From Our Partners: Phoebe's LitWorld Journey

Phoebe O. Darya, Partnership Coordinator at Milele

LitWorld has been such a transformational journey for me.

As a mother of 3 girls, I know the hardships and struggles that children go through, especially the girl child. I grew up in a family of 5 girls and 2 boys, in the days when the boy child was seen as more valuable than the girl child. In the days when the girl child was to do all the house chores and not the boy child. In the days when the girl child had to forgo education to pave way for the boy child to learn. In the days when the girl child was to be seen and not to be heard.

Sadly, some of those views are still present in Kenya. In 2013, when I began working with LitWorld, I managed to come up with a work plan on how I could empower girls in the Kisumu region. The empowerment had to start with my own girls.  I spoke to my 3 girls on the importance of speaking out, then I started using the techniques I was using in my house to better my work in the office. I strengthened the Girls LitClubs that I had founded in the area, and the girls told me so many stories. The stories I heard grew from extremely difficult circumstances.

At this time, I could talk to Madison and Dorothy, who were my point persons on the LitWorld team. They listened and understood my feelings. They started teaching me about the 7 Strengths and how I could first apply them to myself. I discovered that I needed to apply the 7 Strengths in my everyday life to be able to implement them on the ground.

I started to do so through the many partnerships I formed. I started working closely with the Police Gender Desk, the Children’s Department, and the County Education Offices. I began involving these three sectors in the major LitWorld events such as WRAD, LitCamps, and Stand Up for Girls, sharing the 7 Strengths throughout.

I reached a major milestone in 2016 when I started working with Milele and had the opportunity to fully commit to running LitClubs in the Kisumu region. So far I have managed to initiate 10 LitClubs-- 7 Girls Clubs, 1 Boys Club, 1 Teens Club and 1 Mom’s Club. The methodology used in encompassing all these clubs is simple: the family unit. If I am able to facilitate mothers to use LitWorld as a foundation for storytelling with their children, then the community will be filled with many stories to tell.

In the Boys Club, the boy child is introduced to the 7 Strengths first for self-empowerment, then secondly, we combine the 7 Strengths and their growth in the community by teaching them the traits of being a good mannered boy in a community where girls can be pushed to the margins. We empower them to stand up for their sisters and mothers.

These boys are getting to know the importance of education to both the girl and boy child, and true friendship is cultivated amongst them and the girls at a very tender age. Above all, we teach them the power of storytelling and the importance of implementing the 7 Strengths in their day-to-day activities.

During my work at LitWorld Kisumu, I have faced many challenges ranging from the language barrier (my first language is English and my second is Swahili--I  run the LitClubs in an area where the native language is Dholuo) to transportation issues to the trauma some of the children have endured. This has pushed me to work hard to fight for them, develop trust with the families, and form a good working relationship with the schools and county government of Kisumu.

I foresee LitWorld having a safe space in every school within Kisumu County within the next 5 years. I dream of the days that we shall be able to incorporate the 7 Strengths Curriculum within the Kenyan school curriculum. I see the days when many women and mothers in Kisumu will be literate due to the advocacy skills LitWorld is imparting in the hearts of the children.

It has been a journey, a long journey but one that I never regret having taken. Thank you LitWorld for creating a platform for everyone, especially women and girls, to tell their stories.