Tumaini (Hope) - Educating Girls in the Kibera Slum in Kenya

September 14, 2016
by Magana Ngaiza '17

I had the privilege to live in Kenya for 10 great years of my life, and this summer I decided that I wanted to work on an initiative which would promote girls' empowerment in Kibera Slum, Kenya (the largest urban slum in Africa). I had previously visited Kibera during my brother’s leadership initiative in 2013.

After meeting with members of FAFU (Facing the Future), a child development network in Kibera, I changed my initial plans. I was informed that the most urgent issue facing girls in Kibera was that a large number of them were unable to enroll in the upcoming school year starting this September, due to lack of funds. In fact, 20 of them were going to be discontinued from their education program. The approximate cost of tuition for each child is $45 for the whole year.

I visited the school in Kibera and saw how much was being accomplished despite limited resources and decided to launch a project called “Tumaini,” which means hope in Kiswahili, and raise tuition for the 20 girls. During my conversations with the girls -- some of whom were my age and younger -- we talked about gender bias and the necessity of self-confidence and hard work, especially for women in Africa. I also played games with them and had some time to bond with them.

The girls performed songs and poetry for me and my family. They told me that the school’s performing arts group had recently won first prize in the instrumental category at the Kenya Music Festival, a national contest. As someone who is passionate about the performing arts, it was inspiring to witness such incredible talent. I had a fantastic time and was truly invigorated by their confidence and positivity. Through the Tumaini Project, I was able to raise funds for their tuition from friends, family, and well-wishers.

In addition to my time in Kibera, I was also privileged to work as an intern (along with some of my former classmates) for a few days at Anjarwalla & Khanna (A&K), a top tier Kenyan law firm. Accompanied by the lawyers assigned to train us, we visited the lower, higher and supreme courts, and attended a few court sessions for criminal trials. We also visited the land registry and learned about measures to prevent fraud in land titles. The lawyers at A&K also shared information about the legislative process and numerous aspects of law. It was truly an enlightening experience.

Overall, this summer was a blessing. It was transformative for me, and inspired me to see music and the performing arts as an avenue for underprivileged children to express their talents. I intend to expand my Tumaini Project so that I can reach out to more families in need, and continue to promote girls’ education and empowerment. Finally, my brief internship at A&K has interested me in considering law as a potential area of study.