March 8, 2024

How 3 young women are shaping generations in Kilifi County

International Womens Day

As we celebrate International Women’s Day it is important for us to recognise the important role women play in shaping communities and promoting sustainable development. Take Janet Chanzera who lives in Kilifi County for example. Despite facing tough economic conditions, as a wife and a mother to five children, she has been able to fend for her family and take her children to school. She also happens to be a woman leader in her community and leads a group of women and younger mothers.  Having seen the struggles her community faces she believes that if women were given opportunities to work and were given easy access to government services such identification cards, their families would thrive. 

Janet Chanzera, resident and women leader at Garashi, Kilifi County

It’s because of such people that Maono Space was created. Through Maono we have been able to foster inclusion and bring together women such as Janet to share, learn from each other, and access resources that can help amplify their work in their local communities. 

In the last few weeks, at Maono Space,  we have had meaningful conversations around active citizenship, climate change, and localisation. Just a few months ago, we hosted the widely attended KICCD event that was attended by over 200 people from different backgrounds, communities, ages, and organizations. Various groups of people from Kilifi County came together to address real issues, among them being climate change and waste management in their local communities. It was great to see women participate strongly and advocate for better climate adaptation measures to curb the effects of climate change in the community. 

Rael Nelly, Sustainability Specialist, speaking during the KICCD event at Maono Space. 

Among them was a group of young women overcoming challenges in their own communities to create a better future for themselves, their children, and future generations. They teamed up with like-minded leaders to mobilize their communities towards positive social change.

Here are their stories:

Claudia Dhahabu: Fighting period poverty and illiteracy unapologetically

“I grew up in a children’s home in Malindi with my two sisters. I wanted a better life for myself and so I was always motivated and diligent in school which opened an opportunity for me to go study a Bachelors Degree in Information Science in Nairobi. After graduation, I found myself working at Baraka Safari Kenya in Watamu. It was a good job but deep down I knew my greatest passion was community service. I have always had a heart for helping vulnerable girls like me from the rural areas to complete their education. I wanted to give back to my community and so in 2019 I founded Pamoja Girls.” 

Through Pamoja Girls and the support of the donor organization Pamoja Mitanand, where Claudia serves as the secretary and project lead, over 5000 girls have received menstrual hygiene products, mentorship, scholarships, and training. With the help of more than 20 dedicated volunteers, they have also facilitated the shipment of over 150 bicycles from Austria to Kenya, ensuring safe school commutes for both boys and girls.

Currently, their outreach extends to 50 girl schools, where they raise awareness and offer assistance. 

“Every day, I see myself in these girls – their struggles, their dreams, their resilience. And it fuels my passion even more.”

“My hope is to uplift as many girls’ lives as we can because when you uplift a girl, you uplift an entire generation.”

Grace Nasumba Mramba: Reclaiming her future—and rewriting it for others 

“I was born in a small town called Gede, an only child to my parents, where I currently stay. Growing up, I hardly knew most of my relatives from my father’s side. They had, in fact, disowned us, so we lived most of our lives away from family. Despite the challenges, I managed to pursue higher education in community development. Unfortunately, my life took a drastic turn when I became pregnant and had to defer my studies.

While pregnant I experienced a lot of discrimination from the community, lost many friends, and was discriminated against at a religious gathering to the point where I was given a chair to sit on at the back of the church and was not allowed to do any activities. The stigma and judgment I went through were very painful and isolating”

“I know the pain of becoming a mother when you are young.”

“I contemplated suicide multiple times and when I finally decided enough was enough I got poison and wanted to kill myself. A friend found me and talked me out of it then advised me to talk to my mum. I agreed and finally accepted my situation and from that day my life changed. As I reflected on my own journey, I couldn’t shake the thought of other young girls in my community facing similar or worse battles. I decided to start Angaza Young Moms in 2019.”

In just 4 years, Angaza Young Moms has been able to support young girls like Grace  with counseling services, education sponsorship, and support to reintegrate back into the community.  They have also been tackling cases of defilement affecting children as young as 4 and 6 years old with the help of family, friends , church, and the police.   

“We have been working closely with the police who help us report such serious and sensitive cases. Together we ensure that perpetrators are arrested, and follow up on court proceedings to ensure every affected child gets justice”.

Seeing these young women and children get the help they need to change their lives has been the fuel behind Grace’s passion for her community. In fact, most of the young girls supported through Angaza Young Moms are top performers in their schools, something Grace is very encouraged by. 

Angel Kyalo:   Saving the environment – one community at a time

“While pursuing my studies in journalism and media in Nairobi, I faced instances of sexual harassment from a lecturer prompting me to temporarily suspend my education. During this time, I reached out to friends for job opportunities to keep myself afloat and productive. Fortunately, my best friend, who was studying environmental science, introduced me to her company Director of Environmental Research. Luckily, I secured a position within their marketing department.”

While working Angel got the privilege to sit in her first National Dialogue on the environment which addressed green growth, green technology and climate change. This is when she realised the seriousness of climate issues and knew something had to be done.

“I wondered how come people do not know about these things. I am in the media space and I don’t know what about those in marginalized communities.”

Angel started attending more conferences and began to use her social media platforms and zoom sessions, every Thursday,  to educate people about climate change. After a long run, in 2019, the Green Halo initiative was born.

Green Halo initiative is an organization that tells stories about the environment. They are dedicated to raising awareness within communities about the far-reaching consequences of their daily choices on the environment. They also highlight how climate change, in return, affects people’s opportunities for improving their lives.

It is everyone’s responsibility to take care of the environment. We all have a role to play regardless of the industries we work in. 

Angel continues to spearhead conversations on actively combating climate change in Kilifi. In her quest to grasp the severity of the lack of awareness surrounding this matter, she immersed herself in deforested and impoverished communities in Garashi, Adu, Bamba, and Mongotini villages  in Kilifi County. During her time there she quickly learnt Giriama  and became very fluent. Seeing this the community has embraced her as one of their own and are very open to using alternative sources of energy to save the environment. 

“After seeing the extreme deforestation that was caused by poverty I was overwhelmed and wanted to provide solutions that would help the communities live sustainably. Our work reaches various stakeholders, linking communities with action-oriented organizations to facilitate sustainable energy solutions. We adopt a multisectoral approach, recognizing that environmental challenges are interconnected and multidimensional. For instance, deforestation, often driven by the need for resources, impacts not only the environment but also sectors like education and water access.”

Angel hopes to expand Green Halo Initiative’s  impact by linking communities to action oriented organizations that can provide sustainable energy solutions. Her goal is to grow her team and have a wider impact in the different parts of the country.

Inspire Women: Accelerate Progress

From our interactions with Janet Chanzera, Claudia Dhahabu, Grace Nasumba Mramba, and Angel Kyalo, one thing is clear, they have a deep passion for what they do and are inspiring more women to do the same for their communities. With the support of fellow leaders, both men and women, at Maono Space, they have been able to develop initiatives and provide solutions that have tangible impact in the lives of the people they serve.

This International Women Day, we celebrate these remarkable women, acknowledging them  for inspiring change and promoting a more inclusive society.

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