Following up on our significant Girl Effect Challenge win comes an interview with the leader of Shining Girls, Emily. Emily grew up in Kibera and knows firsthand the challenges that exist for adolescent girls in Kibera. When asked why Shining Girls started, Emily responded simply, “So girls here in Kibera won’t waste their lives.”
Shining Girls started two years ago as a way to keep girls in school through the provision of sanitary pads and other material goods, as well as life skills knowledge. They meet every weekend to talk about issues pertinent to their lives and to empower each other to stay in school, even when it’s difficult. “Many of these girls miss school because they don’t have sanitary pads. Some go to school for a week, then miss many days when there is no money for school fees. Here in Shining Girls, we help them,” Emily explained.
Emily knows that Shining Girls is important because the group motivates these girls to think about their future, to examine where they are coming from and where they can go. Many of them look badly upon their pasts, a feeling Emily can relate to, and are able to discuss those feelings and how to move past them. Emily smiles when she says that teaching positive thinking is both necessary and powerful for these girls.
Shining Girls helps the girls think positively because it gives them something to look forward to, and helps them discover their talents. Emily most enjoys helping the girls experiment creatively, with poems, theatre, and dance. Emily’s passion for what she does is clear, “Watching them make poetry is overwhelming, hearing them find a way to say their experiences through expressing their feelings…it’s so good. And then knowing they will share that with other girls, other people in the community; it’s a good feeling.”
Emily believes recognition is important for these girls to feel confident that, despite their impoverished upbringing, they have something significant to offer the world. When asked what she would love to do with the group, Emily responded that she dreams of making a full length documentary to teach about Kibera, about what these girls face in their lives, about the good and the bad and everyday life as it is here. She believes something like this would help with recognition, for these girls, for Kibera, and for slums in general. Emily smiles excitedly, “It would give them a chance to have their stories heard everywhere, all over the world. Imagine!”