“I had lost hope in life, but the Mothers’ meetings have helped me socially and economically, and I am grateful for that.”
Faith Riziki had a transformational year.
Initially lost, timid and vulnerable, the 14-year-old faced a tumultuous home life: her father had recently died of tuberculosis, and her mother had fallen too ill to care for her children. With little at home, Faith could not concentrate on her studies and received below-average marks in her eighth-grade science, math and other classes.
Faith also lives in Nanga, a semi-urban area in southern Kisumu. Despite being the third largest city in Kenya, many residents live on less than $1/day, without proper health care. The region faces other threats, as well. Dominated by fishermen known for their insistence on trading “sex for fish,” many women and girls are lured into this transactional form of sexual violence simply to earn a living, feed their families and pay tuition fees for all school-aged family members.
The local Girls’ Clubs, organized through the Alice Visionary Foundation Project and WomenStrong International, are structured as part of an empowerment program to build girls’ literacy, advocacy and life skills, together with the accompanying social benefits. One of Faith’s teachers, familiar with the work of the school’s Girls’ Club, connected Faith to the program, and given the dire circumstances faced by her family, she was able to join quickly.
Meeting with Faith’s mother, Terry Godia, AVFP Women and Girls Empowerment Coordinator Phoebe Darya discovered that Terry and her children lived in an inhumane environment, not healthy for a family: Terry’s mudhouse had holes in the roof, was full of damp air and smelled putrid.
Realizing also that Terry was very ill, Phoebe recommended that a community health worker pay Terry a visit at home. The health worker encouraged Terry to visit the nearest clinic, and ever since she has had access to medical care, Terry’s health has steadily improved. Phoebe then suggested that Terry join the Nanga Mothers’ Club, which brings together the mothers of the girls in the Girls’ Club, to help encourage communication across generational lines and to address issues of concern to all women, such as sexual violence and livelihood training.
Because the Nanga Mothers’ Club included Group Savings & Loan activities, Terry was able to develop a savings orientation and was taught the skills necessary to manage her finances. She now works as a casual laborer in her neighborhood and is saving money to open a roadside vegetable stall. Terry also learned important strategies for becoming a better mother and taking better care of her health.
“I have a reason to wake up every day and now know how I can work to keep myself and my children healthy,” she says. “I had lost hope in life, but the Mothers’ meetings have helped me socially and economically, and I am grateful for that.”
Terry finds it encouraging to “have a place [to] go and listen to other women speak about their life struggles.”
Through the Girls’ Club, Faith has become a strong voice in her class and community, comfortable seeking help and demonstrating her newfound strength to advocate for what is right.
“I am now more focused in my studies, and I know that my performance will be much better than it is currently,” she says. “One day I may be one of the top girls in my class, but I want to be the top student in the whole school.”
Faith is a source of tremendous pride for her mother. Terry didn’t get to go to primary school, but she can ensure that her children receive the best education possible. This year, Faith is a candidate for secondary school, and Terry believes her daughter will perform extremely well in her final primary school exams.
For the first time in her life, Faith Riziki can reach for the stars.