Others have also been engaged in income-generating activities like bee keeping, weaving, basketry and other informal business sectors, where they make sales with their products to earn a living. The organization has also been offering trainings to health workers to change their attitudes towards jigger victims, which helps them in psychological recovery. Hence, her work is not only to preach good hygiene, rescue, treat and let them go home in the same poverty-ridden lives, but she manages to give them something to change their lives.
She has also taken up another initiative of mentoring and engaging young girls in the slums in activities aimed at changing their mindsets and perspectives. For instance, in Mukuru Kayaba, a slum in Nairobi, she started a Miss Mukuru Crown, an annual beauty pergent where most girls participate. “These girls in slums have grown up knowing that they are ugly, and there is nothing good out of them,” says Cecilia. She says she has managed to use them as change agents in their community, where most girs believe that beauty is never found in slums. She has helped them rediscover their beauty, their strength and stand up and fight for themselves.
Her story, engaging activities and achievements so far is a source of inspiration to many, hence we should rise up and do something in whatever little ways we can. As Cecilia puts it, ‘it is one step at a time.’
This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 31 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most forgotten corners of the world. Meet Us.