Entry by Ali Smith
On Sunday I was invited to join a Kibera LitWorld Girls Club session led by Prisca Mawia. When I arrived the session had not yet started and the girls were dashing around the sun-scorched courtyard, quite engaged with their game of kati. I wondered if such energy could possibly yield to composed classroom discussion, but I was wrong to be skeptical. As soon as it was time to begin the day’s session, the girls quickly moved indoors, took their seats and shifted attention to the theme at hand: confidence.
Confidence can be just as hard to describe as it is to possess, but Maya Angelou’s poem “Phenomenal Woman” – which the students read aloud – turned out to be great fodder for discussion. Upon first read, the girls took lines like “the reach of my arms” and “the swing in my waist” as evidence that the author is confident because she is beautiful. Some of the students shared physical traits of their own (hair, nails, etc.) that they like. After further exchange, the students began to see a deeper message in Angelou’s poem: the way a phenomenal woman carries herself is really just the outward expression of inner confidence.
From here, each girl spent some time writing down what she is confident about in herself and what goals she has for the future. For the present, many of the girls cited concrete talents like singing, dancing or playing football. But the girls also said things like, ‘I say what I mean’ and ‘I don’t let anyone hold me back.’ It was great to hear that these feelings also imbued the girls’ hopes for adulthood. While the girls communicated strong preferences for profession, family size and residence, they also shared their passion for less tangible achievements such as being independent, defending Kenya’s laws, and helping to maintain peaceful families.
As a visitor to Kibera (and to this age group), I was struck by how much these girls see their own confidence as a building block in the success of their community. It was also interesting to observe that the girls who felt most uncomfortable reading their reflections aloud to their club-mates were often the same individuals who articulated the strongest desire to serve the public good in their future endeavors. On this point, I think the group learned that confidence comes in many different flavors. Like fingerprints, the ingredients of one person’s confidence will never be exactly the same as another’s. The important thing isn’t to match another person’s gait or style or talent at football, it’s to find and nurture your own source of “phenomenal.”
With that, I extend a big thank you to the students and staff of the Kibera LitWorld Girls Club! What a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.
Thank you to our friend Ali for submitting this entry, and for spending your time with the confident young women of Kibera!