RKA Note: Today’s post by awesomepreneur Faith Odhiambo is the first in a four part series on the work of Girls Shift Africa in Mombasa, Kenya. We would like to announce that we have extended our application deadline for this summer’s Awesome Girls Shift Africa 2013 project until April 1, 2013. Click here to download an application or sign up for newsletter updates on the project.
We started Girls Shift Africa in collaboration with YOUth Shift Africa’s founders Naraya and Moses: the organization’s inspiration came from my deep desire to support and empower girls and young women.
It was hard growing up. I struggled with self-esteem, didn’t believe in myself, and it felt like everybody made fun of me, which shut me down and made it difficult for me to talk to others, even in a group. I was quite shy. Most of my friends and family didn’t ultimately like me. In fact, no one believed in me, expect my father, who showed me unconditional love regardless of the circumstances.
Then came high school—the worst experience ever. I moved from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, to attend a rural school in my hometown. It was an incredible challenge. I remember our school administrators telling us that kids from the city were a bad influence on the rural kids. My teachers told me time and again how I was a nobody who would never make it in this world. I was a slow learner, and these words hurt. I prayed and kept trying my best with the resources I had. I remember hoping the schools would close so I could just go back to Nairobi. But when I tried to tell my father, he insisted that I focus on my studies. I thank God I made it through high school at all.
Today, I know that my purpose in life is to empower girls and young women to believe in themselves no matter what, regardless of the circumstances. I want to be there as a big sister for the girls and young women I work with, I want to be there to listen and offer advice with the resources I have. I did not have anybody growing up and I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through.
Girls Shift is a hub for those girls and young women who feel like outcasts in their communities. It is for those who do not have anyone to hold their hands and tell them, “You can do it!” It is for those who have been told that they can’t make it in life. We aim to break the cycle of poverty and dependency by uplifting, inspiring, and empowering young people from underprivileged backgrounds!
Looking back at this journey, I am so thankful for those who believed in me, especially Naraya, for holding my hand and assuring me that I can make it, no matter what.
To learn more about Girls Shift Africa, visit our website and be sure to follow us on Facebook! If you are interested in joining us for a 10-day arts and theater workshop this summer, click here to learn more about our Awesome Girls Shift Africa 2013 project!