Guest Blog: Girls Empowered By E-Books In One Of Africa’s Largest Slums

Since 2010, Worldreader launched 92 digital reading initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of these projects have been launched in partnership with other nonprofits or organizations making a lasting change in their communities. One new digital reading initiative with the Kibera School for Girls (KSG), still has us reeling with excitement.

Odede and his dream

Kennedy Odede was born in Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa, where he grew up in poverty and witnessed gender inequality and violence. His parents could not afford to send him to school so Kennedy taught himself how to read. Discovering his love for books changed the course of his life: ‘‘I read books of Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela; it gave me a dream, a hope in life.’’

Odede also dreamed of changing his community. In 2004, Kennedy founded Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a grassroots organization that combats gender inequality and extreme poverty in urban slums by linking tuition-free schools for girls to holistic social services for all.

  Big smiles from the girls at the Kibera School for Girls as they receive 5,000 life-changing e-books.

Big smiles from the girls at the Kibera School for Girls as they receive 5,000 life-changing e-books.

Since 2010, Worldreader launched 92 digital reading initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa. Most of these projects have been launched in partnership with other nonprofits or organizations making a lasting change in their communities. One new digital reading initiative with the Kibera School for Girls (KSG), still has us reeling with excitement.

Odede and his dream

Kennedy Odede was born in Kibera, the largest urban slum in Africa, where he grew up in poverty and witnessed gender inequality and violence. His parents could not afford to send him to school so Kennedy taught himself how to read. Discovering his love for books changed the course of his life: ‘‘I read books of Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela; it gave me a dream, a hope in life.’’

Odede also dreamed of changing his community. In 2004, Kennedy founded Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a grassroots organization that combats gender inequality and extreme poverty in urban slums by linking tuition-free schools for girls to holistic social services for all.

  The girls at KSG enjoying their time at school.

The girls at KSG enjoying their time at school.

KSG is one of these schools. Founded in 2009 by Kennedy and Jessica Posner, the school offers full scholarships to 400 young girls from Kibera (at full capacity), providing education while linking the school to deeply-needed community-wide services such as healthcare, clean water and economic empowerment programs. And parents are even required to devote volunteer time to the school.

The students at KSG are a shining example of the magic that can unfold when you allow girls to hope and dream for a better future. While only 28.5% of second graders nationwide in Kenya can read at or above a 2nd grade level, 100% of KSG second grade girls can do so (Uwezo, 2012 Kenya Annual Assessment Report).

E-Reader Launch at KSG

In early April, 5,000 digital books via 50 e-readers were delivered to KSG. The e-reading project was initiated with project manager, teacher and student trainings followed by a community launch celebration that was attended by families, students, teachers and local dignitaries. One of our favorite parts of the day was when the girls treated us to a performance filled with singing and dancing:

Our CEO & Co-Founder, David Risher, also shared some powerful words with the girls about the importance of reading. “Reading is food for your heart and soul,” David told the students and parents. “Reading is a defense against ignorance. And reading is like Shillings in the bank, as it gives education and new opportunities.” With their new digital libraries, the girls at Kibera School for Girls now have even more books to grow their love for reading and build upon the strong literacy skills they already possess. The collection of books even include e-books focusing on female empowerment to help them find inspiration from other like minded female heroines.

  100% of KSG second grade girls can read at or above a second grade level.

100% of KSG second grade girls can read at or above a second grade level.

The launch day ended with Debborah, the headmistress, giving thanks to the Van der Meulen family, who generously sponsored The Kibera School for Girls e-reading project and to Worldreader for making it all possible: “I do not have words to describe today, but our girls are empowered and for that I thank you very, very much.”

Interested in partnering with Worldreader? Learn more about how you can bring a Worldreader BLUE Box program to your classroom.