LitWorld Girls Club Kenya: What We're All About

Welcome to LitWorld Girls Club Kenya! Since April 2010, LitWorld and Children of Kibera Foundation have partnered to implement a Girls’ Club in the Red Rose Primary School community. Currently, we work with 24 girls every Sunday afternoon at the Red Rose campus. We’ve had a wonderful year together! So far, we’ve engaged in a few different activities to increase literacy, but also to introduce issues that affect girls and young women, particularly in Kibera. Our Girls Club is a meeting space for young girls, ages 9-13, to practice their creative writing skills by applying them to real-world situations they each face in Kenya.

Red Rose Girls Club is situated in Kibera, Kenya’s largest urban slum. Kibera holds about half a million residents who live in small shanty homes. Residents of Kibera face extreme poverty, lack of sanitation, improper health and education facilities, violence, corruption, and overcrowding. For young girls, it can be difficult to elude traps like teenage pregnancy, dropping out of school, or losing hope of success as young women are constant targets of violence, rape, and abuse. One Girls’ Club member, Mercy, writes about these pressures in her poem, “Who Am I as a Girl?”

As a little girl being employed

Others to school as I am at home.

Working past hours, never given time to rest.

Being weak, no growing, no feeding or being abused.

As little girls, we should fight for our rights.

Finding a young girl learning and enjoying

Life in school, but after a few weeks,

Boy sweet talks mislead the girls

After a few months, falling in love, a girl drops out of school.

Why, every girl has a right to school.

As little girls, we should fight for our rights.

All my parents are gone, I’m remaining an orphan.

People insulting and laughing at me,

Others even encourage me to leave school. Why?

I should learn to become a good person in the future,

Help my family to leave poorness behind and cheer for new life.

As little girls, we should fight for our rights.

Girls Club encourages students to express their thoughts and views using stories, poems, songs, and other creative mediums. Aside from that, we spend a considerable amount of time talking about the pressures that can steer a young girl away from concentrating on her studies. One topic that is especially important is health and hygiene. Many girls miss days or weeks of school during their menstrual cycle due to shame and no access to sanitary pads. Girls Club plays a hugely important role in providing sanitary pads and info sessions on how to use them and care for one’s personal hygiene. One member, Diana, wrote:

There was a girl named Diana. She had a problem. She never had anyone to talk to. But since we introduced girls’ club, she came in. But she was so scared to say her problem.  She had a big problem that was eating her up. We talked about many things. She still didn’t want to say her problem. One day, she heard somebody talk about the problem she also has. The problem was how or what to do when have your period. Now look how girls club really helped her in life and now she is ready to share the problem she has. Girls’ club is really helpful to the girls.

Girls Club offers these girls a safe place to discuss body issues or social problems that are often too shameful to discuss with a parent. Another important topic is staying away from peer pressure or harmful people. We introduced a Children of Kibera Foundation high school scholar, Abiba, who talked about different ways to maintain good grades and to stay away from men or boys who might persuade you to leave school. Rape is not an uncommon occurrence in Kibera, and so it’s also important for girls to know how to protect themselves from such attacks. We also discussed the concept of “sugar daddies”, or men who will provide you with things in exchange for sex. This trend has become widely accepted as a means for a young woman to take care of herself, so we made sure to talk about prostitution and how it can be disguised as something different.

One other activity that the girls have taken great pleasure in is learning to knit. We provided needles and yarn, introduced the first few steps, and the girls took off. Some have caught some form of knitting fever! They knit with sticks and thread they find on the ground. With the help of a former intern, we put together a beautiful quilt, which features all of the girls’ first pieces. It’s a small reminder of the time we spend together every Sunday.

Girls Club has become an important and vital meeting place for young girls in the slums. Coming together every week to complete activities, have discussions, or play games have allowed the girls to trust the facilitators, but more importantly, to trust each other. Bringing women together to find strength and courage among each other to become leaders is what Girls Club ultimately represents.

- Joscelyn, Girls Club Facilitator