Regional Expansion - Kenya

We are excited to share that we are expanding our work into Kenya, working – as usual – with exemplary local leaders and partner organizations.  Kenya, like South Asia is a global hotspot for sexual and gender-based violence. Our work in Kenya is starting with support of a school-based rescue shelter, a program training survivors as community counselors, and the expansion of a shelter for 160 girls rescued from child marriage and trafficking. 

The journey to working in Kenya began when Catherine Wanjohi, the Director of Kenyan anti-trafficking organization Life Bloom came to Kolkata and visited our Resource Centers in red light areas. She saw that our mission and approach was very aligned with hers, and reached out to explore a partnership and invite us to visit. Then we got other connections through Michelle Obama’s Girls Opportunity Alliance. Sarah went to Kenya last summer and did site visits at 10 organizations. Three stood out as being particularly aligned with our approach and mission: Life Bloom, Samburu Girls Foundation and Pepo La Tumaini. 

Local Hero Khadija from Pepo La Tumaini with community members 

Since then, things have been flowing beautifully and organically. We are starting slowly in Kenya, learning more about the issues facing girls in a different cultural context, and the solutions that are working best. We have found opportunities and places where we can have a strong impact and fulfill our mission – preventing sexual violence and giving survivors what they need to heal and move forward.

In many ways, the issues in Kenya are similar to South Asia, with poverty and the low status of girls as root causes – but with the additional problem of FGM (female genital mutilation), a very harmful practice which is done to young girls prior to forcing them into child marriages. FGM is illegal in Kenya but is still practiced, particularly in very rural areas and by nomadic groups living on the margins.

Many of the girls these partners are working with come from nomadic tribal communities such as the Samburu and Maasai. Others have been forced or pressured into commercial sexual exploitation due to extreme poverty. The older girls in the family sell sex for food, because they have been sent out to obtain food for their younger siblings, and have no other way of getting it. Some girls in these projects are the heads of their households, because parents have died of AIDS or other causes. 

Kenyan changemaker Wanjiru (in pink) with college mentors at Samburu Girls Foundation

Kenyan Catherine Wanjohi training peer mentors-  Life Bloom