Canadian Volunteers Ali Higgins and Memona Hossain share their account of a visit to a Women’s Empowerment Meeting in Kibera, led by Kijiji Cha Upendo Volunteers.

Women’s Empowerment Meeting

For full message, scroll down. “What is the definition of a child?”

This is the question that opens the discussion at this particular  Women’s Empowerment workshop. Immediately the women proceed to discuss the issue. They speak with confidence, wisdom and insight….

 

Can Memonah match their wisdom and confidence when she is asked to share something with the group?

“I see women filled with vision, empathy, love, leadership, faith , compassion, and heroism. 

If our leaders, and politicians had the characteristics you have fostered here within Kibera today, our world would be a world of beauty.

 

It is serendipity that the visit of Canadian volunteers Ali Higgins and Memona Hossain has coincided with the weekly Women’s Empowerment Meeting! They enter the KCU office with excited anticipation.

Kibera Women gathered for their weekly Empowerment MeetingSome women have walked at least an hour to get there.

 

Ranging in age from 16 to 60, they file into the tiny office and take their places on the waiting benches. As more women seep in, everyone shifts closer to one another to accommodate the newcomers.

The women speak in Kiswahili. Volunteer Community Mobilizer Kevin Garo and Project Coordinator Leonora Obara translate in hushed tones for the visitors.

At the beginning of the meeting, everyone introduces themselves with their name, their community, the number of orphans they care for and information about any business or initiative they are involved in. A diverse group, mothers, daughters, orphans, business women, entrepreneurs and activists, they nevertheless share one thing in common:

All are orphan caregivers, each caring for one to six orphans in addition to their biological children.

 

As they speak, some women look directly at Ali and Memona, some at Leonora or at the ground, while others make eye contact around the room. None of them, however, hesitates or waivers when sharing who they are. Then the facilitator asks,

Left to right: Women’s Empowerment Workshop Participant who researched and presented a paper; Canadian volunteer visitor Ali Higgins; KCU Volunteer Social Worker Grace, KCU Volunteer Social Worker; KCU Volunteer Accountant Alvin. “What is the definition of a child?”

Immediately, the women engage in discussion, offering definitions by age, ability and needs. One woman says, “A child is always a child to a parent.” They speak eloquently, argue, correct one another and ask questions for clarification, working collectively to develop an understanding of what a ‘child’ is.  The discussion concludes with reading out loud the definition of a child according to the U.N. Charter of Human Rights and describing the basic requirements of caring for a child. 

The second part of the meeting is equally impressive. A participant presents a paper she has researched on the importance of serving healthy nutritious meals in the home. She gives examples of how to provide variety, not just maize or beans all the time, and differentiates between the nutritional value of different foods.  She speaks directly to the women and with certainty. 

Immersed in the conversation, Ali and Memona are caught off guard when they realize that the facilitator is now looking at them, inviting them to share something with the group!

Memonah’s cheeks burn. Her head swims as she gets to her feet, heart pounding. The women have all been so confident, so sure and wise in their answers….

Memona’s message What can Memona say to match the confidence and wisdom she has seen amidst this group of strong women! 

 

She begins, as the women did, by introducing herself…

 

“My name is Memona Hossain and I want to thank you for welcoming me and allowing me to visit and learn from you today.  I am very nervous to speak to you today, because I think there is a lot for me to learn from you all and I should be listening rather than speaking to you today.  When I look around, I see a roomfull of women filled with vision, empathy, love, leadership, faith , compassion, and heroism.  I come from a country where we have a lot in terms of material goods, but what you have here in this room is something no amount of money can buy. 

If our leaders, and politicians had the characteristics you have fostered here within Kibera today, our world would be a world of beauty. 

Thank you for welcoming me and allowing me to be in your presence, for I am honoured to be in this room today.”