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When you were a little kid, what did you say you wanted to be when you grew up? The students at the Kibera School for Girls are lucky to be thinking about this question. In Kibera, Kenya, the largest slum in Africa (houses 1.5 million people in an area the size of New York City’s Central Park), girls are not usually afforded the opportunity to attend school. The Kibera School for Girls was founded in 2009 by Shining Hope for Communities, a grassroots organization started in the slum. KSG currently serves 63 students in pre-k through 2nd grade. KSG does not only provide education, daily nourishment, uniforms, healthcare, and the only tuition-free school in Kibera to the brightest and most at-risk girls; it also teachers its students that they deserve to have a superior education and instills hope for successful opportunities in the future.

At The Kibera School for Girls, our students have learned to love sharing their answers to the question: What do you want to be when you grow up? However, surrounded by extreme poverty, most girls have never left the slum and do not have a conception of the opportunities that are available. The professions they cite include doctor, pilot, policeman, teacher, and banker. With the exception of teacher, the girls don’t really understand the job description for each occupation. It would help them tremendously to have a guest speaker series from different types of professions, and even travel to the workplace of some. In addition, the project could bring in many different occupations that the girls are not familiar with, opening up their minds to the endless future possibilities in store for them. Some examples of these unexplored career options could include politician, artist, professor, chef, architect, or lawyer. The “Think About the Future” project bridges the gap that exists between education in school and plans for the future. Besides hearing speakers and going on field trips, the project includes buying informative books so the girls can have solid information that can have a lasting impact at the Kibera School for Girls. The teachers at KSG teach their students that they can do anything and be whatever they want to be. This project gives the girls concrete examples of potential goals for their futures, showing the way that different interests and academic pursuits can lead to a variety of jobs and professions. The students at KSG have so much hope for their futures; help them achieve a first tangible step towards their goals!


At our pilot site, Kenya’s Kibera slum, the UN estimates that as many as 1.5 million people live in the informal settlement. However, Kenya’s government does not formally acknowledge the slum’s existence. The government contends that Kibera’s residents are illegally squatting on government-owned land and thus refuses to provide any services or infrastructure to Kibera residents such as toilets, roads, hospitals, or schools. The lack of accessible resources or services hurts everyone, but leaves women devastated because men are in control of any existing resources.

Kennedy Odede is the co-founder and Executive Director of Shining Hope for Communities. Kennedy lived in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya for 23 of his 25 years. There, he saw the bleak prospects for women first-hand. Kennedy’s father abused his mother, Jane, and kept the family hungry, spending what little money they had on alcohol. Subsequently, Jane taught Kennedy about gender equality. The eldest in a family of eight, Kennedy sold peanuts on the road starting at age seven to put himself and his siblings through school. Despite his efforts, two of Kennedy’s sisters had to drop out after becoming teenage mothers—one impregnated as the result of a gang rape. After seeing many women’s lives crushed like those of his mother and sisters’, Kennedy dreamed of finding a way to change the position of women in his society.

The first time Kennedy had extra money—20 cents in 2005—he bought a soccer ball and started the first youth group in Kibera founded and run by slum residents. He ran this group for 4 years with no funding. Through his faith in people’s abilities to change their own lives, he expanded this group into one of the largest organizations in the slum, working with 3,000+ people on AIDS education, female empowerment, microfinance, sanitation, and community health work. Because of this work, Kennedy is often called the “mayor of Kibera.” Kennedy combines his intimate understanding of Kibera’s daily challenges with the skills he is gaining through an education at Wesleyan University. As one of very few people from Kibera to attend an accredited four-year college, Kennedy knows what it takes to get out of poverty, and what is needed to transform his community.


Learning about different career opportunities has the potential to make a lasting impact on the future path of each individual girl studying at KSG. By going on field trips and witnessing professionals in action, the students at KSG will gain inspirational role models and develop tangible goals. The impact of this project directly affects the future of each girl; but more than that, it has the potential to create change in the community.

In Kibera, 66% of women trade sex to survive by sixteen, some as early as age six. Women in Kibera contact HIV at a rate 5 times their male counterparts. Seven out of ten women have or will experience sexual violence. Kibera School for Girls is on a mission to change this, with its two-step community-driven model to combat gender inequality. The tangible link between a school for girls and desperately needed community services for all creates a unique incentive structure, as the community learns to associate desperately needed services with an institution dedicated to girls’ education, increasing the value placed on women. One of the next steps to furthering this newfound value placed on woman is considering and planning for their futures after KSG. Stopping the predominance of early childbirth preventing women from obtaining work and money is a hard task, but education is the key to the end of this vicious cycle. Creating value placed on woman means thinking about futures; currently, woman are not seen as capable as holding many high and powerful positions. We want to teach the girls at KSG that they can grow up to be whatever they want; the determination of these young girls has the power to change the opportunities and goals that girls and women will have in Kibera for years to come.

Team Credentials

Shining Hope for Communities has had widespread impact and support. Shining Hope provides resources and social services to the entire community, including a health clinic, sanitary toilets, water, gardens, gender violence support groups, microenterprise for HIV positive women, literacy/computer training, and hundreds of jobs. Because of the support Shining Hope gives to Kibera, the Kibera School for Girls is seen as essential to a community that does not usually value women’s education. In only 2 years of existence, the Kibera School for Girls has grown tremendously. Currently, construction is preparing a new school building for the incoming class, carrying out the plan to add a new grade to school every year.

Our impact has mitigated local deficits in education, sanitation, health, food security, and technological job skills. Kennedy and Jessica were awarded the prestigious 2010 Echoing Green Fellowship given to the world’s best emerging social entrepreneurs. They have received support for their work from The Newman’s Own Foundation, and Shining Hope also won the international 2010 Dell Social Innovation Competition. Jessica was recognized as America’s “Top World Changer 25 and Under” by Do Something and VH1. Kennedy spoke as a panelist at Clinton’s Global Initiative Conference, and was recently invited to become a member of the Clinton Global Initiative. Our students, staff and community members are leading the way
to a better tomorrow for themselves, their families, their community—and for all of us.


  • An update from Kibera!

  • "My Dreams" from the Kibera School

    [font='Palatino Linotype', 'Book Antiqua', Palatino, serif]In our after school program, the fourth grade girls are learning about what it means to dream. We asked the girls to describe their dreams – for tomorrow, for the year, and for their life. We also asked them to write about their role model. Enjoy their responses, below.[/font] Lorna, Grade 4 Tomorrow Tomorrow I would like to have a goal which is I want to work hard in class and I also want to dream about good things that I am the best and I hope my dream will come true. Year My goal for the year is to be number one in class and also my goal is to be the brightest girl and learn more things. Life In my life I would like to be a doctor in the future. In my life I would like to be the best doctor in the world. In life I would like to pass my exams and go to the national school. When I grow up I want to be a doctor to help other people from different diseases. Herenia, Grade 4 Tomorrow To be the cleanest To under...