Save Our Sisters Expands to Western Kenya
A Dream Deferred
by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore-
And then run?
Or does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over-
Like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?
Sadly, many girls, and boys too for that matter, have dreams deferred due to poverty. The dreams deferred echo in a silent scream across Africa. No matter how much determination; no matter how much desire, poverty can so diminish and squelch a human being. But in the last five years since the
SOS (Save Our Sisters) club was organized in Taru, Kenya, I have seen amazing things happen. It’s shown me what girls can do when they unite for a common cause, and how, through their unity, they can also discover their individuality, the individuality that is so often destroyed by poverty’s crushing constraints.
The club’s major premise is to advocate for girls and to mentor the girls in primary schools, where so many girls are languishing and falling prey to marriage contracts and unwanted pregnancies. Three of the Taru SOS girls were chosen to come to Western Kenya to train the girls at the Chwele Secondary School how to organize an SOS club. There were 1,000 girls at this school! Eager, amazing girls, disciplined and curious. Their representatives, known as the Peace Ambassadors, would be the ones to attend the training and be the genesis of the new club. The three Taru SOS girls that were chosen were Lydia, Caroline and Agnes. All three had graduated from high school last December and thanks to Kenya Keys sponsorships, all three will be leaving for college in the fall. All three felt that the SOS club had had a major impact on their lives.
When the three girls first arrived in Chwele and saw the abundance of food and water, their first reaction was, “what do these girls know about suffering? They have it so good!” But they soon found they actually had much in common, that the challenges of early marriage, lack of basic needs, and inability to pay school fees was universal among them. They learned that even at this seemingly better school, there were still 10% of the girls that didn’t even have underwear and many more who struggled from lack of sanitary protection, and lack of parental support.
As I watched our threesome do their training, with such strong conviction, I was amazed. Simply amazed. How could these be the girls I’d known since they were “freshers” (freshman), as they call them in Kenya? Lydia stood with confidence, speaking about what qualities an SOS girl must have. After all, this is not an easy club to belong to. You have to find your voice! She listed and elaborated on each quality that the club can come up with as their defining qualities. “An SOS girl must be 1) God-fearing, 2) humble and kind, 3) disciplined, 4) respectful to all, 5) honest and trustworthy with confidences, and 6) creative and innovative.” Quite a list! “We need to help each other!” she said. “Don’t give each other headaches. We need to help! We need to go into the field and see which sisters need help!”
Caroline—spunky, dramatic, and darling, stood to share the objectives of the club: 1) learn! Create awareness of yourself (Who are you? It sounds easy to know, but it’s actually very hard. Who are you in the society and in the world?); 2) prevent early marriages, which often involves convincing the parents why they shouldn’t set up contracts for their daughters; 3) create awareness of the giants of HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections; 4) create responsible sexual behavior; 5) improve self-esteem; and 6) improve hygiene. I listened with pride.
Agnes, the quietest of the three girls, went over what benefits had come from the club: 1) academic performance has improved, as the girls take more pride in their studies and support each other; 2) better hygiene through the use of the sanitary kits that the club provides; 3) better parental cooperation, which has been a roadblock in the past; 4) fewer girls dropping out of school; and 5) more supportive, conducive relationships among the girls.
Click here to watch this darling one-minute video of the Chwele training. You’ll see why these girls make me so proud!
Over the days we were there, the SOS girls also taught the Chwele girls how to produce bracelets and purses to sell to make their club self-sustaining. The purses, made from used plastic bags, could be created in all shapes and sizes. “We turn garbage into something beautiful,” they said. The same could be said for them, as a girl is so often thought of as a waste, in their world. But these girls have proven otherwise. They have become something magnificent. “I had to have a stone face,” said Lydia. “My stone face said, “I am determined, and no one’s going to stop me.”
A dream deferred? These girls are showing the world that their dreams will never be deferred, no matter what the obstacles.