2019 Project Focus: Education and Ending Violence Against Women in Kenya

One of the beautiful things about community development is seeing how different people can bring their strengths and resources to the table to work together. Our newest project is a partnership that combines the resources of the technology community, the generosity of our giving community, and the bravery of women striving to make a better world for girls.

Dr. Josephine Kulea’s story begins with something personal. She took in her young cousin, who had been married off to a much older man. The issue of child marriage is one that affects millions of girls worldwide. Often these girls are abused, raped, and mutilated while being isolated from their families. Without the chance to receive education or training for work, they instead have children who then are susceptible to similar fates.

Dr. Kulea was inspired to change the lives of girls in these predicaments. What started as protecting one girl quickly grew to having more than twenty girls from her village in her care. After realizing she could not support these girls alone on her nursing salary, Dr. Kulea started Samburu Girls Foundation (SGF) in 2011 to provide a safe space, psychological support, and education for girls across four counties in Kenya.

To date, SGF has rescued 1,183 girls from child marriage, female genital mutilation, and beading, a cultural practice among Samburu communities. During beading, young girls are forced to have sex with relatives to “prepare them for marriage” and “prevent promiscuity.” Because pregnancy is forbidden, these young girls often undergo forced abortions as well, resulting in physical and mental trauma. The girls who are rescued have the opportunity to end these harmful cultural practices that have occurred for generations.

In 2010, two men named David Risher and Colin McElwee, used their combined expertise in marketing and retail to create Worldreader, an NGO that aims to harness the power of information technology and improve education in underserved communities.

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With low-cost technology, culturally-relevant digital books, and a network of corporate and nonprofit partners, Worldreader helps millions of people read more and read better. Worldreader reaches people in 48 countries, providing them with over 35,000 book titles in 43 languages from Hindi to Ewe to Kiswahili. Since its founding, Worldreader has reached 9 million readers with reading programs using e-readers and mobile phones, and currently supports 500,000 active readers each month throughout Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and much of the rest of the global South.

And this is where Somebody’s Mama comes in. We are partnering with Worldreader to sponsor a BLUE Box for Samburu Girls Foundation. BLUE stands for Building Literacy Using E-books and is an all-in-one e-reading solution designed to work in any classroom or library environment in sub-Saharan Africa. Consisting of 50 e-reading devices loaded with 100 project-curated e-books each, a BLUE Box comes equipped with all the necessary supplies and technical support to sustain a successful e-reading initiative, including three years of Worldreader support, teacher training opportunities, and more. We will fund a grant of $15,000.

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The BLUE Box has been requested by the Samburu Girls Foundation to provide the girls in their programs with the tools they need to do well in school and improve their lives. The books that Somebody’s Mama will be providing for SGF will come directly from Kenyan publishing partners and a variety of international publishing partners to curate a list that is best suited to SGF’s needs including Kiswahili and English content, with a special focus on books that empower girls, such as stories with strong female protagonists.

Reading is transformative--a child born to a literate mother is 50% more likely to live past age 5 (UNESCO, 2015).

Yet, there is on average one reading book for two students or more in sub-Saharan Africa (UNESCO, 2016). Without books, children have little chance of learning to read and will inevitably fall behind.  When children read poorly, they cannot gain mastery in other content areas, and this leads to high dropout rates. Girls are especially vulnerable.

In 2015, only 12.1% of rural students in grade 3 could do work at a grade 2 level in Samburu county, Kenya (Uwezo, 2015). Somebody’s Mama’s BLUE Box will land in the hands of over 200 girls currently living at an SGF rescue center.

Worldreader has seen tremendous success with similar initiatives in other parts of the world. In one study, statistics show that students in sub-Saharan Africa with access to e-readers are improving twice as fast as their counterparts. The percentage of students who were wholly illiterate in that study has plummeted from 64.6% to 8.9%.

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This is a program that has been proven time and again to be effective and cost-efficient. Combined with the protection girls are receiving through SGF’s care centers, an entire generation of girls are looking to the future with hope for a better life.

Here is our goal: we want the Somebody’s Mama community to raise $15,000 for the Samburu Girls Foundation’s BLUE Box. Each e-reader essentially comes at a cost of $300 which covers the device, the books, technical support, and teacher training for the program. Broken down a little differently, this is where your money will go:

$40 provides one year of access for one girl to an e-reader, fully equipped with 100 digital books that are at the right level, locally relevant, and in languages she understands.

$60 pays for one girl to have 2 years of access.

$75 pays for one girl to have 3 years of access.

$250 provides 500 digital books that will provide 5 girls with all the reading materials they need for their entire primary/secondary school career

$500 provides 1,000 digital books that will provide 5 girls with all the reading materials they need for their entire primary/secondary school career

$1,400 provides training for up to 15 staff (e.g. teachers, librarians, reading facilitators) on digital reading that can teach more than 200 girls every year.

What an awesome opportunity to be a part of something with immeasurable impact. We are so grateful for people like David and Colin who understand the power of technology. We are humbled to work with Dr. Kulea who is perfectly planted in her community to influence the lives of girls from her culture. And as always, we are excited to play our part by giving generously as a community to see success for these girls come to fruition.

Thank you for being Somebody’s Mama--and thank you in advance for giving!