Kenya’s Kibera School: A Place Where Girls Matter

When an American college student forms a friendship with a homegrown activist in one of Kenya’s largest slums, their work together brings much-needed help to a community of girls who faced danger daily. The Kibera School for Girls is providing little girls with the chance of their lives—a refuge from abuse and hunger.

Dreams are a luxury few can afford in Kenya’s largest slum. That is, until you turn the corner, walk down a small alleyway and arrive at a bright pink and blue makeshift building. Little girls in bright red sweaters and bright blue skirts are running around, giggling and playing, indoors and out. And when you look at the mud on their shoes, or the tin houses that surround the school, you come to realize that 60 little girls are getting the chance of their lives and they know it. This is the Kibera School for Girls – a refuge from abuse and hunger.  (

Girls in Kibera generally don’t have a lot of reason to sing or play. Like most young girls in extreme poverty all over the world, they have little value in their communities. They mostly can’t afford school and are highly vulnerable to sexual crime and HIV. ( If they are lucky enough to have access to a school, and to stay there, girls have less risk for exposure to HIV, are less likely to get married early or get pregnant, and are more likely to fight for their own rights, raise healthy children of their own and enter the workforce. This very concept has been highlighted in a compelling campaign by the NIKE foundation. ( “The Girl Effect” campaign argues that girls can be game changers in the economic development of a country if they get help them bypassing the extreme challenges they face from birth. It’s also what many other organizations including CARE, are focused on entirely. (

In many communities where resources are already stretched to the breaking point, girls are generally last in line. But simple interventions can have profound impacts. The school featured in NBC’s Making a Difference report has taught the community to invest in the education of their girls. The families invest in their girls’ education, and contribute time to the school and, by doing so, the entire family receives health care, access to clean water and even clean toilets they don’t have to pay to use.

One of the co founders of the Kibera school for girls, Kennedy Odede reported: “People see hope and people are really surprised. And most are overwhelmed, because it’s unbelievable. There’s no way an organization in the slum can be able to do this amazing thing, you know. There’s no way our girls could get an education. No way to get a health clinic. What I really love is that I kind of show a hope to those who are hopeless, who never went to school. There’s a better life for you.”

He should know.  He’s from there.  He grew up watching the young girls around him sell sex for food. And that’s why the school is one of the most remarkable places I have ever visited.  The founders not only continue to teach the community that girls have value but they have also given these little girls a safe place to dream.  As Kennedy said,” They have passed through horrors. I am welcoming them back to a world they never lived in, to a world where they are important.”

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