Technology changes lives. It brought us together during the most isolating days of the pandemic and for small at-risk organizations like the Kibera Girls Soccer Academy (KGSA), a free high school for girls in Kibera, Kenya is a life-line of hope. Due to the pandemic, KGSA was cut off – it had no international visitors and unlike previous years could no longer travel to the US or the UK to share their story — essential to raising funds to educate 130 girls each year in the biggest informal settlement (slum) in Africa. Without KGSA, these girls have no opportunity to go to high school and improve their lives.
In Kenya, 44% of girls never finish high school. Due to the high costs of school fees, books, and uniforms, few families can afford to send their children. The government does not provide free education. Sons take priority over daughters who are expected to carry the burden of household chores and are often married off in their teens for a dowry. Girls who beat the odds and are able to attend high school often miss class when they menstruate each month because they cannot afford pads; they fall behind and are at risk for dropping out. During the pandemic, gender-based violence, teen pregnancy, and high school drop-out rates for girls skyrocketed — making KGSA’s mission even more significant.
KGSA was founded as a soccer club for girls in 2002 by Abdul Kassim, a man who recognized the unique challenges that girls faced in Kibera, and as a tribute to his mother. Over the years, KGSA grew from a soccer club to a one room classroom for 13 girls to ultimately and miraculously a holistic school for 130 – whose seniors beat the national average on the Kenyan high school exit exams in 2018 and 2019 – qualifying for University and scholarships! KGSA’s “whole girl” model strives each year to meet the students’ needs. Today KGSA provides a daily meal (lunch), sanitary pads, a school counselor, life skills clubs, mentorship opportunities, and even college scholarships for the top performing students. KGSA has graduated over 370 girls including 70 who have been able to pursue higher education.
Simonetta Lein, online TV host recognized by Forbes Magazine as the fifth “Most Influential Woman in the World” recently interviewed three KGSA alumnae for her SLTV Instagram Show. She was moved by their powerful stories and the tremendous impact that a small school in Kibera had in Kenya and the world. Aisha Ali, who just graduated in April, understands the importance technology has to connect KGSA to the rest of the world and to give girls a future. She is passionate about film and telling stories that make a difference. Her dream is to design an app to prevent teenage pregnancies in her community and to film documentaries to one day premiere at the Toronto Film Festival. On International Day of the Girl, Aisha was chosen to represent Kenya for the She’s the First #girlsgetloud social media campaign where she discussed girls’ rights with Nadia Ahmed, the first female Kenyan Ministry of Innovation and Youth Affairs.
Simonetta was impressed with Aisha and with KGSA. A powerful influencer with a platform of over 10 million followers, Simonetta encouraged Aisha and Teka, the head of school, to describe an easy text-to-donate campaign to her audience. For the cost of a latte and with a few easy swipes, anyone can quickly donate $5 which is life-changing for the school and the girls. It costs $1000 a year to educate one girl and an important part of the school budget is lunch – often the only food a girl will have to eat. Before making food part of the school budget, girls fainted and could not concentrate. The lunch program is an essential part of the school’s success. Five dollars will pay for a girls’ lunch for an entire week (six school days).
Simonetta’s philanthropic arm, The Wishwall Foundation, has committed to financing one KGSA girls’ education for the academic year and will share her high school journey on Instagram. Simonetta is a “wish-maker” who founded The Wishwall Foundation in 2015 to “give a voice to the voiceless” and “help make meaningful wishes come true.” It costs $1,000 a year to educate one KGSA girl and another thousand to provide room and board which provides her with food, shelter and security so she can learn without the incredibly difficult obstacles that are part of the Kibera slum. This new era of harnessing the power of social media influencers combined with easy donation platforms engages Gen Z and Millennials to contribute to causes the minute that they’re inspired to give. Supporting something greater than oneself, releases dopamine and counteracts doom scrolling!
To join the movement to educate girls in Kibera, text KenyaGirls to 53-555.
Follow this inspirational journey and consider helping other deserving girls fighting for a better future: KGSA Foundation (www.kgsafoundation.org) and The Wishwall Foundation (www.thewishwall.org).