Purity Atieno is one of about 500 girls participating in the WomenStrong International Girls’ Empowerment Clubs run by Consortium Member Alice Visionary Foundation Project in Kisumu, Kenya.
The Girls’ Clubs are designed to educate girls on subjects such as reproductive health, relationship-building, and leadership. But the overarching goal, simply, is to keep girls in school. Without an education, girls will be forever stuck in the cycle of poverty, hunger, violence, illness, and shorter lives. So keeping girls in school is paramount.
About a year ago, AVFP staff noticed that Purity was falling behind. Now 13 years old and one of three children being raised by two parents in Kisumu’s Manyatta slums, Purity appeared sad for weeks on end and was in a downward spiral toward dropping out of school. AVFP’s Education Coordinator quietly took her aside to try to figure out what was wrong.
Having built up her trust in this mentor through the safe environment of the Club, Purity told her that her father was drinking heavily, leading to violence at home and scenes in the street. She was humiliated, worried about her mother, and unable to concentrate in school. Just being able to talk about the problem, receiving some guidance from a caring adult, and having the support of her Empowerment Club helped Purity remain in school and pursue a big dream that she’s on the path to realizing.
Here is what she told us about her life, challenges, and hopes growing up in the slums of Kisumu.
How did you find the AVFP Girls’ Empowerment Club?
I joined when I was invited by my class teacher. In the Club, I have learned how to work on my challenges, and also have learned about menstruation, drug abuse, and relationships.
Tell us a bit more about your home, your parents, siblings. How’s life at home?
Life at home has never been good since my father started drinking alcohol. When my mother tries to talk to him about his drinking, he becomes violent with her. She asks for money, but he doesn’t have any. Then he goes out and gets drunk with his friends, comes back and sleeps and waits for food. It makes me feel so bad because I have never experienced such a thing.
What would you want to be different for your mother or father?
I would like my mother and father to have better jobs because… he sees his friends drinking and, because of peer pressure, he starts drinking. So, I would like my father to have a better job so that he would have something besides alcohol to think about every day.
And for my mom, I would like her to become a business lady, so that she will have money to live a better life. I would like to help my mother have a very high business project and more money. I want to see my sisters go to better schools, so that they can have a better family in the future.
I would like for my family to be different, to experience a good life. My mom often tells me, “Purity, you are our kid. You’re the one that is going to improve this family.” So, I have to study very hard to help my family have a better life and a better future.
How has being in the AVFP Empowerment Club helped you with your challenges?
It is a place to talk to adults who want to help. When my dad is drunk, I sometimes try to talk to him. I ask, “Why are you embarrassing us?” But he just tells me, “You child, you are just the same as your mother. You hate me like your mother does.” I can’t talk to him anymore, because he tells me things that he’s not supposed to tell me.
But now, when my father brings violence home, I come back to the AVFP Club. I cannot think of anything except about what my father did. At the AVFP Club, I can get advice on things and talk to my fellow pupils. It makes me feel better.
Tell us about your hopes for the future.
My dream is to become a lawyer. I would like to help my family. I would like my sisters to be able to go on with their studies and experience better lives, too — lives with no trouble.
I don’t want my future to have a husband who is a drunk like my father. I want someone peaceful. I want to have a better husband. I want to have my business here, and he can have his business there, and we can join together as one thing, to come up with solutions that improve our future.